To win World War II, Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin did not feel it necessary to kill every Nazi. We should not impose a higher standard in the battle against al Qaeda.
Bergen elaborates Al Qaeda’s “obvious weaknesses”
According to reliable press reports, CIA drones have killed 28 al Qaeda leaders in Pakistan and Yemen since U.S. President Barack Obama took office. During the George W. Bush administration, roughly a dozen leaders of the group were also killed in drone strikes.
As a result, al Qaeda has one senior leader left, Ayman al-Zawahiri, a black hole of charisma who took over the group after the death of Osama bin Laden. He inherited the Blockbuster Video of global jihad and has done nothing to resuscitate it. (Saif al-Adel, an Egyptian military commander of the group, who might make a more effective leader of al Qaeda, seems to have gone to ground.)
Al Qaeda hasn't conducted a successful attack in the West since the bombings on London's transportation system seven years ago that killed 52 commuters. And the terrorist group, of course, hasn't carried out an attack in the States since 9/11.
Even terrorists influenced by al Qaeda-like ideas have only killed 17 people in the United States since 9/11. About the same number of Americans are killed every year by dogs. In other words, in the United States during the past decade, dogs have been around ten times more deadly than jihadist terrorists.
Polling data from across the Muslim world in countries such as Egypt, Jordan, Pakistan, and Turkey indicate that support for al Qaeda has plummeted.
Al Qaeda played no role in the Arab Spring and hasn't been able to exploit in any meaningful way the most significant development in the Middle East since the collapse of the Ottoman Empire.
Bin Laden's death was greeted by only minor protests in the Muslim world.
And on the US’s “formidable defenses”
On 9/11, there were 16 people on the "no fly" list. Now there are more than 20,000.
In 2001, there were just a handful of Joint Terrorism Task Forces (JTTF), "fusion centers" where multiple law enforcement agencies work together to chase down leads to build terrorism cases. Now there are more than one hundred JTTFs across the country.
A decade ago, the National Counterterrorism Center, Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) didn't exist. All of these new institutions make it much harder for terrorists to operate in the United States.
Before 9/11, Special Operations Forces were rarely deployed against al Qaeda and allied groups. Now they perform some dozen operations every day in Afghanistan, as well as many other missions in countries such as Yemen and Somalia.
At the beginning of the 21st century, the American public didn't comprehend the threat posed by jihadist terrorists. That changed dramatically after the attacks on New York and Washington. In December 2001, it was passengers on his plane who disabled the "shoe bomber," Richard Reid. Similarly, eight years later it was his fellow passengers who tackled Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the "underwear bomber." And the following year it was a street vendor who spotted a suspicious SUV parked in Times Square that contained a bomb.
Before 9/11 the CIA and the FBI barely communicated about their respective investigations of terrorist groups. Now they work together quite closely.
Al Qaeda continues to seek fertile ground. Groups linked to Al Qaeda have overrun northern Mali, but Al Qaeda’s Algerian offshoot has beenneutralized. A prominent defector claims Syria is working with Al Qaeda while raising the specter of chemical weapons. London has become a fortress in anticipation of the Olympics.
- Justin Gillenwater