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The Future of Al Qa'ida

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Congressional testimony

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The death of Osama bin Laden has triggered a re-evaluation of al Qaida and its threat to the United States. Some have argued that al Qaida will become increasingly irrelevant. Between the Arab Spring and the death of bin Laden, it is hard to imagine greater blows to al-Qaedas ideology and organization, wrote terrorism analyst Peter Bergen, noting that bin Laden was on the wrong side of history. For al-Qaeda, he continued, that history just sped up, as bin Ladens body floated down into the ocean deeps and its proper place in the unmarked grave of discarded lies. Yet such assessments may be too optimistic. Al Qaida and allied groups continue to present a grave threat to the United States and its allies overseas by overseeing and encouraging terrorist operations, managing a robust propaganda campaign, conducting training, and collecting and distributing financial assistance. Two examples illustrate the point. First, al Qaida operatives like Ilyas Kashmiri, who remain at large, continue to be actively involved in plots in Europe, India, and the United States. Second, there has been an increase in the number of groups outside of central al Qaida that have targeted the United States. On May 1, 2010, Faisal Shahzad, who was trained by Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan bomb-makers, packed his Nissan Pathfinder with explosives and drove into Times Square in New York City on a congested Saturday night. Only fortune intervened, since the improvised explosive device malfunctioned. Indeed, the nature of the threat has changed and become more decentralized. In addition to central al Qaida Pakistan, other threats to the U.S. homeland include Al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula Yemen, Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan Pakistan, Lashkar-e-Tayyiba Pakistan, and potentially al Shabaab Somalia.

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  • Unconventional Warfare

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