Today marks the second anniversary of the assassination of Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad, near the Pakistani capital of Islamabad, at the hands of US special forces units.
Al-Qaeda, founded by bin Laden in Afghanistan in 1996, has not diminished in the way the Americans expected – neither after the occupation of Afghanistan in October 2001 nor the assassination of its leader.
Instead, it has become stronger, more dangerous and more widespread.
Before 9/11, al-Qaeda was a small organisation arranging operations against US targets in the region: US embassies in Nairobi and Dar el Salaam or the USS Cole in South Yemen’s port of Aden.
Now the entire scene has changed. Al-Qaeda has spread across much of the Islamic world.
But the reason is not simply the “jihadist” ideology which many young Muslims identify with, it is the sum of the parts of US policy in the Arab world (and Western hegemony over it); its unquestioning support for Israel and its violent policies in Occupied Palestine and neighbouring countries, Lebanon in particular.
Al-Qaeda now has strongholds in Yemen, Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, across North Africa and the sub-Saharan Sahel as well as Syria – where Jabhat al-Nusra leader al-Golani pledged allegiance to al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri three weeks ago.
The US administration still considers the organisation the greatest threat to its security and stability and spends billions of dollars on security and intelligence work to reduce the threat and prevent retaliatory attacks in the wake of bin Laden’s death.
It’s remarkable the American government is still afraid of a dead man, as evidenced by how authorities did not publish pictures of him after the assassination, did not reveal how he was assassinated and claimed a downed helicopter in Abbottabad had fallen due to technical reasons when it may well have been downed by bin Laden and his bodyguards.
Many questions still surround the credibility of the story – how he was buried at sea according to Islamic law with one of his sons. Why bin Laden was not buried on land – like former Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi – shows a big difference between the two leaders.
It’s true the US administration assassinated the leader of al-Qaeda but his body has become all the more powerful in death, causing the West to engage in ever more conflict from Afghanistan to Mali.
Al-Qaeda’s influence and its presence in Iraq and Syria worry not only US President Barack Obama, but his ally Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Both fear Syria’s chemical weapons being used against the occupation in Palestine.
Al-Qaeda is like the legendary hydra – whenever one limb is cut off, it is replaced by several more. It will worry America for years to come.
Abdel Bari Atwan is the editor-in-chief of the London-based pan-Arab newspaper al-Quds al-Arabi.
The views of the author do not necessarily reflect the views of Spider News