Dueling takes on Al Qaeda

So, how’s Al Qaeda doing?  Let’s ask the experts!  Bruce Hoffman, what do you think?  2008 marks the twentieth anniversary of al-Qaeda’s founding. The movement thus joins a select group of terrorist organizations that have survived at least two decades or more. Such groups are often the most consequential and pose the greatest terrorist threats. ...

So, how's Al Qaeda doing?  Let's ask the experts!  Bruce Hoffman, what do you think?  2008 marks the twentieth anniversary of al-Qaeda’s founding. The movement thus joins a select group of terrorist organizations that have survived at least two decades or more. Such groups are often the most consequential and pose the greatest terrorist threats. They are learning organizations that have adapted and adjusted to even the most formidable governmental countermeasures. They are capable of planning and executing operations as well as identifying and building a long-term strategy. They are equally adept at gathering intelligence and conducting surveillance without detection. They are implacable with a steely determination that is difficult to diminish, much less defeat. Hmmm..... sounds pretty bad.  Hey, Juan Cole, what do you think?  The original al-Qaeda is defeated.... I mean the original al-Qaeda. Al-Qaeda as a historical, concrete movement centered on Usama Bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri, with the mujahideen who fought in Afghanistan in the 1980s at their core. Al-Qaeda, the 55th Brigade of the Army of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan under the Taliban. That al-Qaeda. The 5,000 fighters and operatives or whatever number they amounted to. That original al-Qaeda has been defeated.... Marc Sageman in his 'Understanding Terror Networks' estimates that there are less than a thousand Muslim terrorists who could and would do harm to the United States. That is, the original al-Qaeda was dangerous because it was an international terror organization dedicated to stalking the US and pulling the plug on its economy. It had one big success in that regard, by exploiting a small set of vulnerabilities in airline safety procedures. But after that, getting up a really significant operation has been beyond them so far. Hmmm.... commentators, what do you think? 

So, how’s Al Qaeda doing?  Let’s ask the experts!  Bruce Hoffman, what do you think? 

2008 marks the twentieth anniversary of al-Qaeda’s founding. The movement thus joins a select group of terrorist organizations that have survived at least two decades or more. Such groups are often the most consequential and pose the greatest terrorist threats. They are learning organizations that have adapted and adjusted to even the most formidable governmental countermeasures. They are capable of planning and executing operations as well as identifying and building a long-term strategy. They are equally adept at gathering intelligence and conducting surveillance without detection. They are implacable with a steely determination that is difficult to diminish, much less defeat.

Hmmm….. sounds pretty bad.  Hey, Juan Cole, what do you think? 

The original al-Qaeda is defeated…. I mean the original al-Qaeda. Al-Qaeda as a historical, concrete movement centered on Usama Bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri, with the mujahideen who fought in Afghanistan in the 1980s at their core. Al-Qaeda, the 55th Brigade of the Army of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan under the Taliban. That al-Qaeda. The 5,000 fighters and operatives or whatever number they amounted to. That original al-Qaeda has been defeated…. Marc Sageman in his ‘Understanding Terror Networks’ estimates that there are less than a thousand Muslim terrorists who could and would do harm to the United States. That is, the original al-Qaeda was dangerous because it was an international terror organization dedicated to stalking the US and pulling the plug on its economy. It had one big success in that regard, by exploiting a small set of vulnerabilities in airline safety procedures. But after that, getting up a really significant operation has been beyond them so far.

Hmmm…. commentators, what do you think? 

Daniel W. Drezner is a professor of international politics at Tufts University’s Fletcher School. He blogged regularly for Foreign Policy from 2009 to 2014. Twitter: @dandrezner

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