Two years ago last week Osama bin Laden met his demise, compliments of SEAL Team Six. A year after the al Qaeda leader’s death, President Obama made the pronouncement that, “al Qaeda is on the run.” But, reality says otherwise. Al Qaeda has grown into a bustling international organization with a significant percentage of activity concentrated within the U.S.
The Al Qaeda enterprise spans four continents and has operatives in more than 30 countries. Consider the following examples:
*The feds recently arraigned an American teen in Chicago who wanted to join an al Qaeda-linked group in Syria.
*Canadian authorities busted up a plot to bomb a Toronto-New York train, supported by al Qaeda operatives in Iran.
*Spanish police recently arrested suspects linked to al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.
*In Syria, the most effective fighting force against the Bashar al Assad regime is al Qaeda & affiliates.
*Al Qaeda in Syrian is closely aligned with al Qaeda in Iraq, which has increased its membership, once again, into the thousands and is responsible for much of the violence throughout the country.
*Al Qaeda has also spread into the Sinai in Egypt.
*In Yemen, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (at one time considered al Qaeda’s most dangerous wing) continues the fight, but has been weakened by the government’s efforts and US drone strikes.
*Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM,) and its splinter groups, has flourished since the fall of Moamar Gaddafi. AQIM and its allies are responsible for terror attacks in Libya, including the attack on the US consulate in Benghazi last fall, the recent attack on the French embassy and the deadly raid on a gas plant in Algeria.
*In Mali, al Qaeda-linked Ansar al Dine at one time controlled a significant portion of territory. French troops moved in and forced a retreat but the Islamist insurgency continues.
*In Nigeria, the government is battling al Qaeda collaborator Boko Haram. Boko Haram is responsible for the mass genocide of Christians in Nigeria.
*In Somalia, al Shabab, an al Qaeda affiliate, has encountered some obstacles but is not, by any means, down for the count.
*In Russia, al Qaeda continues to view the Caucasus as a key battlefield in the war against infidels. Chechnya has been sending fighters to Syria and an al Qaeda-linked group is in operation in neighboring Dagestan.
*Al Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan has been weakened, but its allies such as the Taliban and Lashkar e Taiba continue the offensive, seeking control of those countries.
Al Qaeda’s aspirations include forming a global caliphate, a goal which is built largely on violence. At the same time, of late, the U.S. has been anything but vigilant in its defense of the country against al Qaeda. This is partially due to President Obama’s downplaying of the threat and partially due to Americans’ focus on issues other than national security. Defense of the country was back burnered, the nation’s guard lowered–even though the war was far from over.
To continue to ignore the threat would be a grave error. A recent study has shown that the majority of the threat of al Qaeda to the U.S. is from al Qaeda members living in the US. Fifty-four percent of those convicted of al Qaeda related offenses hail from the United States. Thirty-six percent were born in the U.S.
According to former CIA and National Security Agency director Ret. Gen. Michael Hayden, “future attacks against the American homeland will be less organized, less complex—they’re just going to be more numerous, and more likely to be conducted by citizens and long-term residents of the United States.”
The study, “Al-Qaeda in the United States,” was conducted by the Henry Jackson Society and found that the majority of those convicted were males between 20 and 24 years of age. Thirteen percent were students and 20 percent were skilled workers, such as pharmacists and financial analysts. The majority of the terrorists studied received their terrorist training in Afghanistan or Pakistan.
Almost 25% of al Qaeda operatives in the U.S. were found to be converts from Christianity to Islam.
Massachusetts, and in particular Boston, has been used by jihadists with ties to al Qaeda since at least 1993. The activities include raising funds for terrorism. An excerpt from the report performed by the Henry Jackson Society states that even prior to the Boston bombing, “there had been twenty six individuals with links to Massachusetts connected to AQ [al Qaeda] and AQ-inspired terrorism. Fifteen had lived in Massachusetts, with eleven 9/11 hijackers using the Boston area as a temporary base from which to launch their attacks.”
It is now expected that more catastrophic attacks will be attempted by al Qaeda living in the United States, against the United States. And, continued recruitment of al Qaeda operatives, within America, is all but guaranteed.