Bin Laden, One Year Later
By Dialogo May 07, 2012
During the commemoration of the first anniversary of the death of the world’s most-wanted man, after a manhunt that lasted a decade and cost billions of dollars, brought to an end by the SEALs in Abbottabad, in Pakistan, some obscure points and uncertainties with regard to the future of international terrorism and the terrorist network that he led can now be seen more clearly.
With the disclosure of part of the thousands of secret documents confiscated in his hiding place, the conclusion is that the once-powerful al-Qaida, capable of destabilizing international politics and shaking global economic markets, no longer exists, at least not in the form in which we came to know it through the mega-attacks that it sponsored in various parts of the world during the last decade. In these historical documents that have now entered the public domain, Osama bin Laden himself recognizes the fragility of the organization he created, with the need for decentralization and the increasing lack of trust in that organization by Muslims, due to the thousands of innocent victims who perished indiscriminately in its attacks, including Muslims.
However, the most important discovery is certainly that, contrary to what many specialists believed, he was still active and posed an enormous risk to the Western democracies, since he was planning new mega-attacks, especially against U.S. targets.
Today, al-Qaida is a fragmented and unstructured network, without the financial support it received previously, with several failed attempts and small-scale attacks, committed by “lone wolves” who sought publicity for the group for little more than the notoriety that also comes with it. In addition, due to the constant failures accumulated over the years, with a leadership lacking the same charisma and some of its old and experienced collaborators imprisoned or dead, it becomes difficult to convince people to die in a war already considered lost by many of the same extremists who promoted jihad in the recent past.
Although it would not be wise to underestimate terrorism, the tendency is that the network created by Osama bin Laden still remains a regional threat with the rise of various cells of local sympathizers, especially in the Maghreb region, and that it can spread rapidly.
Fortunately, however, it no longer constitutes a global threat, at least for the moment, insofar as security and defense technologies have evolved a great deal since 9/11, and the international community is more aware of the risks that international terrorism and its connections pose.
Nevertheless, al-Qaida will always remain a myth in people’s imaginations, a synonym of extremist terror that scarred a decade, but that nowadays is part of a cycle that ended with the death of its chief and most charismatic leader and sponsor.
André Luís Woloszyn is a strategic affairs analyst and consultant to international organizations on issues of terrorism and low- and medium-intensity conflicts