January 14th, 2009
04:39 PM ET

Osama’s Inauguration Whimper

Editor’s Note: Tune in to hear more from former CIA officer Gary Berntsen on AC360° tonight at 10pm ET.

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Gary Berntsen
Former CIA Officer

Surprising not one person in America, fugitive Al Qaeda terrorist leader Osama bin Laden has released an audio tape to coincide with the Inauguration of President-Elect Barack Obama. It includes a call across the Middle East for support to the Palestinians in Gaza as well as pronouncements of political and economic doom for America.

Bin Laden made no mention that just a week ago two of his top operatives, Usama al Kini and Sheikh Ahmad Salim Swedan—both Kenyan Nationals who participated in the East Africa attacks in 1998 and then in the Marriot Hotel bombing in Pakistan last year—had been hunted down and killed by a U.S. strike while attempting to conceal themselves in Southern Waziristan. Nor was there mention that during Bin Laden’s seven year long camping trip (that began with his escape from Afghanistan in 2001) an array of other groups have eclipsed Bin Laden’s Al Qaeda in influence, money and operational tempo. Groups like Lashkar-e Taiba (LeT) and the Taliban have as organizational goals the establishment of Islamic States in Kashmir and Afghanistan, respectively. They pursue their own agendas. Groups like the Haqqani Network and Hizb-e Islami Ghulbadin (HIG) are merely the action arms of the men that lead them and have only regional appeal.

Having been smashed by CIA and coalition forces during the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan and then hunted non-stop in Pakistan by Pakistani and U.S. intelligence, Bin Laden’s Al Qaeda has been reduced to attaching his operatives to disparate groups that fight alongside the Taliban in Afghanistan or operate alongside Pakistani militant organizations that seek to destabilize the central government of Pakistan. Bin Laden’s role has changed from one of leading the world’s largest terrorist enterprise to one of hiding as a lonely fugitive with a camcorder.

Despite not having captured Bin Laden, the outgoing administration has correctly taken credit for successfully deterring additional catastrophic attacks on the U.S. mainland. The incoming Obama administration would be wise to recognize that Bin Laden and Al Qaeda’s diminishment occurred because of constant application of aggressive operational initiatives and not as some inevitable result. If the incoming administration fails to exercise itself aggressively against Bin Laden and Al Qaeda, the group’s return to an operational relevance will be inevitable and the consequences significant.

Read More of Gary Berntsten's blogs.

Filed under: Global 360° • Iran • Iraq • War on Terror
soundoff (4 Responses)
  1. Annie Kate

    Hopefully Obama will continue the raids on al Queda and finally kill Osama soon. Osama can predict economic and political ruin from now until doomsday and even be right some of the time since these sorts of things come in cycles – but I hope that we're still chasing him as long as it takes.

    January 14, 2009 at 8:26 pm |
  2. Gene Penszynski from Vermont

    Baloney Cindy ....... This is more likely a result of the fact that even terrorists are beginning to recognize that Obam will defuse their campaign of hate instead stoking it like G W Bush and his anti-Muslim Christian Fundamentalist racists did.

    January 14, 2009 at 5:50 pm |
  3. Cindy

    True...we definitely need to keep hounding Bin laden until we find him and tear down his group. Letting them have a breather could result in them gaining strength once again and attacking us here at home.


    January 14, 2009 at 4:55 pm |
  4. Joanne, Solvay, NY

    Virgin territory...but that doesn't mean that Iran will not negotiate...who would have believed that North Korea would open talks!

    January 14, 2009 at 2:50 pm |