News

Al-Qaida Seen As Continuing Post-Bin Laden

Gary Thomas

Ten years after plotting the most devastating terrorist attack ever on U.S. soil, al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden was killed Sunday in a guarded compound in the Pakistani city of Abbottabad.  But the organization he put together to launch the September 11, 2001, attacks is quite different today.  A more decentralized al-Qaida is expected to continue to stage attacks, and officials will continue counterterrorist efforts to stop them.

Former CIA director Michael Hayden says the death of Osama bin Laden is a serious body blow that will open up new fissures within the al-Qaida structure. "This is a big deal. I don’t mean to minimize it at all. It will cause al-Qaida to go through a succession crisis, something that they’ve never had to do before.  And there are splits within the organization between the Gulf Arabs and the Egyptians that are in it, and it is likely that an Egyptian, Ayman al-Zawahiri, is going to take control. So, good on ‘em.  Let them try to deal with that because I think that the organization will have a great deal of difficulty dealing with that kind of question," he said.

But, he adds, bin Laden’s death is not a knockout punch to the terrorist organization. As he and other analysts point out, the al-Qaida of 2011 is still alive but is not the same as the one that launched the attacks in New York and Washington 10 years ago.  Today, Hayden says, al-Qaida is more geographically dispersed and less structured, with so-called "franchises" planning and operating more independently.

"As good news as this is, this is a network, not a hierarchy.  So bin Laden was important, but it is a network.  Power and decision-making are diffuse, and there’s an awful lot of energy and power in what we call the franchises, particularly the one in Yemen.  So, this isn’t over by a long shot.  And we probably need to stand by for immediate violent reaction on the part of the al-Qaida network," he said.

Bin Laden disappeared after the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 that ousted the Taliban government that had hosted him.   The U.S. and its allies expended enormous amounts of money, equipment, and intelligence resources over 10 years not only to track him down but to attack al-Qaida and a resurgent Taliban movement.

Shaun Gregory, director of the Pakistan Security Research Unit at the University of Bradford in Britain, says bin Laden’s death is not a "game-changer" in the war against violent jihadists.

"His isolation has been such and, I think, American successes in the region have also been so significant - the drone strikes and the general downward pressure on al-Qaida - that he is in that sense a more marginal figure.  I think that he gives the Americans closure on the 9-11 thing up to a point - though, of course, (Ayman) al-Zawahiri is still at large - that I don’t think that he is a significant operational impact on the sort of day-to-day terrorist operations, either in the United States or anywhere else," he said.

Al-Qaida no longer needs the kind of physical training camps that it set up in Taliban-run Afghanistan.   Things like rudimentary bomb instruction can be conducted via the Internet. Analysts point out that many - although not all - of the recently intercepted al-Qaida-linked terrorist plots have been far less ambitious than the 9-11 attacks.

Larry Goodson of the U.S. Army War College believes that with bin Laden’s death, more of the counterterrorist effort will concentrate outside of South Asia. "The al-Qaida/international Islamist terrorist network has already fragmented in various ways. And now we have Yemen and North Africa and other places to be focused on or concerned about.  I expect that some of the focus will begin to shift there," he said.

Former CIA director Michael Hayden says the jubilation in counterterrorism circles will be short-lived. "I know the people who would have been in the room the past several days, exhausting themselves going through this.  There will be great satisfaction, they’ll feel good, and then they’ll go back to work because they, above all other folks, know this isn’t over," he said.

Officials hope a cache of documents seized in the raid on bin Laden’s compound will open up new leads on the whereabouts of other key remaining al-Qaida figures.

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs