CISAC - Publications Page
Nineteen years after 9/11, al Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri has yet to achieve the household notoriety evoked by his immediate predecessor, Osama bin Laden. In part that’s because the United States hasn’t cared enough to focus attention on him. Aside from massive financial overtures for intelligence on his whereabouts—there’s currently a $25 million bounty offered for his head, higher than the reward for any other terrorist in the world—the U.S. government has been relatively blasé about al Qaeda since Zawahiri took over in 2011.
Nineteen years after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, does al Qaeda still pose a significant threat to U.S. national security? Among researchers, military and intelligence officials, and policymakers who study the group, there is little consensus. But very few experts on Salafi-jihadi movements would dismiss the group outright. So when U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo confidently declared in a March interview on Fox & Friends that “al Qaeda is a shadow of its former self,” we were startled and concerned.
For years, the U.S. government has been waging counterterrorism campaigns against al-Qaida and other armed groups in safe havens and weak states. What explains the effectiveness of such campaigns? The variation in effectiveness may result from differences in select tactical, organizational, and technological capabilities of the counterterrorism state and its local partner, captured by the concept of the Legibility and Speed-of-Exploitation System (L&S).