al Qaeda

In a post-Osama world, risk is still high

May 3, 2011: 8:00 AM ET

Geopolitical risks remain largely the same as the day before Osama bin Laden was killed, since his legacy – operatives trained by al Qaeda – remains alive and well.

By Daryl Jones, Hedgeye

FORTUNE -- There is no question the United States has achieved a moral victory by finding and killing al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. More practically, the implications relating to geopolitical risk are much less certain. While some would argue that killing the head of al Qaeda is a positive development, there is also a credible case to be made that this action could potentially accelerate terrorist activity if bin Laden is perceived as a martyr by his brethren.

In assessing the impact of the death of bin Laden, it is important to note that he has been on the run from U.S. Special Forces for almost a decade. While figuratively bin Laden remained the head of al Qaeda, there is no doubt that being on the run reduced his effectiveness from an operational leadership perspective. With the entire CIA looking for him and a massive award on his head, bin Laden realistically didn't have the capability to micro manage al Qaeda operations. Therefore it is unlikely that the killing of bin Laden will dramatically reduce the threat from al Qaeda in the short term.

Stepping back for a moment, it is also important to note that the very nature and organization of al Qaeda remains very much in question. There are some analysts that question whether al Qaeda is as organized as is often portrayed by the press. In fact, as Marc Sagemen, a former CIA agent based in Islamabad, and author of Leaderless Jihad: Terror Networks in the Twenty-First Century, wrote:

"There is no umbrella organization. We like to create a mythical entity called al-Qaeda in our minds, but that is not the reality we are dealing with." More

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