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Al Qaeda — Two Years Later

Is the terrorist group al Qaeda still capable of another startling strike?

September 11, 2003

Is the terrorist group al Qaeda still capable of another startling strike?

Al Qaeda continues to be a threat. Although many of its leaders have been killed or arrested, Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri are still on the run. Attacks — although smaller in scale — are continuing. Bali was a case in point and further underscored the global reach of the terrorist network. Our Read My Lips feature examines the ongoing terrorist threat.

What do terrorists try to accomplish?

“The purpose of terrorism is not the single act of wanton destruction. It is the reaction it seeks to provoke: Economic collapse, the backlash, the hatred, the division, the elimination of tolerance — until societies cease to reconcile their differences, but become defined by them.”

(British Prime Minister Tony Blair, July 2003)

What has al Qaeda achieved?

“Bin Laden is one of the few people alive who can claim to have fundamentally changed the course of history.”
(Bruce Hoffman, Vice President for External Affairs Rand Corporation, April 2003)

What else is so remarkable about the terror organization?

“We are facing a new totalitarianism — the totalitarianism of al Qaeda and bin Laden.”
(German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, November 2002)

What are the future social implications of terrorism?

“Over the next five to ten years, some terrorist group will announce that it has weapons of mass destruction — and then will later proceed to demonstrate that capability. Then we’re in a world in which any bet on civil liberties will be off.”
(Michael Ignatieff, Director of the Carr Center of Human Rights Policy at the John F. Kennedy School of International Studies, September 2003)

Why do governments have a special responsibility?

“Terrorists like nothing better than for governments to fail to create social justice.”

(Indonesia’s Foreign Minister N. Hassan Wirajuda, November 2002)

What is the view from the White House?

"From Pakistan to the Philippines to the Horn of Africa, we are hunting down al Qaeda killers."
(U.S. President George W. Bush, May 2003)

How strong is the U.S. position?

“Al Qaeda may be on the run. But Americans, too, as a nation and individually, have had to learn how to live with fear.”

(Elisabeth Bumiller, New York Times columnist, September 2003)

Is it all Europe's fault?

"Every single one of them was radicalized during his encounter with Europe. Not a single one left home as a Muslim radical."
(Thomas Freidman, New York Times columnist, October 2002)

How does al Qaeda finance itself?

“Al Qaeda and other terrorists float in the sea of Saudi petrodollars that have been unleashed on the rest of the world with no control and precious little concern about what happens outside the kingdom.”
(Jim Hoagland, Washington Post columnist, December 2002)

What guided al Qaeda's strategic search for a base?

“There is good reason why al Qaeda was based first in Sudan — and then later in Afghanistan: These are two of the most disconnected countries in the world.”
(Thomas Barnett, military strategist at the U.S. Naval War College, July 2003)

What else is part of al Qaeda's war strategy?

“Al Qaeda expands ABC — atomic, biological and chemical — to ABCD, with drugs added.”
(Steven Casteel, U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency chief of intelligence, December 2001)

Where do some experts expect the next strike to happen?

“Most people in the business think an al-Qaeda-linked attack of some kind at sea is inevitable.”
(Senior maritime security official in Southeast Asia, July 2003)

Should the United States have been better prepared?

“Al Qaeda has been at war with us for the better part of a decade. What's new is that we finally noticed.”
(James Woolsey, former CIA director, April 2003)

Does the United States need to change its strategy for the new kind of warfare?

“Rooting out and destroying all al Qaeda will require a root-and-branch transformation of the U.S. intelligence community. But it remains unchanged in structure from the bureaucratic and electronic, high-tech but elephantine forms it used successfully to monitor the Soviet Union through the Cold War.”
(Martin Sieff, United Press International Washington correspondent, December 2002)

What is Pakistan's official position?

"Pakistan will not — repeat, will not — allow any foreign mercenaries, militants, anywhere inside Pakistan."
(Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf, May 2003)

How does Iran — formerly regarded as the hotbed of Islamic fundamentalism — look at al Qaeda?

“Ascribing the fanatic and perverted beliefs of the Taliban and al Qaeda terrorist organization to Islam and Muslim Ummah is a deceitful tactic — and a conspiracy to contain the spread of Islamism and Islamic tendencies in the world.”
(Iran’s Foreign Minister Seyed Kamal Kharrazi, May 2003)

Finally, what is the view from Osama bin Laden's motherland?

“Al Qaeda is a cult that is seeking to destroy Saudi Arabia as well as the United States. By what logic would we support a cult that is trying to kill us?”
(Prince Bandar bin Sultan, Saudi Ambassador to the United States, July 2003)