Islamic State seen as interloper by larger militant groups
Since declaring a caliphate, Islamic State has garnered support from more than a dozen Islamist militant groups in the Middle East and Asia, but the dearth of endorsements by many of the largest and most recognizable groups serves to underscore the limits of the newcomer’s grand ambition.
The Al Qaeda breakaway group has proved a lightning rod for devout supporters and bitter enemies since entering the Syrian civil war in April 2013. Its sweeping advances into Iraq, gruesome tactics and, most pointedly, its declaration of an ultra-conservative Sunni Muslim state covering the wide portions of eastern Syria and northern Iraq that it now controls have led both to U.S.-led airstrikes and pledges of allegiance by 13 fellow Islamist militant groups.
Others have thrown their support behind Islamic State without placing themselves under the leadership of self-proclaimed caliph Abu Bakr Baghdadi.
But the best-known Islamist militant networks — such as major Al Qaeda affiliates the Shabab and Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb in Africa, the Taliban in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and Boko Haram in Nigeria — have not signed on to the movement that is seeking to position itself as the rightful leader of Muslims worldwide and the preferred destination for would-be Islamist fighters.
“These elements of support do exist, but I don’t think the caliphate announcement was as galvanizing or caused the huge shift that ISIS hoped it would,” said Aymenn Jawad Tamimi, a fellow at the Global Research in International Affairs Center in Israel, using a common acronym for Islamic State.
The closest the group has gotten to high-level backing was a recent statement by the Yemen-based Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula affirming support “for our brothers against the global Crusader campaign.” But the ideological differences between the groups is probably too great for this to lead to anything beyond solidarity.