Security expert Dr Dave Sloggett (6/9/12) gives some thoughts to what the 11th anniversary of 9/11 might entail:
From his remote and inaccessible location which is presumed to be in North Waziristan in Pakistan the leader of Al Qaeda Dr Ayman al-Zawahiri might face a mixture of emotions as the eleventh anniversary of the attacks on September 11 dawns.
The images of that day still convey a drama that no other single event of its kind in history has been able to achieve. The saturation media coverage of the events as they unfolded etched the pictures deep into the psyche of the human race. They could only be replaced if Al Qaeda could achieve what haunts many western political leaders' nightmares, the detonation of a viable nuclear device over a major city.
For Al Qaeda the past year has had its up and downs. The drone attacks in North Waziristan and across the wider areas of operation in which the organisation is active have had a detrimental impact. Recently the American's have spread the geographic coverage of the drone attacks reaching deep into the Hadramout province of the Yemen, where Osama Bin Laden's family originated. In the last two weeks four drone strikes have targeted the area in what could be seen as a mini-surge in activity ahead of the anniversary. As a result of these attacks in Pakistan and the Yemen Al Qaeda has lost key members of its inner circle. They will not be replaced easily.
However on the plus side for Al Qaeda rarely does a day go by without some headline that attributes an act of terrorism to one of the many and growing affiliates that pledge loyalty to Al Qaeda's ideology. In Nigeria, Syria and Mali new Al Qaeda affiliates have joined those in Iraq, Yemen, Somalia, Pakistan and Algeria in the last year. In Saudi Arabia the recent arrests of a number of members of Al Qaeda cells has illustrated just how difficult it is to eradicate terrorist groups once they have any sort of foothold in a country. The upsurge in violence in Iraq also bears witness to the resilience of the wider social movement. Despite the huge efforts of the Iraqi Security Services Al Qaeda's Iraqi affiliate has managed to slightly increase the tempo of its sectarian operations.
The frequent reports emerging in the press that suggest British people are travelling to Syria to become involved in the fighting highlights the continuing draw of the idea of Jihad. For Dr Zawahiri that must be a source of some comfort as he reviews the situation eleven years on.
In that time Al Qaeda's publically stated aspiration to conduct up to three major attacks a year of a similar magnitude has not been achieved. Those active in jihadi chat rooms occasionally seek to explain why this is offering reassurance to those who are concerned at the organisations apparent inability to conduct further high-profile attacks in the west.
Despite all of the challenges the organisation has faced in the last year and the loss of key people Al Qaeda's influence continues to spread. At the moment as far as Dr Zawahiri is concerned that must be good enough. For now visions of a nuclear cloud hanging over New York may have to be on hold. But given time and some complacency in the west he might well take the view anything is possible. In the meantime the images of the Twin Towers falling and the Pentagon burning eleven years ago still remind everyone what his organisation is capable of if they are given the manoeuvre room in which to operate.