Research on de-radicalization processes shows that a combination of charismatic leadership, pressure from the government, interactions with non-jihadis as well as from within the organization, and selective inducements from the state and other actors are common causes of de-radicalization. Government pressure and interaction with non-jihadis often cause jihadi leaders to rethink strategically, learn politically, and revise their worldview. Following this, the leadership initiates a de-radicalization process that is bolstered by selective inducements from the state as well as by internal interactions with the followers. De-radicalized groups often interact with violent ones and in some cases the former influences the latter, a sort of domino effect demonstrated in the cases of the IG and al-Jihad Organization in Egypt, the AIS and factions from the GIA, the GSPC and other militias in Algeria and de-radicalized Islamist figures and individual suspects in Saudi Arabia.
Whether de-radicalization will continue and eventually have a serious impact on al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and other like-minded organizations depends on many factors, not the least of which is regime type in the countries in question. In dictatorships, de-radicalization processes and programs are a short to mid-term solution for the problem of Islamist political violence. Indeed, de-radicalization does not mean that the root causes of radicalism were properly addressed and resolved. The Egyptian Muslim Brothers abandoned political violence back in the 1970s, for example, but the much more violent IG and al-Jihad emerged as their successors in the same decade. Now the IG has also abandoned violence, but the repression from dictatorships, socioeconomic strains, and exclusionary dogmas can ultimately reproduce similar organizations. Successful democratization and religious reformation remain critical to a long-term, durable solution. "
While all this is fine and dandy, I've found the excitement over these recantations to be blown out of proportion to some degree. Even is they eschew violence, the ideology of these groups remains extremely radical, intolerant, bigoted, and susceptible to create social violence (among Muslims as well as between Muslims and non-Muslims). Regular "scientific" Salafism, which some of these jihadis are reverting too, seems to me still incipiently takfiri. Let's not get too excited just yet, especially when the current generation of recantations has been largely obtained from jihadi leaders under arrest who appear to be recycling themselves for a career in post-Bin Ladenism.