Thursday, September 11, 2014

The sad legacy of 9/11: Isis and al-Qaida are stronger than ever

We haven’t been fighting a 13-year war. We’ve been fighting a new one-year war, 13 times. What now?

Ali Soufan, The Guardian
Thursday 11 September 2014 05.15 EDT

In the years leading up to the attacks of 11 September 2001, the west saw al-Qaida rising but didn’t address the threat in time. My colleagues and I in the FBI and over at the CIA had been focused on al-Qaida since the mid-1990s. The true threat, however, came from the ideology, not the group.

In the first years after 9/11, the west focused too much on Osama bin Laden and not enough on the bin Ladenism he spawned. We mistook killing the messenger for killing the message. The tactics were understandable – repeated targeted strikes at key individuals to keep al-Qaida off balance – but our strategy was based on just that: “our” understanding of “them”, rather than “their” understanding of “us”

Thirteen years later, al-Qaida central is an organization on the decline – there have been undeniable successes – but the so-called Islamic State (Isis) is on the rise. The arithmetic is tragic: Despite untold trillions of dollars and thousands of lives spent across the globe countering the threat, there are more extremists espousing the ideology of bin Laden in September 2014 than there were in September 2001.

Thirteen years later, it’s becoming clear that we have not fought a 13-year war so much as a one-year war, 13 times. It is the sad legacy of our tactic-driven response to 9/11 that bin Ladenism has spread far beyond Osama bin Laden’s wildest dreams.

(More here.)

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