The future of the terrorist threat to America
May 10th, 2013
05:25 AM ET

The future of the terrorist threat to America

‘Beyond the Manhunts: How to Stop Terror’ – a GPS special premieres this Sunday at 10 a.m. & 1 p.m. ET

By Fareed Zakaria

We are now a little more than three weeks from the Marathon day bombings in Boston, a good time to ask ourselves, what did it tell us about the future of terrorism? What is the nature of the threat we face – and are we prepared for it?

First, Boston was not the kind of attack that we have worried about and planned for in the last decades. Al Qaeda, the group that planned and directed the embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania, then the attack of the American destroyer, USS Cole, and then the World Trade Center, was an organized, well-financed group with deep roots in a few countries, strategic leaders, clever planners, and fanatical supporters. That group is a shadow of its former self, battered by ten years in which Western and allied governments have attacked its leaders, tracked its money, and followed its trail. Perhaps most important, as it practiced terrorism in more countries, it lost any political support or sympathy it had in the Muslim world.

Indeed, before Osama bin Laden died, he wrote about al Qaeda's reduced fortunes. “He was very aware that the al Qaeda brand was in deep trouble,” terrorism analyst Peter Bergen notes. “He was advising other groups not to adopt the al Qaeda brand because it would be bad for fundraising, would attract a lot of negative attention.”


Post by:
Topics: GPS Show • Osama bin Laden • Terrorism • United States
Al Qaeda: Who's left?
Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri
June 6th, 2012
09:36 AM ET

Al Qaeda: Who's left?

Editor's note: Peter Bergen, CNN national security analyst, is the author of "Manhunt: The Ten-Year Search for bin Laden, From 9/11 to Abbottabad."

By Peter Bergen, CNN National Security Analyst

The news that Abu Yahya al-Libi, the No.2 leader of al Qaeda, is now confirmed to have been killedin a CIA drone strike in Pakistan's tribal region along the border with Afghanistan further underlines that the terrorist group that launched the 9/11 attacks is now more or less out of business.

Under President Barack Obama, CIA drone strikes have killed 15 of the most important players in al Qaeda, according to a count maintained by the New America Foundation (a nonpartisan think tank where I am a director).

Similarly, President George W. Bush also authorized drone strikes that killed 16 important al Qaeda operatives in Pakistan while he was in office.

As a result, according to senior U.S. counterterrorism officials, there now remains only one leader of any consequence in al Qaeda and that is Ayman al-Zawahiri, the tetchy Egyptian surgeon who became the head of the group following the death of its founder, Osama bin Laden, in a U.S. Navy SEAL raid in Pakistan in May 2011.

Read more from Peter Bergen on Zawahiri's almost impossible task

May 11th, 2012
12:30 PM ET

Finding bin Laden - more Agatha Christie than '24'

Editor's note: Peter Bergen, CNN's national security analyst, is the author of "Manhunt: The Ten-Year Search for bin Laden, from 9/11 to Abbottabad", from which the article is adapted.

In a new book, a "60 Minutes" interview and other recent public statements, Jose Rodriguez, a three-decade veteran of the CIA who rose to become head of the National Clandestine Service, has stoutly defended the CIA's use of coercive interrogation techniques on al Qaeda detainees.

Rodriguez asserts, for instance, "Information obtained from senior al Qaeda terrorists, who became compliant after receiving enhanced interrogation techniques, was key to the U.S. government learning of the existence of a courier who was bin Laden's lifeline."

Let us turn to what is available on the public record to consider if this is true.

Read more of the story from Peter Bergen

Topics: Osama bin Laden • Terrorism
October 18th, 2011
03:51 PM ET

Osama bin Laden's unlikely look-alike

Unless you're on SEAL Team Six or lived on the compound in Abbottabad, you will probably never know if this digitally age-progressed image of Osama bin Laden actually looked like him when he met his demise. But there's somebody whom the image looks exactly like - and he is still alive.

Meet Spanish politician Gaspar Llamazares. The FBI has said one of its artists found a picture of the Spaniard on the Internet. And the Bureau then used it to push the $25 million bounty for the most wanted man in the world by digitally aging him.


