September 26, 2004


THE NEW FACE OF AL QAEDA: Al Qaeda Seen as Wider Threat: The network has evolved into a looser, ideological movement that may no longer report to Bin Laden. Critics say the White House focus is misdirected. (Douglas Frantz, Josh Meyer, Sebastian Rotella and Megan K. Stack, September 26, 2004, LA Times)

Authorities have made little progress worldwide in defeating Islamic extremists affiliated with Al Qaeda despite thwarting attacks and arresting high-profile figures, according to interviews with intelligence and law enforcement officials and outside experts.

On the contrary, officials warn that the Bush administration's upbeat assessment of its successes is overly optimistic and masks its strategic failure to understand and combat Al Qaeda's evolution.

Even before the Sept. 11 attacks, Al Qaeda was a loosely organized network, but core leaders exercised considerable control over its operations. Since the loss of its base in Afghanistan and many of those leaders, the organization has dispersed its operatives and reemerged as a lethal ideological movement.

Osama bin Laden may now serve more as an inspirational figure than a CEO, and the war in Iraq is helping focus militants' anger, according to dozens of interviews in recent weeks on several continents. European and moderate Islamic countries have become targets. And instead of undergoing lengthy training at camps in Afghanistan, recruits have been quickly indoctrinated at home and deployed on attacks.

The United States remains a target, but counter-terrorism officials and experts are alarmed by Al Qaeda's switch from spectacular attacks that require years of planning to smaller, more numerous strikes on softer targets that can be carried out swiftly with little money or outside help.

It's lost Osama, much of the rest of its leadership, its bases and friendly regimes in Afghanistan and Iraq, leaving it with largely untrained foot soldiers. As a result, it is no longer strong enough to attack America or much of any hard target. The war is heavily focussed in one region of one country where we just happen to have a heavy troop presence on hand to kill them whenever they appear. Yet this isn't progress? What would progress look like?

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 26, 2004 8:32 AM

True, it's progress, but in a situation in which such progress can suddenly become irrelevant. Aznar has predicted a stunning terrorist attack on US soil in the days before the election (designed to dsirupt them). The Wall Street Journal did a story on the decentralization of the world jihadist movement many months ago. The Madrid bombers were not Al Qaeda and they were planning the attack for many years. Nonetheless, Iraq is the right policy and it is a terrorist magnet in that region. We will be hit again. Our borders are too open.

Posted by: seth at September 26, 2004 8:49 AM


But we aren't going to close them, which too suggests the failure of al Qaeda.

Posted by: oj at September 26, 2004 8:55 AM

Sending out untrained recruits is a key indicator of losing, not "adaptive strategy".

Posted by: Annoying Old Guy at September 26, 2004 11:56 AM

"Yet this isn't progress? What would progress look like?"

Need we really say it, OJ? "Progress" is defined as driving that boogeyman Chimpy from his spider hole at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

Posted by: H.D. Miller at September 26, 2004 6:09 PM