September 11, 2004

We're Winning

After three years of the war on terror, the lack of a conventional "front line" or large battles has made it difficult to determine easily who is winning. But a little effort reveals battles won and lost, and who is occupying what territory. Three years ago, al Qaeda had most of Afghanistan available for training camps and other facilities. There was even a "forged documents office" that operated openly in Kabul. Al Qaeda, or related organizations, operated extensively in over fifty countries, especially places like Indonesia, Algeria, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Chechnya, Iraq and Western Europe. Over 70,000 people were actively involved in planning and carrying out attacks. And the number of attacks against American targets grew during the 1990s, starting with a bombing of the World Trade Center in New York in 1993. But al Qaeda was handled as a criminal matter until September 11, 2001. After that, it was war.

In three years, al Qaeda has been driven out of most of its sanctuaries. Initially, al Qaeda was very popular among Moslems, and the slaughter of thousands of infidels (non-Moslems) on September 11, 2001, caused spontaneous celebrations throughout the Moslem world. That celebratory mood has been slowly changing, as more and more Moslems see al Qaeda for what it really is. After the slaughter of children in southern Russia earlier this month, the Moslem media finally moved broadly against al Qaeda and its terror tactics. This is significant, for Islamic radical terrorists are nothing new in the Islamic world. There have been several outbreaks in the last few centuries. Such violence can be defeated, and always is. One of the key factors in defeating these outbreaks is the local media turning against the radicals.

But even before the media shift, the American led coalition had shut down major al Qaeda camps and organizations. There have been no attacks in the United States since 2001, despite energetic efforts by al Qaeda. The terrorists have been forced to make their attacks in out-of-the-way places. With thousands of similar targets world wide, and hundreds of thousands of eager young men and women willing to join their cause, al Qaeda has been able to accomplish little.

A recent example occurred on September 9th, when Yemeni army troops killed Islamic radical cleric Hussein al Houthi and some of his followers. This ended a ten week effort to capture or kill the pro-terrorist al Houthi. Radical Islam has long been popular with the tribes of northern Yemen (along the Saudi border). Osama bin Laden's family came from this area, moving north after World War II to take advantage of opportunities in Saudi Arabia's oil boom. Many of the bin Laden clan are Islamic conservatives, but Osama is the only one to turn violent.

Iraq has also served as an attractive place for Persian Gulf Islamic radicals to go and die. Iraq also served to inflame Saudi Arabian al Qaeda members, who began attacking targets within their own country. This led to an open, energetic, successful and long overdue crackdown on the terrorists in the country that created so many of them. The Arab governments of the Persian Gulf, long neutral about al Qaeda, are not actively attacking the organization.

Al Qaeda went to war with the world, and the world is winning.


Posted by Ted at September 11, 2004 7:47 PM