How dangerous is Al Qaida?

Der Spiegel has interviewed seven experts about the threat Al Qaida poses today. Here is a synoposis of each person's view.

1) Reuven Paz, Israel: Al Qaida is a worldwide model for both terrorism and insurgency.
2) Rohan Gunaratna, Singapore: Current American strategy is oriented toward lethal and kinetic force. It is not suitable to fight the jihadism.
3) Guido Steinberg, Germany: it has been weakened, but is still potent. It has growing adherents in North Africa and Europe.
4) Fuad Hussein, Jordan: Al-Qaida is stronger today than it was before Sept. 11, 2001.
5) Peter Neumann, United Kingdom: everywhere in the world, al-Qaida has lost support. But the danger is (still) not gone.
6) Bruce Hoffman, USA: the movement has re-grouped and re-organized in the lawless border area along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border where it has a sanctuary in which it can train and operate.
7) Magnus Ranstorp, Sweden: Al-Qaida is a terrible annoyance that one has to live with but not a strategic threat.,1518,577459,00.html

My own view is that Al Qaida has achieved a lot of its goals during its existence, and I am not talking about the World Trade Center. Western democracies have bartered away many of their civil liberties and freedoms, not to mention the expenditure of national treasure, in exchange for an illusory sense of safety and the belief that we "did something" in response. This whole thing could have been handled better by Interpol rather than by military invasions.

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Well, Al-Qaeda has fooled our politicians into weakening the 4th amendment. How many more of our civil liberties will we give away in the name of security?

Pink Slip


" Western democracies have bartered away many of their civil liberties and freedoms, not to mention the expenditure of national treasure, in exchange for an illusory sense of safety and the belief that we "did something" in response. This whole thing could have been handled better by Interpol rather than by military invasions."

I couldn't disagree more.

Interpol and this belief in the "international law", which technically doesn't even exist, have never stopped a terrorist organization. Plus since their first attack on US soil, the 1993 WTC bombing, Interpol and other law enforcement agencies were unable to put a dent in Al Qaeda operations.

I fail to see one long-term goal that Al Qaeda has achieved. Sure they were able to attack on 9-11 and now attack our military forces but they hoped to bring an end to western influence and culture. Even the 9-11 attack was supposed to financially cripple the US and cause internal tension. From both standpoints they were not successful.

However they have been prevented from attacking on US soil for over 7 years, not from a lack of trying, so I don't get how 7 years without an attack is an illusion of safety. I must wonder who is the one with illusions.



If you think we are safer today than seven years ago, you are living in a different world from the rest of us, probably a militarized one. We are fast slipping away from our economic perch and losing our clout in the world, economically and morally. I hope you don't think that military prowess is the only measure of a country's strength. When foreign interests own trillions of dollars of our debt, that is a weakness because it allows them to leverage their political will against our national interests. When jobs are lost and homes are repossessed, it is weakness. And when our annual report on human rights' violations doesn't cause a ripple in the world community, it's because we are no longer perceived as the moral giant we were. Those are tremendous weaknesses and no amount of armaments can compensate for that. This global war on terror is responsible for at least some of that.

We seem like the muscular, strong guy in the gym who can bench press five hundred pounds, but he can't swat the mosquito on his back because he can't get his thick arm around his body.

This global war on terror has sullied our constitution and turned us against each other, emptied our treasury, and lost us our good name among the nations of the world. It should have been done by other means.

Al Qaida's plan seems to be working fine...

Think about it. How did we stop the Soviets? It wasn't through military force; we bankrupted them by bogging them down in Afghanistan and having them spend trillions on the military.

This is the only way Al Qaida could even hope to dent the US. They could destroy a major city and we’d kick their asses back to their caves, but in the end, it’s our military spending and bogging our military down, in this case Iraq, could be our undoing.

Ever notice the tactics used?

The Taliban fighters, group and re-group, in the good weather and fight and then disperse back into the country side.

Then rise up and with draw and then lay low for the winter.

Mean while the armed forces use the same tactics as in conventional war fare.

We bank rolled the Freedom Fighters in Afghanistan.

"Glowing coverage

The press coverage of this era was overwhelmingly positive, even glowing, with regard to the guerrillas’ conduct in Afghanistan. Their unsavory features were downplayed or omitted altogether. While some newspapers favored some restraint in the degree of U.S. military support for the Mujahiddin (notably the Los Angeles Times and the Washington Post) and others (like the Wall Street Journal) favored a more open-ended policy, these differences were only matters of degree. Virtually all papers favored some amount of U.S. military support; and there was near unanimous agreement that the guerrillas were "heroic," "courageous" and above all "freedom fighters."

To the editors of the centrist New Republic (6/13/83), the Mujahiddin were "fighting the good fight," while an editorial in the Wall Street Journal (12/30/87) celebrated "the heroic struggle waged by the Afghan freedom fighters." According to the L.A. Times (6/23/86): "The Afghan guerrillas have earned the admiration of the American people for their courageous struggle.... The rebels deserve unstinting American political support and, within the limits of prudence, military hardware."

Despite CIA denials of any direct Agency support for Bin Laden’s activities, a considerable body of circumstantial evidence suggests the contrary. During the 1980s, Bin Laden’s activities in Afghanistan closely paralleled those of the CIA. Bin Laden held accounts in the Bank for Credit and Commerce International (BCCI), the bank the CIA used to finance its own covert actions (London Daily Telegraph, 9/27/01). Bin Laden worked especially closely with Hekmatyar--the CIA’s favored Mujahiddin commander (The Economist, 9/15/01). In 1989, the U.S. shipped high-powered sniper rifles to a Mujahiddin faction that included bin Laden, according to a former bin Laden aide (AP, 10/16/01).

Former Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger would later comment about the Afghans (The Economist, 4/25/98): "We knew they were not very nice people.... We had this terrible problem of making choices." The choice that Weinberger and his colleagues made was, of course, to back the Mujahiddin, along with their Arab supporters, in spite of their records and ideologies. Predictably enough, the press strongly endorsed this policy and proceeded to praise the Mujahiddin groups.

Al-Qaeda is not one group or person, it is a network and the network extends to the U.S.

The U.S. government is not even sure how many cells or sleeper cells there are in the U.S.

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