Al-Qaeda Is (Almost) Finished

By
Thursday, September 10, 2009 at 4:28 pm

If this Guardian piece is even 50 percent correct, al-Qaeda faces a recruiting crisis, ideological bankruptcy and capabilities deficit so severe that its entire viability is questioned. This is a death spiral:

Amid a mood of cautious optimism, some experts talk of a “tipping point” in the fight against al-Qaida. Others argue that only Bin Laden’s death will bring significant change. But most agree that the failure to carry out spectacular mass attacks in the west since the 2005 London bombings has weakened the group’s “brand appeal” and power to recruit.

“In order to stay relevant al-Qaida have to prove themselves capable and they haven’t been able to do that,” said Norwegian scholar Brynjar Lia.

Popular sympathy, which drained away because of sectarian killings in Iraq, has dwindled further this year. In Saudi Arabia, according to a recent intelligence report, 60-70% of information about al-Qaida suspects now comes from relatives, friends and neighbours, not from security agencies or surveillance.

Indeed, this was the consensus from last year’s New America Foundation conference on counterterrorism: al-Qaeda is a spent force. I recall Peter Bergen, who knows as much about al-Qaeda as any U.S. analyst, predicting that it would cease to exist within the next five years. According to the Guardian, which admittedly may be too optimistic, the core al-Qaeda in Waziristan could be as few as six people. If we kill them, and if they can’t find someone to take their place, and if they can’t recruit, congratulations, America: war is over, we win. And this was the organization we used to think of as a generational enemy. So much for the “Long War” or whatever.

But even if the Guardian is only 50 percent right, is it necessary to pursue, for instance, a second escalation of combat troops this year in Afghanistan, if the goal is to destroy safe havens across the Pakistani border for a handful of dudes who can’t attract competent recruits any more? So much of bipartisan U.S. strategy has rested on the presumption — and committed such overwhelming blood and treasure — that these people are an overwhelming security threat. Now they just look pathetic. Will our habits force us to implicitly inflate their danger?

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Comments

26 Comments

Joshua Foust
Comment posted September 10, 2009 @ 4:50 pm

Wait a minute. So, Bergen rests most of his case for remaining in Afghanistan on the presence of al Qaeda, but then declares it spent and so close to collapse we can discount it entirely in five years?

Those two statements don’t seem to wash. I’m missing something — yes?


September 11, 2009: Where’s al-Qaeda? | One Utah
Pingback posted September 11, 2009 @ 1:42 pm

[...] Spencer Ackerman observes: Al-Qaeda faces a recruiting crisis, ideological bankruptcy and capabilities deficit so severe that its entire viability is questioned. This is a death spiral. [...]


Al-Qaeda Is (Almost) Finished - Gossip Rocks Forum
Pingback posted September 11, 2009 @ 2:26 pm

[...] [...]


narciso
Comment posted September 11, 2009 @ 4:43 pm

Yes, how do you think we ended up here, in the first place, bringing the bulk of jihadists to Iraq and Afghanistan, decimated their ranks,


mcgeorgebundy
Comment posted September 11, 2009 @ 5:09 pm

Should al-Qaeda cease to exist, does anyone really think we'll stop fighting “them”?


Norwegian Shooter
Comment posted September 11, 2009 @ 5:20 pm

I haven't read Bergen's recent posts from Afghanistan, but don't give him too much credit. This post (http://afpak.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2009/08/19…) doesn't do him much credit. Could be he understands al Qaeda, but not the Taliban, but still, pretty shoddy stuff.


janusdaniels
Comment posted September 12, 2009 @ 5:21 am

The idea of al-Qaeda as a large stable global organization never made sense… and now, their main recruiters (Republicans) have suffered a lasting loss of power.


Drasties - Dutch on the World - World on the Dutch
Pingback posted September 12, 2009 @ 9:17 pm

[...] wars endlessly and will almost certainly continue to do so — even as Al Qaeda turns into little more than a scary image and myth.  The Washington Post now appears to be having a hard time deciding if we should attack Iran or [...]


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Pingback posted September 13, 2009 @ 9:27 am

[...] (but it’s still quite high**), at the same time as ‘al-Qaida’*** is said to be ‘weakening’, having difficulty in finding new recruits, and finding former ideologues and sympathisers speaking [...]


Osama’s epic fail: The flaw in [Osama] … | Marriage Blog
Pingback posted September 13, 2009 @ 9:58 am

[...] (but it’s still quite high**), at the same time as ‘al-Qaida’*** is said to be ‘weakening’, having difficulty in finding new recruits, and finding former ideologues and sympathisers speaking [...]


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Pingback posted September 14, 2009 @ 10:45 am

[...] war than an effort to destroy a very small country. I think this reflects al-Qaeda’s recent difficulty recruiting, as you can think of this as bin Laden shifting to a kind of lowest common denominator appeal. We [...]


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Pingback posted September 14, 2009 @ 3:29 pm

[...] grandiose war than an effort to destroy a very small country. I think this reflects al-Qaeda’s recent difficulty recruiting, as you can think of this as bin Laden shifting to a kind of lowest common denominator appeal. We [...]


?? ?? ?? ???????? : “The Reports of My Death are Greatly Exaggerated.” « THE BOURSA EXCHANGE
Pingback posted September 14, 2009 @ 4:07 pm

[...] an opinion, but we do see the article as a useful counterpoint to the recent round of articles and blog posts about al-Qaeda’s imminent [...]


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Pingback posted September 15, 2009 @ 1:51 am

[...] is having trouble with recruitment, finances, and operations.  Spencer Ackerman provides some additional support for this [...]


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Pingback posted August 17, 2010 @ 3:43 pm

[...] wars endlessly and will almost certainly continue to do so — even as Al Qaeda turns into little more than a scary image and myth.  The Washington Post now appears to be having a hard time deciding if we should attack [...]


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Pingback posted May 21, 2011 @ 8:41 am

[...] wars endlessly and will almost certainly continue to do so — even as Al Qaeda turns into little more than a scary image and myth.  The Washington Post now appears to be having a hard time deciding if we should attack [...]


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