What if there is no al Qaeda? Preparing for Future Terrorism

Today, the Foreign Policy Research Institute (FPRI) in Philadelphia published a short article I’ve been chipping away at since April.  The article is entitled “What if there is no al Qaeda? Preparing for Future Terrorism.” The crux of the article: the U.S. is entering a new era of terrorism and should adjust its counterterrorism approach sooner rather than later.  I conclude with some recommended research areas needing attention that I hope analysts will explore in the near future.

This is an article I’ve been considering for a while and questions the relative strength of al Qaeda a year after Bin Laden’s death.  (For those interested in a related crowdsourcing experiment, check out this link ‘One Year After Bin Laden‘ and feel free to cast your vote; the results won’t be skewed.)

I’ll post the introduction to the article below and for the entire posting, click here:

More than a year after the death of Osama Bin Laden, the debate over how big of a threat al-Qaeda poses to the United State continues. Official U.S. government statements regarding al-Qaeda’s relative strength often appear contradictory. Current Secretary of Defense—and former Director of the Central Intelligence Agency—Leon Panetta has signaled al-Qaeda’s near demise1. Meanwhile, U.S. National Security Advisor John Brennan continues to justify armed drone strikes to temper an immediate threat to the U.S. homeland posed by the Yemeni-based al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP)2. Academic experts and counterterrorism pundits have been noticeably more cautious than Secretary Panetta, with some suggesting that al-Qaeda may actually be stronger than it was a year prior. These analysts cite al-Qaeda’s recent formal accession of al-Shabaab in Somalia and AQAP’s expanded control of territory in Yemen for their bullish assessment of al-Qaeda’s strength.3 In addition, the expansion of drone strikes outside of Pakistan and the U.S. government’s turn from counterinsurgency operations toward a counterterrorism-centric strategy has further complicated collective understandings over the relative strength or weakness of al-Qaeda.


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