April 17, 2015
We are witnessing historic levels of terrorist violence in multiple hot-spots around the world, many of the places that al-Qa’ida and its Associated Movement (AQAM) has put down roots. In the aftermath of the Arab Spring, a former al-Qa’ida affiliate turned competitor, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), has captured the mantle of leadership in the global jihadist mileau and threatens to destabilize additional governments through their strategy of internecine escalation.
This discussion will examine the similarities and differences between AQAM and ISIL at the ideological, strategic, and operational levels, focusing on the implications of those comparisons and the burgeoning global competition between AQAM and ISIL.
William Braniff is the Executive Director of the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START). He previously served as the Director of Practitioner Education and an Instructor at West Point’s Combating Terrorism Center (CTC). There he led the practitioner education program, the nation’s largest provider of counterterrorism education to federal, state and local governmental audiences.
Braniff is a graduate of the United States Military Academy where he received his bachelor’s degree. Following his Company Command as an Armor Officer in the U.S. Army, Braniff attended the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) where he received a master’s degree in international relations. Upon graduation, Bill worked in the nuclear counterterrorism field at the Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration, and as a research associate with the CTC Harmony Project at West Point.
Braniff lectures frequently for counterterrorism audiences including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Joint Special Operations University, National Defense University, the United States Attorneys’ Office and Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Braniff has also taken a keen interest in the field of Countering Violent Extremism (CVE). He has consulted with the Department of Justice, the FBI and the National Security Staff, playing a key role in an interagency working group dedicated to the topic. In June of 2013, Bill testified before Congress regarding American attitudes towards terrorism and counterterrorism, and in February of 2014 and again in February 2015 he testified before the House Armed Services Committee on the evolving nature of global jihadism. Also in February of 2015, Bill was asked to speak at the White House CVE Summit, to the United Nations Counterterrorism Executive Directorate, and to the Global Counterterrorism Forum Foreign Terrorist Fighter Working group.
Braniff is also heavily involved in public education. His speaking engagements include several Council on Foreign Relations and World Affairs Council events in cities around the country. In May of 2010, Bill took part in the National September 11th Museum and Memorial Speaker Series and is featured in the Museum’s educational webcast series. He has been interviewed on numerous occasions by National Public Radio, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, CNN and by a host of additional international, national and local print and radio media outlets.