An excerpt from the op-ed follows:
On September 11, 2001, 19 of Osama bin Laden’s operatives changed the course of world history. We are fortunate that al Qaeda hasn’t carried out another 9/11-style attack inside the U.S. in the 17 years since. But that fact shouldn’t obscure the reality about al Qaeda and its global jihad. Al Qaeda remains a threat. Its operatives are fighting in more countries around the world today than was the case on 9/11. And its leaders still want to target the United States and its interest and allies. The war they started is far from over.
There are many reasons for al Qaeda’s failure to successfully execute a mass-casualty attack in the United States: America’s defenses hardened, as its tactical offensive capabilities improved; U.S. counterterrorism and intelligence officials, sometimes aided by allies, hunted down numerous al Qaeda planners overseas; al Qaeda’s men have also bungled undetected opportunities, proving that even when they get a clear shot, it is difficult to execute mass terror operations on the scale we witnessed in 2001. This is one reason that al Qaeda’s men began calling for small-scale attacks carried out by individuals.
Al Qaeda has faced other obstacles as well. In its war with the U.S., the group has lost key management personnel. Most important, of course, was the death of Osama bin Laden in May 2011. Scores of other senior figures have been killed or captured. This has raised logistical hurdles, disrupting communications and al Qaeda’s chain of command. In addition, the rise of the Islamic State in 2013 and 2014 created the biggest challenge to al Qaeda’s authority within the global jihadist movement since its inception in 1988.
Thomas Joscelyn is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Senior Editor for FDD’s Long War Journal. Follow him on Twitter @thomasjoscelyn. Follow the Foundation for Defense of Democracies on Twitter @FDD. FDD is a Washington-based nonpartisan research institute focusing on national security and foreign policy.