In 1897, Mark Twain famously advised the New York Journal that its report of his death was an exaggeration. Recent years have seen a number of reports of al-Qaida's death. These too have been exaggerations but, unfortunately, dangerous rather than witty ones.
Claims of al-Qaida's demise began in July 2011 when then-Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said the defeat of al-Qaida is "within reach." In a May 2013 speech at the National Defense University in Washington, President Barack Obama said, "The core of al-Qaida in Afghanistan and Pakistan is on the path to defeat." In an August address at Camp Pendleton Marine Base, Obama repeated this, but reminded his audience that the threat had shifted to al-Qaida "affiliates and like-minded extremists."
To some extent this is understandable wishful thinking. Americans as well as citizens of other nations badly want an end to their long struggle with al-Qaida and its barbaric partners. But just when Americans allow themselves a bit of optimism, they are pummeled by something like the September 2012 attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya; a reported plot to attack multiple U.S. embassies; or the assault on the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya, by al-Shabab, a Somali affiliate of al-Qaida.