Al-Qaeda Growing In Strength

Salon is reporting that elements of al-Qaeda have reorganized and are growing in strength.

The news is alarming. U.S. and French intelligence agencies are convinced that terrorist network al-Qaida has reorganized and, what’s more, developed new training camps in both Afghanistan and the remote tribal regions of northern Pakistan. They believe that a new generation of terrorists has come of age, and some are suspected of planning attacks in the West.

Five and a half years have passed since Sept. 11, 2001, and the beginning of the war against the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. The physical presence of Osama bin Laden’s network was largely destroyed at the time — the terrorist camps, which had trained an estimated 20,000 men, quickly reduced to rubble. Two years ago, the White House crowed that two-thirds of al-Qaida’s leadership had been eliminated. “We’re winning,” President Bush claimed recently. “Al-Qaida is on the run.”

But are those terrorists really on the run? Of course, there can be no doubt that the network no longer has nearly the capacity it had when it organized the 9/11 attacks. But the attempts to reorganize are obvious, and the new camps are an indication that the efforts have been successful. According to Time magazine, each of the camps has the capacity to train between 10 and 300 jihadists. “We know they exist, but it’s like finding a needle in a haystack,” the magazine quotes a U.S. military official in Afghanistan as saying.

While it’s true that al-Qaeda does not appear to have the financial or manpower strength that it did before 9/11, the fact that al-Qaeda is resurging at all is a testimony to the ongoing setbacks that we are facing in Afghanistan, especially when you couple this with the fact that the Taliban is gaining in strength, as well.

FILED UNDER: National Security, Terrorism, , , , , ,
Alex Knapp
About Alex Knapp
Alex Knapp is Associate Editor at Forbes for science and games. He was a longtime blogger elsewhere before joining the OTB team in June 2005 and contributed some 700 posts through January 2013. Follow him on Twitter @TheAlexKnapp.

Comments

  1. neo-neocon says:

    al Qaeda and the Taliban are back in control in Afghanistan” meme a few weeks after the Afghan War ended. And, although I have no reason to doubt that they continue to be a force to be reckoned with there, and are continually trying to regroup (with some success) there’s been nothing to indicate a major leap in that direction. If you read the previous link you’ll see the general vagueness of all such reports, which tend to go like this: we took out a lot of their leadership, but they

  2. within our shared version of reality. Taking up arms against a society that has a good grievance resolution or redirection method and does not wantonly and visibly screw too many people over is a very high threshold for people to jump over. Outside the Beltway is linking to a Salon piece on the growing strength of Al-Quaeda in Afghanistan and northern Pakistan. There is some evidence that a new network of training camps is springing up. US officials fear that the centralized planning capacity for deep

  3. markm says:

    Taliban / al-Qaida making a comeback????. We should have a War on Terror…or something.

  4. Tano says:

    In what way was al-Q’s strength measurable, and measurably stronger, before 9/11?

  5. Anderson says:

    Well, hell: they’ve got an enclave in NW Pakistan; they’re still getting money from donors in Saudi & elsewhere; they’ve got the Iraq war to recruit for them; why WOULDN’T they be getting stronger?

    And Tano’s point is a good one. How many camps, etc., did it take for the 9/11 plot to be executed? Zero?

  6. G.A.Phillips says:

    Well maybe if some people would stop giving away our war secrets and sympathizing with our enemy and giving them aid and comfort and hating the few allies that we have and their own countries, and get on board and help out with this war effort, I wonder would things be going just a little bit better, I wonder…..

  7. Alex Knapp says:

    Well maybe if some people would stop giving away our war secrets and sympathizing with our enemy and giving them aid and comfort and hating the few allies that we have and their own countries, and get on board and help out with this war effort, I wonder would things be going just a little bit better, I wonder…..

    Or maybe if we didn’t have an Administration that was so blisteringly stupid, brazen and incompetent that it could manage to tie its shoes without pissing off half the world or causing itself to trip……

  8. Bandit says:

    In what way was al-Q’s strength measurable, and measurably stronger, before 9/11?

    I dunno – killed 3000 Americans – openly had a backing Taliban gov’t –

  9. C.Wagener says:

    The Iraq War to date has help al-Qaeda recruiting, but I wonder what it does in the long run, assuming we hang around and win. With the Sunni population turning on al-Qaeda in Anbar for the very good reason that they are self serving thugs, I’m hopeful we may have turned the corner.

    Ultimately, extremism has to be destroyed from within. The Iraq War my have created a catalyst for just that. If you’re Sunni and have relatives killed by al-Qaeda, you’re not only an unlikely recruit, but an enemy. Also, the routine suggestion that al-Qaeda has unlimited resources versus the U.S.’s $12 trillion GNP is preposterous. Our will is the only issue, not our resources.

    The other thing I take issue with is the U.S. pissing off the rest of the world. No matter what we do, that will always be the case. People bitch about power. I grew up in Toledo, Ohio. Lots of bitching about Toyota. Did Toyota do something wrong? How about 2 million Europeans protesting Reagan’s Pershing 2 missiles. Was Reagan wrong, or was it better that he pissed people off?

