Al Qaeda-Affiliated Groups, and More from CRS

10.15.14 | 1 min read | Text by Steven Aftergood

The executive branch interprets the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force to permit military action against terrorist groups that are “associated” with Al Qaeda. Such associated forces are considered co-belligerents with Al Qaeda and the Taliban and are therefore legal targets of U.S. military force.

But some groups or individuals may be “affiliated” with Al Qaeda ideologically or otherwise without being “associated” with it operationally. Those affiliated (but non-associated) groups would not be authorized targets of U.S. military operations under the 2001 AUMF.

Which groups are which? That is classified.

“A Pentagon spokesperson in mid-2013 stated that a list identifying which groups the Administration viewed as associated forces should remain classified, arguing that its release would damage national security by bolstering the groups’ credibility,” a new report from the Congressional Research Service noted.

Some officials say that even the more expansive category of “affiliated” groups has become too confining. “A broader category is that of ‘like-minded groups’ that may or may not be operationally linked with Al Qaeda, but potentially share at least some of its traits,” CRS said.

The CRS report profiles many of the Al Qaeda-affiliated organizations based on open sources, including reports from the CIA Open Source Center that are not publicly available. See Al Qaeda-Affiliated Groups: Middle East and Africa, October 10, 2014.

Other noteworthy new CRS products include the following.

(No) Papers, Please: No Passports for U.S. “Foreign Fighters”, CRS Legal Sidebar, October 10, 2014

Federal and State Quarantine and Isolation Authority, updated October 9, 2014