Al-Qaeda’s Ambitions Diminish Further?
I snarked Wednesday about CIA Director Leon Panetta’s assertion that the CIA has lately dealt al-Qaeda a hefty blow, since we don’t really have the visibility into that process to independently evaluate the claim. But [the Los Angeles Times’ Greg Miller has a great piece](http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/middleeast/la-fg-qaeda19-2010mar19,0,3666618.story?track=rss&utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed:+latimes/middleeast+(L.A.+Times+-+Middle+East)) about how U.S. intelligence believes al-Qaeda is switching its signature tactical approach away from massive, simultaneous media-spectacle-ready attacks to something, well, smaller:
Al Qaeda and its affiliates have adapted their tactics to emphasize speed and probability of success over spectacle, U.S. intelligence officials believe, a shift in strategy that poses problems for spy agencies that were reorganized in recent years to stop large-scale attacks like those of Sept. 11, 2001.
The new emphasis is seen as a significant departure for a terrorist network that had focused on sophisticated plots involving synchronized strikes on multiple targets, and teams of operatives coordinating across international borders.
If that’s a problem for spy agencies, it’s one of those good problems. Al-Qaeda would not lower its ambitions away from Huge and Simultaneous and Redundant if it had a choice in the matter. If Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab is the future — and remember, he came from al-Qaeda’s Yemen affiliate, not the central, Pakistan core that has previously directed U.S.-focused attacks, an indication of pressure on the senior leadership — well, the guy didn’t even detonate correctly. Even if he had, he would have been a vicious murderer of 300 people, an order of magnitude fewer than those al-Qaeda murdered on 9/11. Compare this to worries from years ago about al-Qaeda obtaining weapons of mass destruction and we have a real measure of progress.