A flicker is a nice way of putting they are there, but not directly influencing more than 10% of operations. Think of it like a train pulling fifty or so cars. If two of those had Al Qaida written on them that would be a "flicker."
Al Qaida and other terrorist organizations usually try to participate in uprisings in order to gain sympathy or influence the next government that takes power. Usually they let the young democracy seeking guys get killed off, so they have an easier time injecting their form of radicalism into whatever remains.