A Stubborn Terror
Riedel, Bruce, Newsweek
Byline: Bruce Riedel
Eleven years later al Qaeda is still a threat.
Eleven years after 9/11, al Qaeda is fighting back. Despite a focused and concerted American-led global effort--despite the blows inflicted on it by drones, SEALS, and spies--the terror group is thriving in the Arab world, thanks to the revolutions that swept across it in the last 18 months. And the group remains intent on striking inside America and Europe.
The al Qaeda core in Pakistan has suffered the most from the vigorous blows orchestrated by the Obama administration. The loss of Osama bin Laden eliminated its most charismatic leader, and the drones have killed many of his most able lieutenants. But even with all these blows, bin Laden's successor, Ayman al-Zawahiri, is still orchestrating a global terror network and communicating with its followers.
Most importantly, al Qaeda's allies in Pakistan, the Taliban and Lashkar-e-Taiba, which attacked Mumbai in 2008, are under no pressure. They continue to enjoy the patronage of the Pakistani intelligence services. Lashkar-e-Taiba has a global network with cells in America, England, and the Persian Gulf. Just this summer, the Saudis arrested a key Lashkar operator planning a new mass-casualty attack and extradited him to India.
But it is in the Arabian Peninsula that al Qaeda is really multiplying. Its franchise in Yemen has staged three attacks on America, including one at Christmas in 2009--the infamous "underwear bomber--that almost succeeded in Detroit. Its brilliant Saudi bomb maker, Ibrahim al-Asiri, is alive and has trained a cadre of students. The Yemeni regime is weak, the country is spinning into chaos, and al Qaeda is exploiting it. …