Progress Against Al-Qaeda? Almost.

| Tue Oct. 4, 2005 5:38 PM EDT

Oh good. Michael Scheuer, the CIA's former bin Laden chief, argues that the next generation of al-Qaeda lieutenants will be more pious, less arrogant, and thus less-easily detectable: "While leaders more pious than bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri are hard to imagine, Western analysts tend to forget that many of bin Laden's first-generation lieutenants did not mirror his intense religiosity. Wali Khan, Abu Zubaidah, Abu Hajir al-Iraqi, Khalid Sheikh Muhammed, Ibn Shaykh al-Libi, and Ramzi Yousef were first generation fighters who were both swashbuckling and Islamist. Unlike bin Laden and Zawahiri, they were flamboyant, multilingual, well-traveled, and eager for personal notoriety. Their operating styles were tinged with arrogance… and each was captured, at least in part, because they paid insufficient attention to personal security. Now al-Qaeda is teaching young mujahideen to learn from the security failures that led to the capture of first-generation fighters."

To some extent, one would expect this to happen to any organization, via natural selection, as the most easily-captured are, well, captured. Meanwhile, Scheuer points out that the potential ranks of mujahideen are still very, very large, what with Islamist insurgencies in Iraq, Chechnya, southern Thailand, Mindano, Kashmir, and Afghanistan, along with what he calls the "Talibanization" of Bangladesh, Pakistan, and northern Nigeria. Luckily, though, the administration has been waging a fierce covert battle against lawsuits over defective car roofs. So, you know, it's not all bad.

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