To add insult to injury, the Spanish politician says his picture was used again for this image of Atiyah Abd al-Rahman, another al Qaeda leader who was taken out by a CIA drone over the summer. Mr. Llamazares, who might want to keep his head down, says he plans to sue the FBI.

Post by:
Topics: Last Look • Odd • Osama bin Laden
October 7th, 2011
03:55 PM ET

More fallout for U.S., Pakistan relations?

If Pakistan prosecutes one of the men who helped the CIA hunt down Osama bin Laden, what does it say about the state of relations between Washington and Islamabad?

Nothing good, according to national security experts contacted by CNN.

New questions are being raised about strained ties between the United States and Pakistan in the wake of a Pakistani commission's recommendation of treason charges this week against a Pakistani doctor who helped U.S. intelligence officials track bin Laden to a compound in Abbottabad.

Read more from CNN's Alan Silverleib

Post by:
Topics: Osama bin Laden • Pakistan
July 7th, 2011
04:09 PM ET

Life after bin Laden in Pakistan

Editor's Note: The staff at has been intrigued by the journalism of Vice, an independent media company and Web site based in Brooklyn, New York. VBS.TV is Vice's broadband television network. The reports, which are produced solely by Vice, reflect a very transparent approach to journalism, where viewers are taken along on every step of the reporting process. We believe this unique reporting approach is worthy of sharing with our readers.

Abbottabad, Pakistan (VBS.TV) - Since 2006, Vice has closely followed and chronicled the growing political turmoil in Pakistan, when founder Suroosh Alvi visited the infamous gun market of Darra Adamkhel.

This Webby award-winning short film precipitated another visit in 2010, during which Vice documented a dramatic increase in regional violence and a campaign by militants to win hearts and minds after the worst flooding in the country's history.

A year later, as the country was reeling from a marked increase in terrorist violence, Alvi revisited Pakistan in the wake of its latest geopolitical shock: the killing of Osama bin Laden. FULL POST

Post by:
Topics: Osama bin Laden • Pakistan
Is terrorism inevitable?
July 6th, 2011
05:08 PM ET

Is terrorism inevitable?

Editor’s Note: Evan Thomas is an author and professor of journalism at Princeton University.  Read his recent Washington Post op-ed, Assassination is a two-edged sword. The following is an edited transcript of our interview.

Amar C. Bakshi: In the Afterword to Andrew Robinson’s book, Bin Laden, you emphasize that killing bin Laden does not end the problem of terrorism in our age. But can there be another figure of a stature of Osama bin Laden?

Evan Thomas: I’m not sure there’ll be one single figure. What I’m more worried about is the psychological point.  What scared us was not bin Laden sitting in a cave with his beard. It was that these cavemen learned how to use modern technology against us. These people who want to return the world to the 8th century were able to use jet airplanes to kill a lot of people. FULL POST

Why did Pakistan arrest suspected CIA informants?
The five CIA informants were reported to have copied license plates of cars visiting bin Laden's compound before the May raid.
June 15th, 2011
09:40 AM ET

Why did Pakistan arrest suspected CIA informants?

Editor’s Note:  Bruce Riedel spent nearly 30 years as a CIA officer focusing on terrorism. He served as senior advisor to three U.S. presidents on Middle East and South Asian issues and he chaired President Obama’s first interagency review of policy toward Afghanistan and Pakistan. He is the author of Deadly Embrace: Pakistan, American and the Future of Global Jihad.

By Bruce Riedel – Special to CNN

Only Pakistan’s intelligence agency (ISI) knows for sure what it is trying to gain from the arrests of the suspected CIA informants who helped lead to Osama bin Laden. But it seems likely the ISI is trying to learn more about American intelligence operations in Pakistan than anything else. They are likely trying to find out what the U.S. is doing in Pakistan and trying to make it harder for the U.S. to carry out its operations.  After all, if the ISI wanted to learn what the U.S. knows about Al Qaeda, they could come to the U.S. directly.

These arrests demonstrate that the U.S. and Pakistan have dramatically different reactions to the Abbottabad raid that led to the death of Osama bin Laden. America sees the raid as a success in the war against Al Qaeda. The Pakistani military - and to a large extent the Pakistani population as a whole - see it as a humiliation.

