The al Qaeda reaction to the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq was interesting. Al Qaeda declared that this was a sign that the terrorists were winning. The terrorists are in need of a morale boost, for they have been losing the military and, more importantly, the media war, for some time now. Chatter on some pro-terrorist websites even suggests that maybe attacking the United States was not such a good idea, and perhaps the war should be kept within the Islamic family (or nations) until all Moslems can be united. Then go after the infidels. The reasoning here was that 911 just pissed the Americans off, and, gee, four years later, they don't seem to be getting tired of chasing Islamic terrorists all over the place, and killing them.
Iraq has turned into a major al Qaeda defeat. Iraqis have nothing nice to say about al Qaeda, or Islamic terrorists in general. Over the last year, the number of Iraqis ratting on Islamic militants has more than doubled. Not only that, but the informants have been giving up larger targets as well. More terrorist leaders, and major arms stockpiles and workshops are being found as a result of the tips. Trying to go Iraqi on the Saudi Arabia government turned out to be a big mistake as well for al Qaeda. Wealthy, and zealous, Saudis have long been major contributors of money to al Qaeda. Not so much any more. Young Saudi militants have long provided key operatives for overseas terrorism. Not any more. Since 911, young Saudis can't travel as freely, and many have turned away from terrorism. This is simply being practical. Back in Saudi Arabia, everyone is closely watched by large, extended families. Which is why young Saudis like to travel abroad. Even traveling to Moslem countries is no panacea, for they are on the lookout for radical young Saudis there as well. All of a sudden, everyone is watching young Arab men for signs of terrorist tendencies.
Terrorist activity is rising in Moslem countries partly because of the difficulty of getting into Western countries, but also because, let's face it, there are a lot of social and political problems in Moslem countries that many Moslems want to solve. Radical action is, for many, seen as the only solution. But all Moslems are watching events in Iraq very carefully. There's a real democracy going on, along with the usual corruption, warlords, and Saddam's unemployed secret policemen still abusing people. Not a pretty picture, especially with al Qaeda suicide bombers still blowing up children. Moslems are getting tired of bloody minded fanatics announcing that the solution to everyone's problems is at hand. That, it is now well understood, just means that a new tyrant will take over once the current ones are deposed. Democracy, on the other hand, is a novel approach which Iraqis, and many other Arabs, are keen on trying out. This does not please the monarchs and dictators that rule most Arab nations.
Al Qaeda, despite it's plunging popularity ratings, can still mobilize volunteers. But the quality of this manpower is declining, meaning more botched attacks, or preparations so mismanaged that no one even gets close to carrying out an attack. The one place where al Qaeda can still find some sanctuary, and quality manpower, is in Europe. Here, twenty million Moslems are free from the poverty and oppression of the old country, but still subject to discrimination by native Europeans. This breeds hostility among many young Moslems, and enthusiasm for a radical solution to their problems. This is a common defect among the young, but when such blind enthusiasm meets up with al Qaeda, mayhem and murder can result.
European governments are well aware of the explosive situation they are sitting on. While it doesn't get a lot of news attention in the United States, European police regularly arrest Islamic terrorists who are planning attacks on the United States. The anti-American attitudes so popular in Europe at the moment make the Islamic terrorists think that they can safely plan attacks on America, without endangering the comfortable refuge they enjoy. European police and intelligence agencies don't see it that way, and prefer to put all the terrorists out of business, no matter what their target is. That's a major shift, as for decades, many European nations were content to tolerate Islamic and Leftist radicals, as long as these terrorists did their killing somewhere else. No more, and that's a major defeat for al Qaeda.
Islamic terrorists are only winning in their increasingly bizarre press releases. But they will keep trying, and occasionally succeeding, for several more years. They are down, but not yet completely out.