Many students of terrorism believe that in important ways, Al Qaeda and its ideology of global jihad are in a pronounced decline — with its central leadership thrown off balance as operatives are increasingly picked off by missiles and manhunts and, more important, with its tactics discredited in public opinion across the Muslim world.
“Al Qaeda is losing its moral argument about the killing of innocent civilians,” said Emile A. Nakhleh, who headed the Central Intelligence Agency’s strategic analysis program on political Islam until 2006. “They’re finding it harder to recruit. They’re finding it harder to raise money.”
the centrally led Al Qaeda responsible for the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks is giving way to a generation of dispersed, aspiring terrorists linked largely by the Internet — who still pose a danger, but of a lesser degree.
Between 2002 and 2009, the view that suicide bombings are “often or sometimes justified” has declined, according to the Pew Global Attitudes Project, from 43 percent to 12 percent in Jordan; from 26 percent to 13 percent in Indonesia; and from 33 percent to 5 percent in Pakistan . Positive ratings for Osama bin Laden have fallen by half or more in most of the countries Pew polled.
Dr. Sageman said the United States should approach the threat not with hysteria, but with a careful analysis of the motives and patterns of people drawn into violent plotting.
“Terrorism,” he added, “is here to stay.”