What's the world going to do when
they don't have Osama bin Laden to kick around anymore? With many key al Qaeda
operatives fleeing to Pakistan, the CIA is revving up its operations along the
Afghan-Pakistan border to welcome them, and hoping all this activity will make
it possible to finally nail bin Laden.
Qaeda defeat in Iraq has hurt the terrorist organizations reputation big time.
The senior leaders, and prominent spokesmen, Osama bin Laden and Ayman al
Zawahir, have avoided confronting this defeat head on. Thus while these two
continue to issue video and audio messages from their mountain hideouts, fewer
people are paying attention. But the CIA believes that killing bin Laden would
still be a major blow to Islamic terrorist morale.
of Islamic radicals have been growing since the 1980s, and is into its second
generation. Bin Laden is seen as "old school," but none of the new generation
of Islamic killers has made much of a reputation for themselves. Partly that's
because these hotshots are getting killed off at a rapid clip. About the same
time the U.S. and Britain were toppling Saddam, Israel was shutting down its
own Palestinian terrorist organizations by going after the key people. That
really messes up the effectiveness of a terrorist organization. The U.S. noticed
how successful this "decapitation" (concentrate on killing the leaders) tactic
was, and emulated it.
has become a symbol, and when he goes down, it will provide an opportunity for
someone else to step into the spotlight. The most likely candidate is al
Qaeda's number 2 guy (and real brains behind the operation), Ayman al Zawahir.
This guy fled Egypt in the 1980s, as the government crushed local Islamic
terrorist organizations. Zawahir ended up in Pakistan, where he met and joined
forces with bin Laden. Zawahir had the smarts and planning skills, while bin
Laden had access to lots of cash, and a growing appetite for the limelight. He
gave good soundbite. Being over six feet tall helped.
does not, or cannot, take over after bin Laden dies, then there will be a bit
of chaos and uncertainty. The CIA is trying to develop some game plans to take
advantage of that. Even before September 11, 2001, the CIA was compiling
information on the al Qaeda leadership, and much of the membership. You never
hear about a lot of these people, but they are continually tracked and studied
by the intelligence agencies. This kind of information came in handy while
fighting the al Qaeda operatives in Iraq. Each time you killed a senior guy, it
sent disruptive ripples through the organization. Even without grabbing the
dead guys laptop, other al Qaeda leaders changed their plans when one of their
peers was taken out.
disruption to the organization is expected to be the most notable effect of bin
Laden leaving the scene. He is not believed to be doing much to plan and direct
terrorist operations. He's more of a cheerleader and icon. That's why his death
will be yet another blow to al Qaeda prestige. Infighting to replace him would
also hurt the image, just as the defeat in Iraq did. Reputation, more than
reality, is more important in the world of Islamic terrorists. There's been a
lot less reputation for al Qaeda to lose of late, and bin Laden's demise might
just drain that cup dry.