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Rubin Speaker Series pres.

Rubin Speaker Series

Nelly Lahoud (New America Foundation); "The Evolution of the Islamic State Seen through the Abbottabad Documents"

The 2011 U.S. Special Forces’ raid on Usama Bin Ladin’s (UBL) compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, recovered nearly 470,000 items. These items include internal communications among Al-Qa‘ida (AQ) members, their families and jihadis in the group’s orbit, including the leaders of the parent group of today’s Islamic State. Since these communiqués were not meant for public consumption, they contain the most reliable data of the organizational dynamics of AQ, and the nature of the group’s relationships with states and non-state actors. Lahoud is writing a book based on these internal communiqués. This presentation is divided into two parts. The first part is a guide to the declassified Abbottabad items and the process of identifying the internal communications and coding them. The second part of the presentation focuses on key differences between AQ and the parent group of today’s Islamic State, the group that has eclipsed but not defeated AQ. The Abbottabad documents allow us not just to understand the differences that eventually led to the public divorce between the two groups in February 2014, but they also explain why the Islamic State failed to endure as a territorial entity.

Nelly Lahoud is a senior fellow in New America's International Security program. Dr. Lahoud’s research has focused on the evolution and ideology of al-Qa'ida (AQ) and the ‘Islamic State’ (ISIS/ISIL). She has also published on women's role in AQ and ISIS and the use of anashid (a capella) by these two groups in their media output. She has a Ph.D. from the Research School of Social Sciences — Australian National University. She was a postdoctoral scholar at St. John’s College, University of Cambridge — UK; Rockefeller Fellow in Islamic studies at the Library of Congress; and research fellow at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University. Her previous appointments include being associate professor at the Department of Social Sciences and senior associate at the Combating Terrorism Center at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point; and assistant professor of political theory, including Islamic political thought, at Goucher College. Lahoud is fluent in Arabic and French.

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