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Amid the many uncertainties loosed by the al-Qaida attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, one forecast seemed beyond doubt: Islamist terrorists would strike the United States again—and soon. "Ninety days at the most," said counterterrorism expert Juval Aviv. On Oct. 5, 2001, an unnamed senior intelligence official told Congress, in a private briefing, that there was a "100 percent" chance of another terrorist attack should the U.S. invade Afghanistan, as it did two days later. "An attack is predictable now whether we retaliate against Afghanistan or not," reasoned House Speaker-to-be Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., agreed: "You can just about bet on it."
In a Feb. 4 interview with Politico, former Vice President Dick Cheney said there was "a high probability of such an attempt." He didn't say when.
long periods of quiet actually indicate elevated risk for sensitive areas." Berrebi and Lakdawalla are restating the familiar war-movie cliché in which two soldiers stand guard over a peaceful nighttime landscape. "It's quiet," says one. "Yeah," says the other. "Too quiet." Then the enemy emits a battle cry and the fighting begins.
Al-Qaida's successful elimination of the Twin Towers, part of the Pentagon, four jetliners, and nearly 3,000 innocent lives makes the terror group seem, in hindsight, diabolically brilliant. But when you review how close the terrorists came to being exposed by U.S. intelligence, 9/11 doesn't look like an ingenious plan that succeeded because of shrewd planning. It looks like a stupid plan that succeeded through sheer dumb luck.
Max Abrahms argue that terrorists think about strategy either very poorly or not at all. If that's the case, then al-Qaida attacks the United States mostly because it's there. But if terrorists are strategic thinkers, then al-Qaida's immediate goal would logically be to start building that caliphate by fostering the creation of jihadist regimes in the lands once conquered by the Prophet Mohammed and his successors. Following this logic, the need to attack the United States would vary according to how tightly the United States kept a lid on jihadis in the Middle East, South Asia, and North Africa.
Nearly 80 percent of its Afghanistan-based membership was killed in the U.S. invasion, according to journalist Lawrence Wright. Two-thirds of al-Qaida's leadership was captured or killed. The terror group's membership may now be down to as few as 200 or 300. Let's assume, as many believe, that this alone has made it very difficult for al-Qaida to stage a follow-up attack on the United States. Couldn't the job still be done by angry jihadis already living in the United States? Where are al-Qaida's sleeper cells?
According to this theory, the 9/11 attacks were so stunning a success that they left al-Qaida's leadership struggling to conceive and carry out an even more fearsome and destructive plan against the United States.
After the U.S. invasion, Iraq was suddenly teeming with terrorists loyal to al-Qaida. Granted, this was terrible news for the nascent government in Iraq and for the American military, both of which came under violent attack as they tried to impose order. But it allowed President Bush to say, in effect: See? I told you the war in Iraq was part of the war on terror! Thus was born the Flypaper Theory.
In his Jan. 15 farewell address, President George W. Bush said that after 9/11, "most Americans were able to return to life much as it had been before 9/11.
Writing in Slate two weeks before the presidential election, Benjamin argued that elections are "seam moments, the points of inflection in history, and the terrorists want to demonstrate that they are central players in determining outcomes.
On the small-bore tactical level, Berrebi says, terrorists are very rational. It's entirely possible, Lakdawalla explains, to pursue an irrational goal in a rational manner. Berrebi cites terrorists' tendency to use suicide bombers only when no other alternatives are available. In general, terrorists prefer poorly protected targets to well-protected ones. "When stuff becomes harder to hit," Lakdawalla says, "terrorist groups, like anyone else, tend to look for easier opportunities."
A variety of conspiracy theories question the mainstream account of the September 11 attacks in the United States. These theories assert that the official report on the events is not sufficiently forthright, thorough or truthful. Many critics allege that individuals in the government of the United States knew of the impending attacks and intentionally failed to act on that knowledge. Some critics state that the attacks could have been a false flag operation carried out by a private network of high-level officials in the U.S. Government. The common suspected motives were the use of the attacks as a pretext to justify overseas wars, to facilitate increased military spending, and to restrict domestic civil liberties.
Do you have a Sit back and Watch theory?