Report: Al Qaeda's Days are Numbered

'By 2030, we believe the Islamic terrorism cycle will have exhausted itself,' report says.

Pakistani tribesmen shout anti-U.S. slogans during a protest in Islamabad against drone attacks, Feb. 25, 2012.
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Al Qaeda and similar terrorist groups are in the waning years of their effectiveness and will likely fizzle out of relevance in the coming decades, according to a new intelligence report.

Historically, terrorist organizations have a lifespan that only extends for 20 to 40 years, according to the National Intelligence Council, referencing its new report that studies likely shifts in global security and politics by 2030. Those who had turned to terrorist groups for answers generally realize during this timeframe solutions don't exist through violent extremism.

"By 2030, we believe the Islamic terrorism cycle will have exhausted itself," NIC's Mathew Burrows told reporters on Monday, speaking about the newly released "Global Trends 2030: Alternative Worlds"

"A lot of the problems with terrorism, with how they die out, is they tend to turn on a lot of their supporters," he says. "Then your popularity, your support begins to fall away."

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Al Qaeda has repeated this trend in recent years, he says, including the bomb attack at the end of November in Northwest Pakistan linked to al Qaeda militants, according to Press TV. The attack killed at least seven Shia Muslims and was linked to threats of similar attacks across the country.

There have been two other suspected al Qaeda attacks on Muslims in Baghdad thus farin December, reports Fox News and the Washington Post.

Neither Burrows nor the report predicted any groups that could take al Qaeda's place.

"Islamic terrorism doesn't provide any big answers to the challenges, and that's a big problem," says Burrows.

The fractured nature of these groups means they likely won't die out entirely, he adds. Splinter groups and insurgents will continue to use terrorist means.

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"It's not going to be a dying phenomena, but the groups we know now, the kind of ideology and rhetoric will begin to phase out," he says.

The demise of al Qaeda does not necessarily signal a safer world. Individuals and groups will have "greater access to lethal and disruptive technologies," according to the report, "enabling them to perpetrate large-scale violence -- a capability formerly the monopoly of states."

These entities will have at their disposal Weapons of Mass Destruction and cyber instruments "capable of causing massive harm and widespread disruption," it says, including precision-strike capabilities and bioterror weaponry.

The report lists this drastic shift in power as one of the potential global "Game Changers," and could lead to more intrastate conflicts.

The Global Trends study is a product of the NIC and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. The quadrennial report serves as a guide for lawmakers entering the beginning of a new presidential term.

The original report is available here.

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Paul D. Shinkman is a national security reporter for U.S. News & World Report. You can follow him on Twitter or reach him at