The al Qaeda terrorist organization is another matter. It is also nothing new. The terrorist organizations of the 70s and 80s were equally effective, and were eventually smashed. And those groups were nothing new either, the anarchist terrorists of a century ago were even more formidable, and took several decades to finally stamp out. Al Qaeda itself is on the receiving end of a long list of defeats. First driven out of the Arab countries in the 1990s, where the idea of al Qaeda first developed, and now driven out of Afghanistan in 2001-2, they have the entire world against them. While there are some populations friendly to al Qaeda, no government will back them. And the reason for that is that al Qaeda represents a desire to return to the past, to the Caliphate that failed centuries ago and that will never return.
We've always had murderous and fanatical young men in our midst. From time to time they get organized and do more damage than usual. But they never last, and never will as long as those who support life outnumber those who support death.
Hindsight is a wonderful predictive tool, and in hindsight it was clear that the Taliban were toast once you applied a little pressure. As we pointed out in out coverage of the Afghanistan fighting over the last two years, the Taliban were more and more dependant on foreign troops (al Qaeda and Pakistani Taliban.) And even with that help, they were having a hard time against the Northern Alliance. No one expected the GPS guided 2000 pound bomb to be such an effective weapon (no fortification can stand up to it.) But a look back at World War II would show that there was a weapon of similar accuracy, and destructive power; the one ton shells fired by battleship guns. America kept some of these World War II era ships in commission right up to the Gulf War just so it could use those big guns to support ground operations. Now that kind of firepower can be delivered anywhere, and as much as the Taliban and al Qaeda tried, there was no way to escape it.