Al-Qaida Is Cornered

By Dialogo
December 12, 2011

Osama bin Laden’s death has caused the al-Qaida network to decline in a way that will be “difficult to reverse,” a high-ranking U.S. official said.

Speaking to the press in Washington, D.C., Daniel Benjamin, the State Department coordinator for counterterrorism, highlighted the fact that this was not the only major setback suffered by the network this year.

He also highlighted the June deaths of Ilyas Kashmiri in Pakistan, considered the most dangerous terrorist in South Asia, and Harun Fazul in Somalia, one of the architects of the 1998 attacks on the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

Benjamin also mentioned the deaths in August of Atiya Abdul Rahman in Pakistan, al-Qaida’s second-in-command following the death of bin Laden, and in September of Anwar al-Aulaqi, the network’s chief of operations in Yemen.

Despite the loss of such important leaders, the official warned, the fight against terrorism is not yet over, and several groups continue to pose a threat to U.S. national security.

Among these, he said, the network’s affiliate in the Arabian Peninsula, known as AQAP, continues to head the list of the most dangerous groups, despite Aulaqi’s death, and its attempts to hold territory in southern Yemen are a cause for concern.

In the Maghreb, the al-Qaida group operating in Islamic North Africa, “has historically been the weakest,” he said, but in the last two years it has managed to “fill its coffers with ransoms from kidnappings,” he emphasized.

Benjamin also noted that in Nigeria, the Boko Haram group, although it has not affiliated itself with al-Qaida, is engaging in terrorist attacks and causing problems.

The official said that during the last year, the United States has tracked several Islamic terrorist groups in the Sinai Peninsula, and that although the militants of al-Shabaab have experienced setbacks in the Horn of Africa, they have at the same time shown signs of diversifying their objectives.