How can you tell if al Qaeda is winning, or losing, the war on terror? How do you even tell who the major players are in al-Qaeda? Like baseball, ones best bet is to use a scorecard. The scorecard for al-Qaeda (The Base) is pretty complex.
Al-Qaeda was originally built like a large corporation. It has a board of directors of 24, with Osama bin Laden as the CEO (official title is Emir-General). Bin Laden also has 15 people in what could be described as his inner circle of aides. Al-Qaeda also had training camps in six countries in September, 2001 (Afghanistan, Indonesia, Chechnya, Albania, Sudan, and the Philippines), with eight commanders. Al-Qaeda also maintained cells in numerous Arabian and European countries.
Since the September 11, 2001 attacks, the United States and allies have been hunting down the leadership of al-Qaeda. Among the big fish (the Board of Directors), seven are dead and ten are in custody. Four members of the inner circle are also in custody. This is 53 percent of the senior leadership for al-Qaeda. Osama bin Laden is still at large, along with Ayman al-Zawahiri (the deputy commander of al-Qaeda) and Abu Mohammed al-Masri (the planner of the attacks on the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania). However, five out of the eight training camp commanders are dead or in custody.
Other statistics of note: Eighteen al-Qaeda financiers are dead or in custody. Among those still at large, though, are two of bin Ladens sisters, two of his brothers-in-law, and a Swiss banker by the name of Ahmed Huber. Huber also has extensive connections with neo-Nazis in Europe. The real financial resource for al-Qaeda remains untouched the dozen or so Saudis who are called the Golden Chain. All are at large, and all can still provide enough resources for bin Laden to regroup and strike again.
Al-Qaedas military committee has also been decimated. One is dead (killed by a CIA Predator firing Hellfire missiles), fourteen, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Ramzi Yousef, have been captured. These include the commanders in Singapore, Java, Southern Europe, and Japan. Several are at large, including the operations chiefs in Kosovo, Tunisia, and Somalia.
Subordinate networks in several countries have been rounded up or decimated. In Jordan, five out of the six major al-Qaeda figures are in custody; in Syria, only five major terrorist figures are still at large dozens of al-Qaeda members are currently incarcerated, but three major Hezbollah figures are still on the loose. Syria, however, remains a sponsor of Hezbollah. Egypt has rounded up all of the major al-Qaeda figures, as have Italy, Belgium, Germany. The United Kingdom, Spain, and France have rounded up many al-Qaeda figures as well. Many of the major al-Qaeda figures in Saudi Arabia are dead or apprehended, but a number of figures involved in the Khobar Towers bombing are still at large some with connections to Hizbollah. In Turkey, 75 percent of the big fish connected with al-Qaeda are dead or in custody. Most of the support structure for the 9/11attack, including Mukhabarat agent Ahmad Khalil Ibraham al-Ani (who the Czechs insist met hijacker Mohammed Atta in Prague), are in custody.
But in some places, the network is pretty intact. Many major Taliban figures are still on the loose. So are all three members of al-Qaedas WMD Committee, and all of those involved in a Bolivian hijacking plot.
Short version, al-Qaeda is on the run throughout most of the globe. Even Abu Musab Zarqawi, in charge of all al-Qaeda elements in Iraq, is on the run as elements of his infrastructure are taken apart. Eight of Zarqawis top aides are dead. Twenty others have been captured. Zarqawi was unable to disrupt the elections on January 30, a serious loss for the terrorists. Al-Qaeda is still potent, as the attacks in Madrid proved, but they are clearly reacting to the multi-pronged offensive in the United States. Harold C. Hutchison (email@example.com)
Link to Terrorist Scorecard (by Straight Vermonter):