Commentary Magazine


Contentions

Bin Laden Is Gone, But Al-Qaeda Is Not

The endless touchdown dance that President Obama and his surrogates are taking on the one-year anniversary of Osama bin Laden’s death, which is turning what should be a unifying event into a partisan one, risks tarnishing the heroic work of the Special Operators and intelligence officers who tracked down and killed the world’s most wanted man. It also risks exaggerating the consequences of bin Laden’s demise.

Al-Qaeda “central” was already in decline prior to its leaders’ death, but as RAND political scientist Seth Jones rightly warns, al-Qaeda remains a very real threat. Especially potent are its regional affiliates (al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, al-Qaeda in Iraq, al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb) and closely related terrorist organizations such as the Shabaab in Somalia, Boko Harem in Nigeria, and, in Pakistan, Lashkar e Taiba, the Pakistani Taliban, the Afghan Taliban, the Haqqani Network, and others. And that’s not even to mention Hezbollah and Hamas, which in some ways remain the most potent Islamist terrorist organizations of all because they control actual territory. Oh, and in Iraq there is still a threat from various Mahdist army offshoots sponsored by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard’s Quds Force, which has terrorist tentacles stretching all the way from Latin America to the Levant.

Faced with this panoply of threats, we would be guilty of wishful thinking if we were to declare victory prematurely. Unfortunately, Islamist-inspired terrorists will continue to threaten our interests–and our homeland–for the foreseeable future. And it is not hard to sketch out possible scenarios–involving, say, a state collapse in Pakistan, a Taliban takeover in Afghanistan, or an Islamist seizure of power in Yemen or Somalia, or the acquisition of WMD by any terrorist group–that could substantially heighten the threat.

I don’t  mean to dismiss the blows that al-Qaeda and its ilk have suffered, which are reflected in public opinion polls which show declining support across the Muslim world for al-Qaeda–the Pew Research Center finds 71 percent of Egyptians, 77 percent of Jordanians, 55 percent of Pakistanis, 73 percent of Turks, and 98 percent of Lebanese holding an unfavorable view of al-Qaeda. But groups such as al-Qaeda–or the Taliban, or Hezbollah, or the Iranian Revolutionary Guards–do not typically take power in free and fair elections and even relatively small numbers of determined terrorists, no matter how unpopular, can still cause considerable carnage. Especially if they can get their hands on weapons of mass destruction, something that the rising power of Islamism in Pakistan and the increasing progress of the Iranian nuclear program make more probable.

The biggest danger we face on the one-year anniversary of Osama bin Laden’s well-deserved demise, for which President Obama deserves all the credit in the world, is that of complacency. If we let our guard down–if, for example, we leave Afghanistan prematurely before that country is more secure and stable–then we risk letting our mortal foes recover from the blows they have suffered in the past decade.

 


Join the discussion…

Are you a subscriber? Log in to comment »

Not a subscriber? Join the discussion today, subscribe to Commentary »





Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor to our site, you are allowed 8 free articles this month.
This is your first of 8 free articles.

If you are already a digital subscriber, log in here »

Print subscriber? For free access to the website and iPad, register here »

To subscribe, click here to see our subscription offers »

Please note this is an advertisement skip this ad
Clearly, you have a passion for ideas.
Subscribe today for unlimited digital access to the publication that shapes the minds of the people who shape our world.
Get for just
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor, you are allowed 8 free articles.
This is your first article.
You have read of 8 free articles this month.
YOU HAVE READ 8 OF 8
FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
for full access to
CommentaryMagazine.com
INCLUDES FULL ACCESS TO:
Digital subscriber?
Print subscriber? Get free access »
Call to subscribe: 1-800-829-6270
You can also subscribe
on your computer at
CommentaryMagazine.com.
LOG IN WITH YOUR
COMMENTARY MAGAZINE ID
Don't have a CommentaryMagazine.com log in?
CREATE A COMMENTARY
LOG IN ID
Enter you email address and password below. A confirmation email will be sent to the email address that you provide.