Thursday, July 12, 2007

Losing the War on Terror

Picking up from my previous post, today's news is filled with intelligence reports that al Qaeda has rebuilt its operational capacity. A National Intelligence Estimate entitled "Al-Qaeda Better Positioned to Strike the West" to be released soon asserts that al Qaeda is "considerably operationally stronger than a year ago," has "regrouped to an extent not seen since 2001," and "[is] showing greater and greater ability to plan attacks in Europe and the United States." Furthermore, al Qaeda has succeeded in creating"the most robust training program since 2001, with an interest in using European operatives" while the US is suffering from"significant gaps in intelligence" so U.S. authorities may be ignorant of potential or planned attacks.

One of the main successes so far in the War on Terror was the destruction of al Qaeda's formal institutionalized command structure that existed in Afghanistan pre-9/11. It was the organized nature of the group that enabled it to carry out such sophisticated attacks like 9/11, the bombing of the USS Cole, and the double bombings of the embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. However, since the loss of the organizational structure, al Qaeda has been largely incapable of mounting attacks of high sophistication, and has largely relied on suicide bombs on soft targets, like buses, trains, and discos. While deadly, such attacks are not what al Qaeda wants to be doing, as they don't raise its operational profile or seriously threaten the target states.

If al Qaeda is in fact reorganizing itself as it was before 9/11, that is very bad news. The new al Qaeda may be decentralized and dispersed, making it harder to find the leaders, but it is also less dangerous. While it should be easier to locate al Qaeda if it has rebuilt its organizational capacity and training camps, the US hasn't exactly demonstrated the will to go after those new organizational structures.

The failure by the US to deal with a regrouping al Qaeda calls into question all of the gains and sacrifices this country and its soldiers have made to date. It is disgraceful. It is one thing to be sensitive to Pakistan's precarious position and not press too hard for democratization for fear of undermining Musharraf or emboldening the radical Islamists. It's another thing entirely to allow al Qaeda to recreate itself as a serious threat to this country.