In reply to a question about the impact of 9/11 attacks on organisations like the IRA, I remember saying to a Television Station reporter that "if I was in their shoes, that is the shoes of the IRA bosses, I would look for other work". "The world does not anymore tolerate terrorist acts against civilian targets to advance their political agenda". Ten years later I still hold the same view with regard to al-Qaeda.
The recent killing of Anwar al-Awlaki and his associate Samir Khan by an unmanned drone has dealt another severe blow to al Qaeda.
American born al-Awlaki, described by U.S intelligence as "chief of operations" for al-Qaeda in Yemen, was killed in a CIA drone attack in a remote Yemeni town on Friday according to U.S officials. Five people accompanying Awlaki were also killed including Samir Khan 25.
According to US Officials Awlaki was believed to be a skilled propagandist who used the internet to promote his cause and inspire attacks on the United States, as well as being directly involved in such attacks.
Awlaki was implicated in the Detroit bombing. U.S officials believe there was contact between Awlaki and Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the so-called "underwear bomber" who had been charged with a failed attempt to attack a Detroit-bound airliner on Christmas Day 2009.
Samir Khan, a US citizen from North Carolina with a Pakistani background, was the man behind "Inspire" an Islamist magazine that offered a heady mix of Qur'anic commentary, propaganda and tips on bomb-making. Inspire was launched in June 2010 but only seven issues have been released.
According to the Guardian, British intelligence officers hacked into an early edition, inserting a "pdf file" containing fairy cake recipes and garbled most of the magazine 67 pages.
Al-Qaeda has been in a state of permanent decline since a Navy Seals team killed Bin Laden on May 2nd 2011. A CIA controlled drone killed al-Qaeda's second-in-command in Pakistan, Atiyah Abd al-Rahman, on August 22nd. The killing of al-Rahman was another major blow to al-Qaeda's infrastructure and prestige.
Bin Laden's successor Ayman al-Zawahiri who was recently appointed as the new Commander of the global jihadist network Al-Qaeda would be next. Let us remember that he had announced that his violent campaign against the West and the secular Arab regimes would continue. Despite this threat, I don't believe Al-Qaeda is capable of carrying out major operations in Western Europe, USA and the Middle East.
If I was advising him I would tell him; Mr. Zawzhiri the game is up, resign, find another job and declare the end of al-Qaeda and terrorism. I would also tell him this would not guarantee his safety. But if you hand yourself in to the authorities and renounce terrorism, it might serve as a mitigating factor in your favour when you appear in court.
I believe that Zawahiri is damaged goods. He cannot fill the vacant position of Bin Laden, he does not inspire and his TV appearances are boring non-events. However, it is safe to say that the demise of Bin Laden; Atiyah Abd al-Rahman and Anwar al Awlaki have considerably weakened but not completely finished al-Qaeda.
We might disagree with President Obama's handling of the Israeli Palestinian conflict, and disagree with him for not being tougher with the Syrian regime which is killing pro-democracy protesters with all military means including tanks and aircraft. But we must express admiration for President Obama's resolute determination to defeat al Qaeda. He has done more in five months to weaken al-Qaeda than former President Bush's eight years of wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. I fully understand why Republicans and some right wing media people are doing all they can to minimise the importance of Obama's success in the fight against al-Qaeda.
Al-Qaeda's record of murders extends back to the early 1990s. More Muslims were killed by al Qaeda in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan than by military action by the US and its allies. More Iraqis were killed by al-Qaeda inspired violence than by the military invasion of Iraq in 2003. More and more Muslims were turning away from Al-Qaeda. Recent events in the Middle East have confirmed the growing irrelevance of Bin Laden and al-Qaeda.
Zawahiri and Bin Laden were in for a shock when the Arab Street erupted in Tunisia and Egypt, Libya, Yemen and Syria. None of the young people carried placards calling for jihad or support for al-Qaeda. None of the placards showed Bin Laden's face. Even after Bin Laden was killed on May 2nd very few in the Arab or Muslim World protested.
Al-Qaeda has lost the ability to mount a spectacular act of terrorism similar to 9/11. It is much weaker now. It is strapped for cash and many adherents have walked away.
The war against al Qaeda is not over. Its decentralized franchise structure has not been completely dismantled. Morales may have fallen, but these guys will reassert themselves somehow to tell the world "we are still relevant and don't write us off".
I urge Zawahiri, the current head of al-Qaeda, his collaborators and henchmen to start looking for new careers. It does not pay to be a terrorist.
It is time for al Qaeda's upper echelon to consider a career change. The future is grim and time is running out.
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