Recent reports that Taliban leader Abu Obaidah al Masri had died of
hepatitis in rural Pakistan, is a reminder that the terrorist life is not very
healthful. Especially in Afghanistan, and adjacent tribal areas of Pakistan,
where the average lifespan is 46 years. Al Masri, an Egyptian, was in his mid-40s.
round of Islamic terrorism began in the late 1970s (in Saudi Arabia, not
Afghanistan), and the surviving terrorists are getting old. Most are living on
the fringes of the known world, in order avoid capture and prosecution. Osama
bin Laden is 51 years old, and there are frequent rumors about his health
problems. He's not alone, and
Afghanistan is not the only hideout for aging terrorists. There's about a
hundred of them skulking about in the nether lands of North Africa. The Sahara
desert provide lots of hiding places. Alas, these are not healthy hiding
places. Not a lot of medical care, and plenty of opportunity to pick up new
diseases. Many of these elderly terrorists are also nursing old battle wounds.
Chronic pain from past trauma (ask old athletes about this) can be a bitch,
especially without modern pain killers. Some of the favorite substitutes
include many recreational drugs (opium and heroin). These impair judgment, and
are one reason for the growing violence between the old timers and a new
generation of younger terrorist leaders. But most of the older guys still got
it. Years of experience, not to mention connections and a big bag of tricks,
gives the gimpy old geezers an edge. The heavy use of suicide bomber tactics
also gives the old timers a convenient way to dispose of potentially
growing civil war within Islamic terrorist groups is largely the result of hard
times and failed strategies. You can only blame the enemy for so long, before
some of your people turn their attention to their own organization and methods.
These internal feuds are becoming more common, and violent. That, plus the
ravages of old age, old wounds and no medical insurance, are becoming a major
factor in the demise of some Islamic terror groups.