By Karl Gotthardt Canadian and Military Issues Editor
With the killing in Yemen of Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen last week and the recent killing of a top Haqqani Network operative, the question has arisen about the relevance of the Al Quaeda movement. While the United States and other Western Allies say that Al Qaeda is diminished, but still poses a considerable thread to Western societies, especially home grown terrorists, the Middle East support of the Al Qaeda movement has dropped to a mere 2% in Lebanon and 3% in Turkey. Before the raid on Bin Laden support in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Indonesia and Pakistan was down to 20% and has fallen even more.
“Since 2007, polls have shown a fast-declining deport for the jihadists right across the Muslim world, from Egypt to Saudi Arabia to Palestine to Indonesia. Support for Ben Laden dropped to a mere 2 per cent in Lebanon and 3 per cent in Turkey. In 2010, it was down to 20 per cent in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Indonesia and Pakistan, and since the death of Ben Laden and the Arab Spring, it has fallen even more.
A poll by the Pew Global Attitudes Project found, in 2009, that more than 60 per cent of Pakistanis viewed Al Qaeda negatively, double the number of the year before. Nine out of ten Pakistanis said suicide bombs were never justified. via Endgame for Al Qaeda | Jordan Times.”
The West is impatient and is looking for instant gratification. Arabs don’t have that novelty and as a result change is slow, although views are changing and Arab governments have to make concessions. In Saudi Arabia, King Abdul, has announced that women can vote and run a candidates in elections. Women’s rights to drive will also be reinstated. The recent protests across the Middle East are also indications of people wanting change, in fact they are willing to give their lives for that change. Corrupt dictators have been driven from power and in Egypt, deposed President Mubarak is being tried. Gaddafi is in hiding, while NATO and Revolutionary forces clean out the last hold outs of the Libyan leader. NATO announced this weekend that the Libyan war may be wrapped up as early as next week.
To say the least, the Arab World is on fire and the people’s movement for democracy will succeed in the end, albeit not our timeline. Al Quaeda has diminishing support. Intelligence estimates put Al Qaeda operatives to between 50-300, mostly illiterate and see the Taliban and Al Qaeda marriage, all but divorced in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Estimates put Al Qaeda estimates in Afghanistan to 50 maximum, but no more.
While Western societies should remain vigilant against home grown terrorism, it would appear that Al Qaeda has become most irrelevant and highly ineffective. Much of the credit for diminishing support must go to counter-jihadist movements in the Arab World. There is still wholesale mistrust of the United States and its allies. It will be up to us to rebuild this trust though.