Trying to keep track of
al Qaeda's progress in the war on terror is difficult because a lot of the
information about the organization, and its losses, or aborted operations, is
kept secret. That's done to protect sources, and not to alert some al Qaeda
members that they are being tracked. However, the general decline in al Qaeda
terror attacks, and growing number of known al Qaeda dead and arrested,
indicates they are not doing too well.
Another indicator, not widely reported in
the West, is the ongoing decline of al Qaeda's popularity in the Arab world,
and among Moslems in general. That stems from two factors. First, there's the
general lack of al Qaeda success. Second, there's the large number of Moslems
being killed by al Qaeda attacks, particularly in Iraq. Indeed, Iraq has proved
to be the graveyard, not just of many al Qaeda operatives, but of the
organizations reputation as a defender of the Islam.
While al Qaeda can make a case to Sunni
conservatives, that the terror attacks on Iraqi Shia are a righteous blow
against heretics, this only appeals to a minority of Moslems. Most of the
billion or so Moslems on the planet are appalled at the slaughter of Moslems.
Al Qaeda tries to make a big deal about its battle to drive the Americans out
of Iraq, but they are having more success with that in the American Congress
and in the U.S. media, than they are in Iraq itself. Only about two percent of
the people killed in Iraq are Americans, the rest are Iraqis or foreign
Moslems. Not exactly a striking victory for al Qaeda.
This year, al Qaeda has seen Iraqis,
especially Sunni Arab Iraqis, turn on them in growing numbers. The U.S. "Surge
Offensive" begun earlier this year capitalized on that, and shut down more and
more al Qaeda cells in Iraq. Worse, in the last few months, several key al Qaeda
leaders were killed or captured, and many of their records, usually on laptop
computers, were captured. U.S. forces have long had a drill for exploiting
finds like this. The computer data is quickly gone over for names and locations
of other al Qaeda operations, and within hours, more raids follow. Many
American commanders are complaining of a shortage of al Qaeda targets to go
after, which has made the Iranian backed Shia terrorist groups nervous enough
to offer ceasefires and calls for negotiations.
Pakistan, or at least the tribal areas
along the Afghan border, which was shaping up to be al Qaedas next refuge, has
turned into another al Qaeda disaster. First there was a major battle between
some of the Pushtun tribes and groups of non-Pakistani al Qaeda. These
terrorists groups had tried to strong
arm tribesmen. That went on for over a year, until the tribes struck back.
Hundreds of al Qaeda members died, and more fled across the border into
Afghanistan. But in Pakistan, you don't need al Qaeda if you are looking for
Islamic radicals. Groups like the Taliban have been around for decades. Many of
the Pushtun tribes have long been advocates of strict Islam, and willing to
kill for it. But since the 1970s, many Pakistanis have turned to Islamic
radicalism, and have been killing each other for religious and ethnic reasons.
The Taliban represent tribal attitudes, and a popular feeling among uneducated
tribesmen that their religious conservatism makes them superior to the better
educated, and wealthier Pakistanis down on the plains. This is a conflict that
has been going on for thousands of years, and has nothing to do with al Qaeda,
or Islam, for that matter.
North Africa, and Africa in general, have
proved inhospitable for al Qaeda. Nigeria and Somalia have witnessed a lot of
Islamic radicalism of late, but not much hospitality for the terrorists, even
among Moslems. Europe has been a comfortable place for al Qaeda members to hide
out. But the minute they start to put operations together, they bump up against
some very professional intelligence organizations. And every time another al
Qaeda member gets arrested in Europe, more European Moslems wish al Qaeda would
go away, and stay away.
Al Qaeda is not defeated. Organizations
like that never are. The Anarchists, sort of a secular al Qaeda that emerged in
the late 19th century, were largely wiped out only in the late 1930s. But many
energetic, although largely harmless, Anarchists are still among us. Same with
al Qaeda. But they still have years, perhaps a decade, of death and destruction
left in them. Most of the victims will continue to be Moslems, but the hatred
for the infidels (non-Moslems) will continue until Islam itself changes.