This 9/11 anniversary arrives with the end of the war on al-Qaeda well in sight

This 9/11 anniversary arrives with the end of the war on al-Qaeda well in sight



This 9/11 anniversary arrives with the end of the war on al-Qaeda well in sight


September 10, 2020

Opinion By Christopher Miller, Director of the National Counterterrorism Center, for the Washington Post


Remnants of the al-Qaeda terrorist organization that launched the 9/11 terror attacks 19 years ago remain active throughout the world. But it is now possible to see the contours of how the war against al-Qaeda ends.


The United States had three aims in this war: strengthen the country’s border defenses, pursue our enemies and facilitate our allies’ ability to lead the counterterrorism fight. We have succeeded in making it extremely difficult for terrorists to enter the United States to conduct cataclysmic attacks, and we have bolstered our allies’ capabilities.


As for pursuing our enemies, the campaign to defeat al-Qaeda began immediately after 9/11, when committed Americans and like-minded partners sallied forth to destroy the terrorists’ havens in Afghanistan and to wreck their command-and-control capabilities. Al-Qaeda can still direct others to commit acts of violence, as seen by the heinous killing of three Americans in Florida at Naval Air Station Pensacola last year, but it is no longer capable of conducting large-scale attacks.


Although I am now the director of the National Counterterrorism Center and a member of the intelligence community, my roots are as a soldier. My active service began on Dec. 5, 2001, with deployments in Afghanistan and Iraq. That experience, along with my post-Army service in the defense and intelligence fields, taught me about al-Qaeda — about its strengths and weaknesses.


My assessment now is that al-Qaeda is in crisis. The group’s leadership has been severely diminished by U.S. attacks. Its sole remaining ideological leader is Ayman al-Zawahiri, Osama bin Laden’s deputy on 9/11, who lives in hiding, no doubt fully aware of his vulnerability. If he is lucky, he will die of natural causes. Otherwise, the long arm of the United States will inevitably find him and bring him to justice, in one form or another.


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National Counterterrorism Center