Does Osama bin Laden matter anymore? You could be forgiven for thinking he doesn’t. In recent months, an impressive cast of terrorism experts and counterterrorism officials around the world has coalesced around the notion that al-Qaeda’s leader is no longer an active threat to the West

In a great journalistic coup, Michael Ware and the CNN team in Iraq have unearthed the largest collection of al Qaeda in Iraq material outside the hands of the US military. What they found in this collection of videos and memos underlines a key aspect of the al Qaeda organization in Iraq; it is highly organized, and not simply a loosely-knit collection of jihadists.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008 The Unraveling

Within a few minutes of Noman Benotman’s arrival at the Kandahar guest house, Osama bin Laden came to welcome him. The journey from Kabul had been hard, 17 hours in a Toyota pickup truck bumping along what passed as the main highway to southern Afghanistan.

In a speech in Ohio on Thursday John McCain laid out his vision for his putative presidency. Perhaps the most striking part was the claim that by the end of his four year-term in 2013 the global war on terrorism would be effectively over—Osama bin Laden and his key lieutenants would be behind bars or dead; al Qaeda would no longer have a safe haven on the Afghan-Pakistan border; the Taliban would be largely out of business; al Qaeda in Iraq defeated; the Iraq War “won,” and no major terrorist attack would have taken place in the United States.

Thursday, May 08, 2008 Bin Laden or Bust

Dude! What a rad plan! Kicking back over drinks at Bungalow 8, the hard-to-get-into Manhattan nightclub, filmmaker Morgan Spurlock hatched the idea of a humorous documentary and book about the hunt for Osama bin Laden. Your average auteur would wake up the next morning back in his Brooklyn crib, reach for the Advil and realize that searching for the largest mass murderer in U.S. history is about as funny as a pounding hangover.

Monday, May 05, 2008 Baitullah Mehsud, TIME 100

For Pakistanis, the Dec. 27 assassination of Benazir Bhutto was the J.F.K. murder and 9/11 rolled into one, plunging the nation into days of mourning and setting off riots across the country. It was a stunning victory for Pakistan’s militants, who have increasingly turned their firepower against the state, conducting more than 50 suicide attacks in 2007 alone.

Tuesday, Apr 15, 2008 TLS review

We were all frightened by the destruction caused on 9/11. Yet most of us, regardless of political orientation, assumed that there would be people in the intelligence services or in academia who possessed detailed knowledge about the jihadists. It might take time, and we might disagree on the methods, but the experts would eventually bring the perpetrators to justice. How wrong we were. Of course, the CIA knew the basics about al-Qaeda, such as the location of the Afghan training camps and the approximate whereabouts of the top leadership. But as Osama bin Laden slipped out of Tora Bora one foggy morning in early December 2001, al-Qaeda left the realm of tactical intelligence and became the complex organization-cum-movement which, six years later, we are still struggling to understand. For a few years, the commanders of the so-called War on Terror enjoyed the benefit of the doubt. After all, we did not know what they knew. However, it has become increasingly clear how little was known about al-Qaeda back in 2001, and how long it will take for us thoroughly to understand the dynamics of global jihadism.

The hunt is going poorly. It’s now more than six years since the 9/11 attacks, yet al Qaeda’s leader Osama bin Laden remains at large. Some reading this may think: But what’s the proof that he is still alive? Plenty. Since 9/11 bin Laden has released a slew of video-and audiotapes many of which discuss current events. In two such tapes released in March 2008 bin Laden accused Pope Benedict XVI of aiding a “new Crusade” against Muslims and promised there would be a “severe” reaction for the 2006 Danish newspaper cartoons lampooning the Prophet Mohammad.’ In the other tape he said the suffering of the Palestinians was amplified when Arab leaders supported an Israeli-Palestinian peace conference hosted by the US government in Annapolis, Maryland last November.’

Friday, Apr 04, 2008 TLS review of the OBL I Know

From a historical perspective, this ignorance about the enemy makes the war on terror unique. Rarely have so many resources been deployed on the basis of such a vague understanding about who the enemy is and how it functions.

An extraordinary rendition may be defined as the extrajudicial transfer of an individual to a country where there is reasonable probability he will be tortured. In our research we have counted 67 known cases of extraordinary rendition by the United States since 1995. While the details are often incomplete, they help paint a more complete picture of this secretive and controversial Central Intelligence Agency program.