Al Qaeda at 20, very much alive, but not the force it was

August 18th, 2008 - 3:10 pm ICT by ANI  


At 20 years, al-Qaeda is losing its war, but its influence will live on.
According to the Washington Post, the group is more famous and feared than ever. But its grand project — to transform the Muslim world into a militant Islamist caliphate — has been, by any measure, a resounding failure.
In large part, that’’s because Osama bin Laden’’s strategy for arriving at this Promised Land is a fantasy. Al-Qaeda’’s leader prides himself on being a big-think strategist, but for all his brains, leadership skills and charisma, he has fastened on an overall strategy that is self-defeating.
Bin Laden’’s main goal is to bring about regime change in the Middle East might have worked if the United States had turned out to be a paper tiger that could sustain only a few blows from al-Qaeda. But it didn”t.
In fact, bin Laden’’s plan resulted in the direct opposite of a U.S. withdrawal from the Middle East. The United States now occupies Iraq, and NATO soldiers patrol the streets of Kandahar, the old de facto capital of bin Laden’’s Taliban allies.
Relations between the United States and most authoritarian Arab regimes, meanwhile, are stronger than ever, based on their shared goal of defeating violent Islamists out for American blood and the regimes” power.
For most leaders, such a complete strategic failure would require a rethinking. Not for bin Laden. He could have formulated a new policy after U.S. forces toppled the Taliban in the winter of 2001, having al-Qaeda and its allies directly attack the sclerotic near-enemy regimes; he could have told his followers that, in strictly practical terms, provoking the world’’s only superpower would clearly interfere with al-Qaeda’’s goal of establishing Taliban-style rule from Indonesia to Morocco.
Instead, bin Laden continues to conceive of the United States as his main foe, as he has explained in audio- and videotapes that he has released since 2001. At the same time, al-Qaeda has fatally undermined its claim to be the true representative of all Muslims by killing thousands of them since Sept. 11, 2001.
These two strategic blunders are the key reasons why bin Laden and his group will ultimately lose. But don”t expect that defeat anytime soon.
Al-Qaeda’’s war for hearts and minds goes on, too. Bin Laden once observed that 90 percent of his battle is waged in the media — and here, above all, he remains both relevant and cutting-edge. The most reliable guide to what al-Qaeda and the wider jihadist movement will do have long been bin Laden’’s public statements.
No matter what bin Laden’’s fate, Muslims around the world are increasingly taking a dim view of his group and its suicide operations. In the late 1990s, bin Laden was a folk hero to many Muslims. But since 2003, as al-Qaeda and its affiliates have killed Muslim civilians by the thousands from Casablanca to Kabul, support for bin Laden has nose-dived. (ANI)

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