The reported takeover of the southern Yemeni town of Zinjibar by armed forces loyal to al-Qaida is a disturbing reminder of the opportunity failed states represent for the global jihadi movement.

Since being formed in the late 1980s in Afghanistan, al- Qaida’s unswerving goal has been to gain sovereignty, and to form a pan-Islamic radical state that would sweep away all current Arab-Muslim and Asian-Muslim regimes. Al- Qaida ideologues have named this vision “the Caliphate.”

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The current wave of unrest sweeping the Arab world is seen by jihadi forces as a pristine opportunity in which they can exploit a breakdown in central governments, as has occurred in Yemen, to make territorial gains.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in Yemen, where the most active branch of the terror movement, al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, is based.

The Yemeni al-Qaida branch’s most notorious member is Anwar al-Awlaki, a prominent Yemeni-American jihadi ideologue, who became a symbol of the post-bin Laden al-Qaida network even before American Navy SEALs killed Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan earlier this month.

On May 5, the US tried to kill Awlaki in a drone strike in Yemen, but reportedly did not succeed.

Since fleeing the US for the ungoverned regions of Yemen, Awlaki has released well-made online propaganda in English, which is aimed at gaining recruits from among Muslims living in the West.

He has also been been linked to at least three al- Qaida plots: The failed 2009 Christmas bombing attempt to blow up an airliner over Detroit, the 2009 Fort Hood mass shooting in Texas, and the 2010 cargo flight explosives plot.

Should al-Qaida-affiliated forces consolidate their control over Zinjibar and other areas of Yemen, the area will certainly be used to plot more international terrorism plots.

Jihadi forces have also marked Pakistan and Somalia as focal points where they hope to plant the seed for a caliphate, and continued to launch systematic terrorist attacks in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Such efforts will only be permanently defeated when stable governments with popular local backing can be formed in these areas.

The writer's recently published book, Virtual Caliphate: Exposing the Islamist on the Internet, deals with al-Qaida's presence on the internet.

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