Is Osama Bin Laden "virtually impotent"? It seems all his group can directly do is issue videos. However, given their increasingly media-oriented actions, al Qaida remains virtually potent as an ideological vanguard.
On the noopolitical front, al Qaida can still:
- Inspire jihadi groups and provide strategic focus.
- Appropriate arguments used by domestic opponents of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and thus diminish their influence within Western political dialogue.
- Focus and maintain American concern and efforts on Iraq, thus deflecting assets that could have been directed instead toward his capture or elimination.
Bin Laden may even have been prompted to take the risk to make his recent video because of concerns that at least one Presidential hopeful might send troops to hunt him down. From August 1st:
“Let me make this clear,” Obama said in a speech prepared for delivery at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. “There are terrorists holed up in those mountains who murdered 3,000 Americans. They are plotting to strike again. It was a terrible mistake to fail to act when we had a chance to take out an al-Qaida leadership meeting in 2005. If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and President Musharraf won’t act, we will.”
Bin Laden has to survive in order to be declared mahdi.