Study: Number of Jihadist Fighters Has Doubled Since 2010

Curtis Kalin
By Curtis Kalin | June 4, 2014 | 9:25 AM EDT

In the wake of the United States’ prisoner swap with the Taliban, a new study shows militant jihadism has been on the rise worldwide for the last three years.

FILE - Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen. (AP Photo/Muhammad ud-Deen, File)

The study by the RAND Corporation reported the number of jihadist groups around the world has increased 58%. More troubling was the doubling of jihadist fighters, a drastic increase. Finally, the report notes a tripling of jihadist-related attacks worldwide.

The study also reveals a four-tiered, decentralized structure of terrorist groups:

“Control is diffused among four tiers: (1) core al Qa'ida in Pakistan, led by Ayman al-Zawahiri; (2) formal affiliates that have sworn allegiance to core al Qa'ida, located in Syria, Somalia, Yemen, and North Africa; (3) a panoply of Salafi-jihadist groups that have not sworn allegiance to al Qa'ida but are committed to establishing an extremist Islamic emirate; and (4) inspired individuals and networks.”

The interest in western terror targets varies from group to group, depending on a particular organization’s local interests versus global worldview, the report explains. The vast uptick in jihadist groups is mainly emanating from nations like Tunisia, Algeria, Mali, Libya, Egypt, Lebanon, and Syria.