They see it as a humiliation in two ways: First, that bin Laden was hiding in the heartland of Pakistan; second, and more importantly, that the Pakistani military was unable to defend itself against a penetration of their country’s airspace by the United States. FULL POST

Post by:
Topics: Osama bin Laden • Pakistan • Terrorism • United States
China welcomes Pakistan with open arms
Pakistan's Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani shakes hands with China's President Hu Jintao during a meeting at the Great Hall of the People on May 20, 2011 in Beijing, China. (Getty Images)
May 30th, 2011
05:06 PM ET

China welcomes Pakistan with open arms

Editor's Note: Shahid Javed Burki, former Finance Minister of Pakistan and Vice President of the World Bank, is currently Chairman of the Institute of Public Policy, Lahore. For more from Burki, visit Project Syndicate online or through Facebook and Twitter.

By Shahid Javed Burki

ISLAMABAD – Large events sometimes have unintended strategic consequences. This is turning out to be the case following the killing of Osama bin Laden in a compound in Abbottabad, a military-dominated town near Islamabad, Pakistan’s capital.

The fact that the world’s most wanted man lived for a half-dozen years in a large house within spitting distance of Pakistan Military Academy, where the country trains its officers, has provoked a reaction that Pakistanis should have expected, but did not.

The country’s civilian and military establishment has been surprised and troubled by the level of suspicion aroused by the events leading to Bin Laden’s death – many Pakistanis call it “martyrdom” – and there is growing popular demand for a major reorientation of Pakistan’s relations with the world.

Unless the West acts quickly, Bin Laden’s death is likely to result in a major realignment of world politics, driven in part by Pakistan’s shift from America’s strategic orbit to that of China. FULL POST

Pakistanis distrust their government too
May 23rd, 2011
12:19 PM ET

Pakistanis distrust their government too

Jim Lindsay writes:

Most Americans think that someone in the Pakistani intelligence services must have known that Osama bin Laden was living in Abbottabad.

It turns out, according to a new Gallup poll, that three of ten Pakistanis who have heard of the U.S. military operation agree.

A near majority (49 percent) of Pakistanis who have heard of bin Laden’s killing don’t think that the Pakistani intelligence services knew anything. These results raise an interesting question: Are Pakistanis in either camp happy with their conclusion?


Post by:
Topics: Osama bin Laden • Pakistan • Poll • United States
Egyptian Saif al-Adel now acting leader of al Qaeda, ex-militant says
The choice of Egyptian Saif al-Adel may not sit well with some Saudi and Yemeni members of al Qaeda, one expert says.
May 18th, 2011
07:47 AM ET

Egyptian Saif al-Adel now acting leader of al Qaeda, ex-militant says

By Peter Bergen, CNN National Security Analyst

An Egyptian who was once a Special Forces officer has been chosen "caretaker" leader of al Qaeda in the wake of Osama bin Laden's death, according to a source with detailed knowledge of the group's inner workings.

Al Qaeda's interim leader is Saif al-Adel, who has long played a prominent role in the group, according to Noman Benotman. Benotman has known the al Qaeda leadership for more than two decades. He was once a leader of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), a militant organization that used to be aligned with al Qaeda, but in recent years renounced al Qaeda's ideology.

Benotman told CNN that based on his personal communications with militants and discussions on jihadist forums, al-Adel, also known as Muhamad Ibrahim Makkawi, had been chosen interim chief of al Qaeda because the global jihadist community had grown restive in recent days about the lack of a formal announcement of a successor to bin Laden. FULL POST

Post by:
Topics: Osama bin Laden • Terrorism
May 15th, 2011
05:18 PM ET

Fareed's Take: Pakistan's chance to become a normal country

Pakistan's military has been embarrassed, to put it mildly, by the suspicion that it must have known where Osama bin Laden was hiding. In response, it is using its old tricks and hoping to ride out the storm as it has in the past. It is leaking stories to favored journalists and unleashing activists and politicians all with the aim of stoking anti-Americanism in Pakistan.

Having been caught in a situation that suggests either complicity with al Qaeda or gross incompetence (and the reality is probably a bit of both), Pakistan is now furiously trying to change the subject. Senior generals angrily denounce America for entering the country.

A Pakistani friend put it to me this way: It's like a person caught in bed with another man's wife who is indignant that someone entered his house. FULL POST

« older posts