The dramatic growth of al-Qa`ida affiliates in Syria is a direct result of its preexisting networks in Iraq. These networks were built in 2004 and 2005, became nearly dominant in 2006 and 2007, and then suffered a dramatic series of setbacks at the hands of the U.S. military and the famed Sunni Awakening. Those setbacks were a result of endogenous conditions and exogenous factors. They were enough to deeply damage al-Qa`ida in Iraq (AQI), but not enough to destroy it. As a result, when the uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad turned violent in Syria, AQI was ready to take advantage in a country where the context was quite different than Iraq.
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