Terrorism: February 24, 2002


Just how many terrorists were trained at al Qaeda camps in Afghanistan? Nobody knows, but probably not the "tens of thousands" named in President Bush's State of the Union address. The maximum number that went through al Qaeda training camps is probably well under 20,000. Of these, most were trained as light infantry and sent to fight the Northern Alliance, or sent into Kashmir to fight India. Perhaps a thousand or two received actual training in undercover operations and terrorism. Many of these (e.g., those from Chechnya, Central Asia, or the Philippines) went home to their own struggles, having no interest in Bin Laden's plans for attacks on the US. There were probably no more than 3,000 al Qaeda troops in Afghanistan when the US attacked, and most of those were killed or captured. Even if there are only a hundred trained terrorists with a grudge against the US at large, it took only about two dozen to pull off the 11 September attacks.--Stephen V Cole


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