A Crippling Blow to Al-Qaeda


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Al-Qaeda’s leadership must scatter, assuming that everything bin Laden knew about it is now being carefully read by CIA analysts. Many high-ranking members probably already had pre-prepared evacuation plans, and new identities and shelters ready for them. But even so, their sudden, rapid movements will expose them to a greater risk of detection and capture, and should they continue to elude U.S. and international security forces, their ability to plot murder against the West will be greatly limited, as they will remain preoccupied with looking after their own safety. While the threat al-Qaeda poses will remain (and may in fact increase in the short term as it seeks retribution), anything that panics and disrupts its leadership, potentially ruining plans and disrupting operations, is good news indeed.

When al-Qaeda does eventually regroup, it will find that attacking the West is no longer its only concern. Al-Qaeda was very much tethered to Osama bin Laden, its charismatic, wealthy founder. The organization has grown and now has branches operating all over the world (many of which are no doubt unknown to us). If the organization is to remain effective, someone will have to take command, but it does not seem apparent that there is any leader-in-waiting willing and able to step up and replace bin Laden. Ayman al-Zawahiri, bin Laden’s long-time second-in-command, has been al-Qaeda’s operational commander for years, and is admired by jihadists for his rhetoric in favor of holy war against the West, but is considered by Western intelligence to lack the charisma and personal likeability of bin Laden.

Absurd as it is to think of bin Laden as likeable, it is an inescapable fact that many of history’s most brutal madmen have had tremendous personal magnetism. Adolf Hitler electrified crowds with his speeches; Che Guevara is still beloved by many wannabe-revolutionaries to this day. What al-Zawahiri possesses in competence and ideological purity, he may lack in the people management skills necessary to hold together a geographically disparate group of fanatics.

How al-Qaeda would select a new leader is also an open question: Since the raid on bin Laden, it can be assumed that the group is being extremely careful about communicating electronically, but gathering together in one place to communicated personally is no less risky: any specific al-Qaeda leader that had been discovered by the West could lead an armed Predator drone to the rest of the organization’s leadership. This might help explain why al-Qaeda’s statement on bin Laden’s death was signed only by the group’s “general leadership.” Al-Qaeda leadership probably has no idea yet who will take over, and many of the presumed successors have reason to fear that the documents captured by the U.S. might have compromised their personal security.

Al-Qaeda remains a threat to the West, and will no doubt wish to strike out to avenge its fallen leader. And its ideology can still corrupt others into forming their own “home-grown” terror organizations that seek to carry out al-Qaeda’s goals without any formal connection to the group (such groups are known to have formed in the United States, Britain and Canada over the last several years). But while the danger remains, it has been dealt a significant blow. With luck, additional — perhaps fatal — blows will come in the days and weeks ahead.

Matt Gurney is a columnist and editor at Canada’s National Post. He can be reached on Twitter @mattgurney.

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  • http://www.resonoelusono.com/NaturalBornCitizen.htm Alexander Gofen

    "Al-Qaeda – a threat to the West" is a misleading statement, because Al-Qaeda is just one brand – an "impatient" brand of islam resorting to extreme violence right now. They just annoy the other islamic strategist representing the "legal" islam. Those pursue islamic victory by completely legal means shunning of their "impatient" co-religionists like Al-Qaeda.

    And the legal islam is already here and everywhere: in every mosque, university, government and in the US Army (covering for the greatest terror act in the army ever of "major" Hasan) and legalized imams in the US Army!!! Can you imagine Nazi propagandists in US Army of the 40s (for the need of a few ethnic German soldiers)?

    The drafts and links of the future terror attacks found in the Al Qaeda den do matter, yet the main islamic centers planning and financing the islamic invasion are Saudis on the one side, Iranians on the other, Pakistanis on the third: Islam in general. And this is not even mentioned.

    See "Why Pakistan knew it could hide Osama"
    http://www.jewishworldreview.com/0511/steyn050911

  • http://apollospaeks.townhall.com ApolloSpeaks

    OBAMA'S 19TH LIE ABOUT THE MISSION TO KILL BIN LADIN

    Fox News counted 18 lies or "untruths" related to the administrations muddled story about the operation to capture/kill Osama bin Ladin. But there is a 19th lie misssed by Fox, the biggest whopper of them all: the whopper about Obama's canceled authorization to bomb bin Ladin's compound.

    Click my name to read my widely linked piece : Why Obama Delayed The Mission To Kill Bin Laden, And His 19th Lie.

  • bearone7777

    Hello,
    Best thing about all of this is that Mr. O-"DUMMY" had no other obvious ways to get around this. Navy-Seal Team Number-Six had there target in there sights, and the order was given to do the deed, and what was the deed? KILL THE TARGET. NO QUESTIONS ASKED. YOU KNOW WHAT? I AM JUST GLAD HE IS DEAD, AND GONE. VINDICATION FOR THE FORMER PRESIDENT-[BUSH]-AND KUDOS FOR THE "NAVY-SEALS".

