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Dismantling al-Qaida

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The militants who launched the car bombs clearly want to undermine the pro-Western governments in Riyadh and Ankara, but the attacks must also be viewed in broader terms. In the past year, al- Qaida and its regional affiliates have been attacking pro-Western Muslim regimes and soft targets from Tunisia to Indonesia in a shift that is justified ideologically but is driven by necessity: Al- Qaida does not appear to have the capability to mount large-scale attacks inside the United States at the moment. It is clear much of the terrorist activity in the past year in Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, Tunisia, Pakistan and Yemen has been regionally motivated and organized with less command and control from al-Qaida's senior leadership. This is a result of a gradual erosion of al-Qaida's leadership and its inability to launch spectacular operations on U.S. soil. This view is gaining ground in the counterterrorist community, but U.S. officials are wary of making such claims after failing to detect the presence of the Sept. 11 hijackers. In the late 1990s, bin Laden played a critical role in persuading Mr. [Zawahiri] to suspend his attacks in Egypt and to instead target the United States, Christians and Jews. He said internal strife alienates the Muslim constituency, whose support for al-Qaida is urgently needed, and diverts resources from its confrontation with the West. Mr. Zawahiri must be pleased that the path has returned to his deeply held convictions.

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