Was Bin Laden a Con man with no vision; an idiot without a sound strategy or was he a hero?
Al-Qaeda is too weak to mount a major attack against the US in the future. The terror group has been emasculated and is not in a position to carry out spectacular operations. It is important to note that the group has failed to carry out any major attacks since July 7, 2005 bombing in London.
The war on terror is not over yet. Ten years down the line, $3.2 trillion later, and over 6,000 American soldiers killed with 44,000 injured. The fight against Al-Qaeda is far from finished. Why has it taken so long to nearly defeat Al-Qaeda? Despite suffering huge losses in its ranks and the decapitating of its iconic symbol Osama Bin Laden and his most senior Operational Chiefs, Al-Qaeda is still alive but not kicking. It has not been completely destroyed. I would say Al-Qaeda is severely weakened but not dead.
It is now scattered and splintered and has presence in Somalia, Yemen, Nigeria, Sub-Saharan Africa and an assortment of dormant cells all over the world. What it lacks is an effective central command and a co-ordinating body. Al-Qaeda is short of cash. Worst of all they are running out of recruits willing to sacrifice themselves for some redundant Jihadist ideas.
Having said all that I believe Al-Qaeda even in its fragmented state could still pose a threat. All it takes to cause mayhem is for one or two brain-washed fanatics to walk into a crowded cafe or a busy bus station and blow themselves up. What they are unable to do is to carry out a spectacular attack similar to 9/11 which requires a great deal of planning, logistics, money, co-ordination and meticulous execution. This they are not in a position to do. Therefore I believe that a repetition of 9/11 is most unlikely. However Murad Batal Al-Shishani, a London-based Islamic Groups Expert said recently “we cannot underestimate al-Qaeda even though Osama Bin Laden was killed.
Bin Laden himself established three principles that allowed al-Qaeda, to continue even after his death. These principles are “individual jihad”, opening multiple battle fronts and establishing al-Qaeda as an ideology, not an organization”.
Back to the question why it has taken ten years and two wars only to reach this far and why the war on terror is not over.
Analysts believe that the main reason was the catastrophic strategic blunders committed by the Bush Administration.
Chiefly the decision to shift the war effort to Iraq before the job of eradicating Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan was successfully accomplished. The other often quoted reason was ignoring Al-Qaeda in Pakistan and leaving it to the fickle and not entirely reliable Pakistani allies to fight the Al-Qaeda.
However it was not until the summer of 2008 when the drone campaign was launched that Al-Qaeda began to suffer real losses. In Pakistan Al-Qaeda’s top brass have been largely exterminated by drones, the latest target was Al-Qaeda’s second-in-command Atiyah Abd al Rahman who was killed by a drone on August 22nd. Killing Rahman was another major blow to al-Qaeda’s infrastructure and prestige. This was a significant development coming some four months after a Navy Seals team killed Bin Laden on May 2nd.
The drone campaign has proved effective in killing some 20 leading figures of Al-Qaeda including Mustafa Abu al-Yazid one of the founders of al Qaeda and Saleh al-Somali the Chief of external operations.
Bin Laden’s own philosophy of brutality helped to weaken Al-Qaeda. His strategy backfired and led to the rapid decline of the group. Bin Laden had nothing positive to offer to the young Muslims and Arabs except hatred and violence. His followers killed dozens of Muslims in Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia. Al-Qaeda killed and maimed thousands in Iraq. Is it any wonder that when Bin Laden was killed by the Navy Seals, the Arab Street couldn’t care less? There were no mass demonstrations to mourn or protest the demise of the inspirational and once charismatic Chief of Al-Qaeda.
The latest blow to Al-Qaeda has been the arrest in Pakistan of a key figure by CIA/Pakistani agents near the strategic Pakistani town of Quetta which is close to the Afghani and Iranian borders and the capital of the Al-Qaeda. The arrest was made public just a week before the 10th Anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. Younis al-Mauritani was in charge of targeting American economic interests around the world. Oil and Gas pipelines, power generating dams and oil tankers and communication networks were potential targets.
Such killings and arrests cause major disruption to Al-Qaeda’s planning and strategy which further hamper its ability to plan and carry out large scale operations.
The grand strategy of Bin Laden to oust Americans from the Middle East backfired badly. After 9/11 the number of Americans in the Middle East in fact increased. Since 9/11 America established military bases in the Arabian Gulf and in Iraq. His grand design for an Islamic State has not materialised and is unlikely to. The Arab Spring has shown that most Arabs and Muslims are not interested in the Jihadist ideals.
The new generation of young people love life and don’t wish to perish in the pursuit of obsolete aims such as the igniting of a global confrontation between Muslims and non-Muslims. This abysmal failure was followed by another shock. The shock of discovering that Al-Qaeda is becoming increasingly irrelevant was devastating to Ayman al-Zawahiri, the successor of Bin Laden. The Arab Street has rejected Al-Qaeda, period.
Al-Qaeda may still try to show it is still relevant by carrying out bombing attacks on vulnerable easy and soft targets in Mosques and Churches in Iraq or Pakistan or a Hotel Lobby in Sharm Elsheikh. We may see acts of Mumbai-style acts of terrorism to fuel Indian Pakistani conflict.
Most of the surviving Al-Qaeda chiefs are still based in Pakistan. This means closer co-operation with Pakistan is crucial to the defeat of the group. Over the years Pakistan proved to be a less reliable partner in the fight against terrorist networks. There is a need to pursue the remaining al Qaeda operatives in Somalia and Yemen which harbour a number of al Qaeda elements.
Bin Laden doesn’t belong to the Twitter and Face book generation. He is obsolete and his ideas don’t appeal to anyone except the most narrow-minded fanatics who are a very small minority. He caused the death of thousands of Muslims. Some described Bin Laden as a conman and an idiot lacking in vision and sound strategy. He alienated Arabs and Muslims and that had hastened the slow death of Al-Qaeda.