Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has long posed a direct threat to the West, a threat arguably more serious than that posed by Islamic State. Yet many seem surprised by this after news reports that one of the suspects in Wednesday’s attack on the Charlie Hebdo offices in Paris may have had links to AQAP.

The suspect, Said Kouachi, reportedly received training in Yemen in 2011. During that trip, he allegedly met with Anwar al-Awlaki, the U.S.-born preacher closely associated with AQAP until he was killed by a U.S. drone strike later that year.

In recent years, Washington has deemed Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula the most dangerous terror threat to the West because of its global reach and technical savvy. And unlike Islamic State, AQAP has staged attacks in the West, including in the United States.

The “underwear bomber” who tried to blow up an airliner on Christmas Day 2009, the 2013 massacre at Fort Hood, and the 2010 plot to send parcel bombs to Chicago all had some connection to AQAP.

Islamic State extremists have done no such things–yet. To this point, ISIS has appeared content to terrorize Westerners in Syria and Iraq, where the group holds sway. Its core objective for now appears to be managing the territory it controls in those countries, not taking its fight to the West.

Now, many observers have good reason to fear that Westerners who go to the Middle East to fight for Islamic State could eventually return home and stage attacks.

Perhaps a more immediate fear, however, is that Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula–a group that has demonstrated its intent and ability to strike in the West—will carry out its own attacks, much like the one in Paris this week.

The opinions expressed here are soley those of the author.

This article was originally published in The Wall Street Journal's Washington Wire.