Al Qaeda Strikes Back

This article provides a detailed recap of the success of Al Qaeda since 9/11, noting how US policy (particularly in regards to Iraq) has contributed to such success. It also discusses the approach the US should take to defeat Al Qaeda. The author is Bruce Riedel, a 29-year CIA veteran.

Also, I want to take a minute to endorse the web site/magazine in which this article was published – Foreign Affairs. It’s the only magazine I receive in hard-copy format and probably the most influential magazine in the US today. The articles are by experts/leading world figures of all political leanings and there is no fluff. It’s published bi-monthly ($32 per year).

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2 Responses to “Al Qaeda Strikes Back”

  1. wdporter Says:

    I like FA as well, but the authors are not in the least a fan of brevity, so I haven’t had the chance to read this whole article…will post again when I do.

    However at first blush, it seems like a classical logical fallacy to assume that just because we went into Iraq and Al Qaeda’s situation has improved, that going into Iraq was the cause for Al Qaeda’s improved situation. Perhaps one can make the argument about our forces being “spread too thin” but there is little evidence that:

    a) putting everything we have into Afghanistan would GUARANTEE the capture of Bin Laden. (Our relationship with Pakistan is the issue there.)

    b) that capturing Bin Laden would spell the doom for Al Qaeda. (Every time you take a terrorist out another pops up in his place…except for Bin Laden?)

    c) that SUCCEEDING where we have fallen short in Iraq (a terrorist state) would not have counted as a victory in the war on terrorism.

    Also, a very good argument could be made that flushing out an “actual” war with Islamic fundamentalists is a better situation than ignoring it as has been done for decades. They declared war on us long before we declared war on them.

    And speaking of Moderate Muslim countries: indeed, if we are not able to help them see that they are better off allied with the West than allied with their extremist Muslim “brothers” then the War on Terror will be a long one indeed, and as the author points out, the continued strength of Al Qaeda has improved our counterterrorism relationships with Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Jordan.

    Thoughts? I’m sure I’ll have to read the whole article.

  2. Rip Says:

    My apologies for the delayed response (and subsequent delayed responses, as I’m on travel for the next few days). The author made the reasonable argument that we didn’t fully defeat the Taliban or al Qaeda in Afghanistan. And, coincidentally or not, this lack of finishing off was concurrent with our leadership’s focus on the Iraq war. As for Iraq, the author seems to be pointing out that we “opened up” the country as a result of toppling Hussein and created another “front” for al Qaeda’s efforts, both for recruitment and training purposes. Iraq as a stimulus to recruitment can be argued, but it’s role as a training ground for the next generation of Al Qaeda cannot.

    I don’t think the author is stating that getting Bin Laden would have been a fatal blow for Al Qaeda. But, he is correctly stating that Al Qaeda was better contained in 2003 than now. This is very important because it is a key metric by which we should be assessing whether we are winning the war on terror.

    The other issues mentioned, including the problems within Pakistan and the Arab-Israeli conflict, are not easy fixes. But we must treat both as central to our war on terror if we are to win it.


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