Seven Years after 9/11 How Dangerous Is Al-Qaida?
After seven years, and a much-trumpeted war against terrorism, the organization that toppled the World Trade Center has not been defeated. SPIEGEL ONLINE talks to seven experts about how much of a threat al-Qaida still poses.
September 11, 2001. But where is al-Qaida now?
With NATO support, the US has toppled the Taliban regime in Afghanistan and established a new government, but not stabilized the country. A second war was started in Iraq with 9/11 as a justification -- but on false premises, as most of the world knows now and many people already understood in 2003.
To protect themselves, Western as well as non-Western states have passed new laws, some of them draconian. The United States set up a prison at Guantánamo Bay which has yet to be dismantled.
The CIA has kidnapped and transported terror suspects all over the world, including people who weren't especially suspect and have long been proved innocent. Arab nations have signed dubious extradition treaties to move terrorist suspects back and forth. Russia and China use the "war on terror" for their own purposes -- to declare Chechens and Uighurs potential terrorists, for example. The debate over torture, once thought to be settled in civilized nations, has enjoyed an unexpected and in some ways ignoble renaissance.
Al-Qaida is not beaten. Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri are still at large. A number of high-ranking members of the organization have been killed or arrested, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Ramzi bin al-Shibh and others. But terrorism hasn't stopped. Al-Qaida has retreated in Iraq, perhaps, but in Pakistan as well as North Africa, it has gained influence and space.
But there is no single, clear image of al-Qaida or its current status. It has changed from an organization of militias into something nobody recognizes. Is it more of a movement? Are al-Qaida's capabilities weaker than before, or is another 9/11 still possible? Are there fewer members of al-Qaida now, or more?
For the seventh anniversary of 9/11, SPIEGEL ONLINE has asked seven renowned terrorism experts from seven different countries for their opinions of the threat al-Qaida still poses. They are all influential analysts, authors and observers of the global jihad movement. They agree on many things, but disagree on such basic principles as the network's future goals and the success of Western measures against terrorism.
- Part 1: How Dangerous Is Al-Qaida?
- Part 2: Reuven Paz, Israel: "A Worldwide Model for Both Terrorism and Insurgency"
- Part 3: Rohan Gunaratna, Singapore: "An Alliance of about 40 Jihad Groups"
- Part 4: Guido Steinberg, Germany: "Trend toward a Leaderless Jihad"
- Part 5: Fuad Hussein, Jordan: "Al-Qaida is Stronger Today"
- Part 6: Peter Neumann, United Kingdom: "Al-Qaida on the Defensive"
- Part 7: Bruce Hoffman, USA: "Al-Qaida Has Re-Grouped and Re-Organized"
- Part 8: Magnus Ranstorp, Sweden: "The West Still Finds it Difficult to Understand al-Qaida"