  10. Anderson says:

    openly had a backing Taliban gov’t

    I doubt that really did much for them, besides giving them a sandbox to play in.

    The Taliban weren’t recognized by anyone but the Saudis, and didn’t have a lot to offer Osama besides territory.

    Today, al-Qaeda has a new sandbox, and presumably is still getting back-channel aid from Pakistan’s intel agency (or “bad apples” therein), same as ever.

  11. G.A.Phillips says:

    Alex, you fall to realize that I did not fall for of the Donkeypoop the you Bush haters have been spewing since before he got elected and sure there have been mistakes, it’s a war, do you know any thing about war besides the great communist struggle? You must remember I also have a bible and it tells all about liberals and why they do what they do and even when their there going to do it so you can save you lies for someone else because they won’t work on me. and if any one as done what you are talking about it was you and those you support, I think your a liberal , you sure sound like one, and if you are I know for a fact that you and your kind have undermined this war effort form the beginning only to gain power that you will never know how to weld!

  12. Alex Knapp says:

    With the Sunni population turning on al-Qaeda in Anbar for the very good reason that they are self serving thugs, I’m hopeful we may have turned the corner.

    While it’s true that the Sunnis are turning against al-Qaeda, they are certainly not turning FOR us. Nor are they turning towards the Shi’ite majority. Al-Qaeda is actually the least of our concerns in Iraq. At this stage, I honestly do not know what we can do to help stabilize Iraq, especially with potential hostilities between the Kurdish north and Turkey looming over the horizon.

  13. Alex Knapp says:

    Alex, you fall to realize that I did not fall for of the Donkeypoop the you Bush haters have been spewing since before he got elected and sure there have been mistakes, it’s a war, do you know any thing about war besides the great communist struggle?

    While I certainly wouldn’t consider myself an expert, I’ve read enough history to know a decent amount about war. I’m not a communist, though.

    I think your a liberal , you sure sound like one, and if you are I know for a fact that you and your kind have undermined this war effort form the beginning only to gain power that you will never know how to weld!

    Nope, not a liberal. I’m a libertarian. And actually I was supportive of the Iraq War at the beginning, as I thought that this Administration was being forthright and honest about their evidence and their rationale for invasion. Knowing what I know now, I certainly would not have supported it–hindsight being 20/20. But the past six years have taught us that the Bush Administration is much more concerned about loyalty and “looking tough” than it is about making the right choices and paying attention to details, expertise, and empirical evidence.

  14. Tano says:

    Bandit measures al-Q’s pre-9/11 strength with:

    “killed 3000 Americans – openly had a backing Taliban gov’t ”

    9/11 was pulled off by 19 men, with perhaps a support group of a few dozen more, and with boxcutters and ingenuity. That does not measure out to great “strength”.

    Having protection from the Taliban was something, but it doesnt speak to their inherint strength.

    I dont know how to measure their relative strength. I just challange the original assertion that it seems clearly to be lesser now.

  15. Anderson says:

    Alex, G.A. is surely a spoof, like Triumph.

    I mean, come on now:

    do you know any thing about war besides the great communist struggle?

    and

    You must remember I also have a bible and it tells all about liberals and why they do what they do and even when their there going to do it

    Capitalizing “Bush” but not “Bible” is another giveaway.

  16. Bandit says:

    I dont know how to measure their relative strength.

    I’m sure they’ll cover that in the next newsletter but their inability to pull off mass murder operations and lack of a clubhouse would indicate that their weaker but I’m sure many of the terror symps would propose otherwise.

  17. anjin-san says:

    Well thank goodness we are at least safe from Saddam and his arsenal of WMD which was poised to strike at us within 45 minutes of him giving the word…

  18. C.Wagener says:

    Alex,

    I’m sure you’re right regarding Sunnis not turning “FOR us”, in any long turn sense. It’s certainly a short term marriage of convenience, but that’s how tribal cultures work. As long as we’re both killing al-Qaeda, that’s fine with me. These guys aren’t going to try and kill Americans after we leave.

    I also think the Shias aren’t going to keep fighting if we can solve the car bomb problem, which is al-Qaeda. The Sunnis (non al-Qaeda) are pretty much done killing Shias, because they know they’ll lose.

    Finally, while the Kurds and Turkey could be a disaster, neither is living in a situation that could be improved by fighting each other. Hopefully, that fact, along with American political pressure on both sides, can keep a lid on the situation.

  19. Alex Knapp says:

    I’m sure you’re right regarding Sunnis not turning “FOR us”, in any long turn sense. It’s certainly a short term marriage of convenience, but that’s how tribal cultures work. As long as we’re both killing al-Qaeda, that’s fine with me. These guys aren’t going to try and kill Americans after we leave.

    Well, see, that’s kind of the problem. It’s not just al-Qaeda that’s attacking American troops. Shi’ite radicals and Sunni groups that are not fans of al-Qaeda are equally not fans of the American population. I would like to think that we could all work together, but it doesn’t appear to be happening just yet. I’m afraid we’ve lost a lot of trust over there.