Small Wars Journal

A Growing Terrorist Threat on Another 9/11

A Growing Terrorist Threat on Another 9/11 by Bruce Hoffman - Wall Street Journal

This Monday’s 16th anniversary of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, might be less mournful if we could say that the threat of jihadist terrorism had receded or disappeared. But that is far from the case. Al Qaeda has been quietly rebuilding, after ceding the spotlight for several years to Islamic State (which was al Qaeda’s Iraqi affiliate until being expelled from the network in 2014). Taken together, these two groups—with their expanding capabilities and multiple branches across the globe—pose a security challenge for the U.S. and its allies every bit as perilous as what they faced immediately after 9/11.

The network founded by Osama bin Laden has proved a resilient and resourceful foe. Since bin Laden’s death at the hands of U.S. Special Forces in 2011, al Qaeda has been led by Ayman al-Zawahiri, who has exploited the rise of Islamic State to win support and space for his own movement after its post-9/11 setbacks.

In 2013, with al Qaeda’s fortunes at a low ebb, Mr. Zawahiri instructed his fighters to avoid mass-casualty operations, especially those that might kill Muslim civilians and innocent women and children. At a time when Islamic State was appalling the world with one atrocity after another, all staged for maximum effect on social media, the move was a shrewd strategic choice…

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