Nearly a year ago, America did the world a favor and killed Osama bin Laden. Now the Obama Administration is taking credit for al-Qaeda’s defeat. Not so fast!
Since 9/11, the United States has foiled 50 terrorist plots on U.S. soil, including two so far this year. In January, Sami Oskazac, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Kosovo, was arrested on charges of planning attacks against night clubs, businesses, and a sheriff’s office. A month later, Amine El Khalifi, a Moroccan citizen illegally in the U.S., was arrested on charges of plotting to attack the U.S. Capitol. While both of these were cases of radicalized individuals working alone, they nevertheless adhered to al-Qaeda ideology and terrorist tactics.
Further from home, al-Qaeda is playing the waiting game in Afghanistan and Pakistan. As President Obama draws down U.S. troops in Afghanistan and attempts to negotiate with the Taliban—which has renounced neither al-Qaeda nor terrorism—al-Qaeda is waiting until the U.S. troops leave to make a comeback. Furthermore, Pakistan has been ineffective at cracking down on the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani network. Islamabad’s tolerance of such groups has facilitated al-Qaeda’s ability to operate and has turned Pakistan into a safe haven for terrorists.
Bin Laden’s death was no doubt a blow to the al-Qaeda network. However, al-Qaeda’s ability to adapt to challenges has made the organization difficult to defeat. As such, al-Qaeda is diversifying its network, making significant inroads into Iraq and Yemen and throughout Africa. In February, al-Shabab and al-Qaeda formalized relations. Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) is taking advantage of the instability brought on by the collapse of the Muammar Qadhafi regime in Libya. Boko Haram, Nigeria’s insurgent group, continues to wreak havoc across the country, having been trained and resourced by AQIM and al-Shabab.
If bin Laden’s death has proved anything, it’s that his legacy has survived. Al-Qaeda will outlive any of its leaders. Now is not the time for complacency.