Earlier this month, I argued that the U.S. is not really winning the war against al Qaeda. Although we have mainly succeeded against al Qaeda groups in Pakistan, at least for the time being, I noted that al Qaeda, having fundamentally shifted its approach, has become a global network. As such, it is arguably stronger today than it was in 2001.
Events this weekend, highlighted here by Max Boot, tend to confirm my pessimistic assessment. In Kenya, as we all know, gunmen from al-Shabab, an al Qaeda affiliated outfit from Somalia, massacred at least 68 people in a mall.
And that wasn’t all. As I noted here, al Qaeda is resurgent in Iraq. And over the weekend, a suicide bomber blew himself up at a funeral in Baghdad, killing at least 16 and wounding more than 30, while another blew up in a residential area of Kirkuk, wounding at least 35 people.
Even in Pakistan, where the U.S. has had major success against al Qaeda, the weekend saw a suicide attack in Peshawar, Pakistan, killing least 78 people. The attacks are presumed to be the work of the Pakistani Taliban.
The U.S. cannot, of course, prevent terrorist attacks in every outpost of the world. But, as Boot argues, and Katherine Zimmerman explained in an AEI study of al Qaeda, we would be more successful if we had a correct understanding of what al Qaeda has become, and if we acted accordingly.
Al Qaeda has become a global network of inter-connected associates and affiliates. To combat it successfully, says Zimmerman, we need a global strategy tailored to counter local groups.
The Obama administration does not appear to have developed such a strategy. Perhaps it believes the triumphalist message of last year’s political campaign.
Bin Laden may be dead, and General Motors alive, but that’s not much comfort to the growing number of victims of al Qaeda linked terrorism. And it provides little assurance that American citizens won’t be among the victims, going forward.
As Boot concludes:
President Obama and the American national security establishment have been too focused on “core” al-Qaeda while downplaying the menace from these other groups on the periphery, which continue to pose as big a threat as ever.