Al-Qaida is much stronger than it was on 9/11 despite the death of Osama bin Laden and it’s a virtual certainty that the growing terrorist group will launch a major revenge attack, according to author and former CIA bin Laden expert Michael Scheuer.
In an exclusive Newsmax.TV interview, Scheuer predicted that bin Laden will have “an enduring resonance among Muslims for hundreds of years,” because he hurt the United States and survived for a decade afterward.
“It’s a bigger organization geographically, it’s a bigger organization in numbers, and on a whole there are more mujahedeen in the field against us today than there were on 9/11,” Scheuer told Newsmax. “So this is a problem that America hasn’t come to grips with yet.”
A revenge attack from al-Qaida against American or Western targets is “certain.” He adds: “They will counterpunch. I’m not sure it’s going to be in the near term though. If they have something they can do that’s on the shelf, they’ll do it. Otherwise, they’ll plan and execute an operation that is of significant size.”
Don’t be fooled by the rosily optimistic scenarios of democratic revolution spreading across the Arab landscape, Scheuer advises. Already, Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist groups are moving to exploit the turmoil in Egypt. Al-Qaida, too, will seek to move in and fill the power vacuum in places like Libya and Syria.
“Islam is on the rise across the Middle East at the moment, despite BBC and CNN singing the praises of so-called democrats in Egypt,” Scheuer said.
According to Scheurer, Al Qaeda is far stronger now than it was after 9/11.
He said there is little doubt al-Qaida has gained strength. On 9/11, al-Qaida was primarily based in Afghanistan, with just a few other peripheral locations.
“Now it is still in parts of Afghanistan, it’s well established in Pakistan, it’s in Yemen, it’s in Iraq, it’s in the Levant in Gaza, it’s in Somalia, and it’s in northern Africa,” he said.
Bin Laden’s death clearly is a blow to al-Qaida, he said. “But to think that his influence is now going to recede in the near term, or even in the distant term, is a mistake,” he added.
Scheuer also stated that Bin Laden’s reportedly Russian trained lieutenant Ayman al-Zawahiri, would at least temporarily take over the Al Qaeda leadership.
Scheuer predicts that Obama’s lieutenant, Ayman al-Zawahiri, will rise to become the temporary head of al-Qaida. But he warns regional al-Qaida commanders in Yemen and Afghanistan actually may pose the greater threat to the United States.
The assassination of Osama bin Laden was a significant victory, but will not likely be a decisive blow in the ongoing “War Against Terror.”