Al-Qaida Underrated

October 9, 2009

Maybe they’d stop supplying the majority of the radical Islam progadan textbooks to American elementary schools. * *see “Stealth Jihad” by Robert Spencer.

Al-Qaida Underrated

IBD: 8 Oct. 09

War On Terror: The would-be conventional wisdom, being spread far and wide by Democrats, is that al-Qaida is petering out in Afghanistan. Once again, we are underestimating Osama bin Laden’s deadly outfit.

National Security Adviser James Jones says al-Qaida in Afghanistan has shrunk. Intercepted al-Qaida communications suggest weapons and clothing shortages. And according to a presidential statement Tuesday, “Al-Qaida and its allies have not only lost operational capacity; they’ve lost legitimacy and credibility.”

But America has underestimated al-Qaida before.

In the mid-1990s, al-Qaida “was small,” as Lawrence Wright described it in “The Looming Tower,” his Pulitzer Prize-winning investigation of the terrorist group. It boasted “only 93 members at the time,” but its members were “well trained and battle hardened” with “ample resources” and “fanatically committed to their cause and convinced that they would be victorious.”

As Wright pointed out, among U.S. terrorist watchers, “no one took it seriously. It was too bizarre, too primitive and exotic.”

Last month Wright noted on the New Yorker’s Web site that al-Qaida is once again being underestimated. Since late 2001 “not a single member of the shura council — the core of al-Qaida — has been captured or killed” and “al-Qaida’s affiliates, especially in North Africa and Yemen, have been murderously active.”

According to Wright, “The fact that al-Qaida is still kicking, 21 years after its founding, is a testament to its adaptability — and to the failure of the U.S. and its allies to penetrate the organization.”

Michael Scheuer, who as chief of the CIA’s Osama bin Laden station might have caught bin Laden had the Clinton White House given the green light, told the Associated Press this week that al-Qaida likes to operate in the background. “When you see less and less of al-Qaida in an Islamist insurgency, it almost certainly means that it is more effective than when you saw more of it,” he said.

Hekmat Karzai, director of Kabul’s Center for Conflict & Peace Studies, this week lamented al-Qaida’s migration to Pakistan’s federally administered tribal areas.

“The key strategic leadership resides there,” Karzai told the Arab news network Al Jazeera.

At least as troubling, Arab, Pakistani and Western officials tell CBS News that hundreds of Arab al-Qaida loyalists have left the Afghan-Pakistani border for Yemen. Their goal: destabilizing Saudi Arabia, bin Laden’s birthplace and home to both Mecca and the world’s largest oil reserves.

Letting al-Qaida defeat the U.S. in Afghanistan and slip away would be bad enough. Seeing Saudi Arabia fall to the organization responsible for 9/11 would be an incalculable disaster.


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