Almost nine years have passed since the terror attack in the World Trade Center, and for many New Yorkers it constitutes no more than a vague memory.
Indeed, the security screening at American airports had been boosted considerably, and several terror attacks had been foiled – for example, the attempt to blow up a plane en route from Holland to the United States.
However, at this time people on the streets feel that they are largely protected from terrorism; hence, they show much greater interest in the economic crisis and in the US entanglement in the Iraqi and Afghani quagmires.
So what is the real reason for the lull in terror which the US public had enjoyed? Is it a result of tighter security measures, or rather, a decision taken in some cave in Waziristan – the mountainous area in Pakistan where Osama Bin Laden is believed to be hiding – not to operate at the heart of the “Great Satan”?
Experts say that the answer is a combination of the two. As of 2004, the internal discourse of Global Jihad featured harsh criticism of the September 11 attacks, which caused al-Qaeda to lose its grip on Afghanistan – the state it ruled along with the Taliban.
In 2005, Western intelligence sources identified a decision by al-Qaeda’s hard core to refrain from operating in the US again, and instead focus on American and other targets in the Middle East. The bloodshed we have been seeing since then in Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia and Yemen, as well as the attacks against Saudi and Egyptian targets, is the result of this decision.
The attempted terror attack in New York’s Time Square is therefore an anomaly. What can we learn from it? First, that nothing will really change the American agenda, with the exception of an actual terror attack that materializes, heaven forbid. Secondly, the Taliban, if indeed it was responsible for the attempted attack, is still an ally of al-Qaeda, not only on the ideological front but also on the operational and intelligence fronts outside Afghanistan. This is in fact one entity.
Thirdly, the predications, analyses, and assessments that al-Qaeda is planning a major terror attack in the US have not been proven yet. Al-Qaeda possesses capabilities that are much more impressive than this week’s amateurish operation in New York.