Reports of Al Qaeda's Death Have Been Greatly Exaggerated
by Daveed Gartenstein-Ross III, Senior Fellow, Foundation for the Defense of Democracy
http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2012/10/03/reports_of_al_qaedas_death_have_been_greatly_exaggeratedReviewed by Norvell DeAtkine
The overarching theme in this excellent article is that al Qaeda’s attempts at governing have ended, at least temporarily, and it is now back operating in the environment it prefers. The author describes this as operating in the shadows, as it did very successfully for many years. As evidence of the shift, he recounts al Qaeda’s unsuccessful attempts to govern in Afghanistan, Somalia, and most recently Yemen. All to this point have been unsuccessful. To view this outcome as evidence of the demise of Al Qaeda is, however, not only wrong but foolhardy.
The author portrays the attack on the consulate in Benghazi as an example of the current al Qaeda strategy. The American administration’s response to the affair also points out the reality of a renewed and re-energized al Qaeda. It is no longer the centralized organization of the pre-9/11 days but has evolved into a franchise operation and an inspirational source for lone wolf attacks.
In support of that claim, Gartenstein-Ross summarizes a Federal Research Division document, published in August, which depicted the build-up of the regional al Qaeda network in Libya, an evolution that concealed the Libyan organization’s obvious ties to al Qaeda. As the author states, most analysts at the time would have disagreed, believing that al Qaeda was dead or dying.
After the Benghazi attack and a reluctant Administration admission that it was indeed a planned terrorist attack, and not a spontaneous outburst of anger directed at an anti-Islamic film trailer, opinions have changed. Some anti-terrorism circles are slowly recognizing that this is a long war and will not be won by killing a particular leader or even a score of al Qaeda leaders.
In the mind of the reviewer, the seemingly cheap method of killing leaders with drones accrues two advantages to the al Qaeda organization: It assures that the leadership does not become moribund and it denies the U.S. the ability to acquire first hand intelligence, which is our primary weakness in this long war.