    • Amused

      That's right , and you can thank Obama , the one you hate , for accomplishing "the deed " , which btw was a campaign promise , to hunt dsown and KILL bin Laden whether in Pakistan or not , with or without Pakistans co-operation . Forget that ? Of course you did , it went down that enormous memory hole .And I guess you forgot the torrent of criticism of that statement demonstrated by your idiot in charge , Limbaugh .

      • coyote3

        As far as I am concerned he can attack Iran, the country that actually invaded us, and nuke every living thing there, and I would still oppose him. Not for doing that, but for being "constitutionally incorrect", which is a nice way of saying he's a criminal.

  • Fred Dawes

    I will not go on about this, but read Alexander Gofen he gets what has happened and what will happen, he can see!

  • Jim_C

    You know any terrorists actively planning, now, have got to be nervous–and people in that state of mind can be tempted to do stupid things.

    I will be very interested to see what (if anything) happens in Pakistan in the coming months. Will they clean house? Will they pretend to clean house? Or will they keep feeding us (and the rest of the world) idiotically transparent b.s. lines?

    The pressure is on in all the right places.

  • Amused

    Kudos to Obama , you guys will choke on those words , but I'll give credit where credits due as did Obama – The United States ,and the Navy seals accomplished the mission .POTUS gave the credit to the US , it's intelligence agencies and the Navy Seals . Yes Bush AND Clinton played a role as both strived for the same goal .He was mocked in the campaign when he said he would do it whether it meant going into Pakistan ,with or without its approval , and he did . Had the mission failed , you would no doubt give him ALL the credit for that , but it didn't fail and you hypocrites lack the decency to get over your rabid hatred .So now here come the theories , the lies , the innuendo , and new aspersians cast . What a bunch of pathetic sorry arse phony patriots .

    • Fred Dawes

      You must Love People more and be good not bad. after all its about one idea one people and one leader under one rule and one great dream so get Behind the ideals of a Great Prison State for all.

      • Amused

        Dawes you racist mind is turning to incoherent jello .You must stop hating , and perhaps your ridiculous paranoid delusion of a "prison state " will diissipate . And please list the freedoms that have been abridged , especially YOURS , which lead you to believe such utter rubbish .

  • http://www.fx-exchange.com/ Bowmanave

    Osamas belated demise won't mean a damn thing. If he had to use couple of couriers to dispatch orders then he wasn't doing much ordering or planning.

    • WeMustResist

      Good point Bowmanave. It is a big contradiction if he was well hidden and a leader at at the same time. That cannot be done. A leader is in touch with his followers. Osama was out of touch so he could be secure. To get a meassage to him would have taken a long time, so he could be safe. There was no busy traffic in and out of his safe house. He was retired.

      • SpiritOf1683

        He wasn't retired. He still got his orders out of that house to his minions, whether on horseback or on foot. Getting orders out is still getting them out, whatever the method. An e-mail or phone call would have pinpointed his whereabouts, that is why he didn't use them. The rest of the Al Qaeda leadership does the same in their attempts to avoid detection. These are the sort of enemies where you do need eyes and ears on the ground the old-fashioned way.

  • sydchaden

    Our illustrious leaders and learned commentators do not appear to have grasped that bin Laden could have easily travelled to Mexico, walked across the border into the US, and then plotted the sequel to 9/ll in the comfort of San Francisco or another sanctuary city. Only a fool or a fanatic would have passed up that opportunity to remain in Pakistan, which explains why bin Laden's end came as it did.

  • SpiritOf1683

    It's a triumph for Bin Laden's victims and a feather in the cap for the West, but a victory it isn't. Al Qaeda is still around, as are the multitude of Islamic terrorist organisations and their enablers and financiers, and they're still dangerous and have to be eliminated. And last but not least, so is Islam and its unholy hate-filled killing manual otherwise known as the Koran, plus the hadiths which exhort Muslims to murder and subjugate infidels as their religious duty, and the hate-peddling clerics, mullahs, muftis and ayatollahs. Until they're all gone and on the ashheap of history, we cannot proclaim victory.

  • Jim_C

    I disagree that it wasn't a victory of sorts, and I even credit Mr. Bush in part for the reason why.

    The Muslim world greeted bin Ladin's death not with the gnashing of teeth and whacking themselves on the head with swords, but with a certain breath of relief. Given the "Arab Spring" and the various protests, etc., could it possibly be they are tired of their own nonsense?

    I am watching with great interest those who are acting defensively, who are making excuses, who are "cracking down" on their own people. Surely there is more violence to come, but the ethos of al Qaeda does not seem especially fashionable, anymore.

  • Amused

    It was a victory , in that it was PAYBACK .And most appropriately done -a bullet in the face . Justice served . The war on terror ? No one on the left or right , in their right mind thinks the war has been won or is it anywhere near over . bin Laden was onbe man , but one man we said we would hunt down and kill , and that is done . The war will continue until islam is put in its place . A battle is won , and there are many more to come , so lets get #2 and then #3 , right down the line and in the same manner . No trials are necessarry no apologies for killing them outright is required .There are no trials in war , it is Kill or be Killed .