The catastrophic attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 ripped off a veneer and exposed what was growing beneath the surface: al Qaeda’s successful efforts to tap Muslim grievances around the world and infect disparate, home-grown groups with its global jihad. Al Qaeda has helped groups like Jemaah Islamiyah in Southeast Asia target the “Near Enemy” – their governments, and the “Far Enemy” – the United States.
Ten years after the event, it appears that 9/11 was the peak of al Qaeda’s strength, when it reached from its caves in Afghanistan to destroy symbols of modernity, forcing governments around the world to change outdated paradigms of Cold War defense structures. Bin Laden’s victory was short-lived: 9/11 was a strategic error for his forces because now they were exposed and vulnerable. In the next decade, they would never be that strong again.
Since 9/11, there has been no other al Qaeda attack on US soil or any other al Qaeda attack of a similar magnitude anywhere. Osama bin Laden is dead, and most of al-Qaeda’s ‘legacy leaders’ have been killed and replaced. More than 40 plots have been foiled in the last decade, according to the Heritage Foundation. Some officials have declared all of this a “victory,” but lessons from the Philippines show that the next defeat can come from the jaws of “victory.”