Washington's successful efforts to kill top al-Qaida leaders, combined with the emergence of strong pro-democracy movements in the Muslim world, have led many to conclude that al-Qaida is fizzling out. But while the conventional wisdom increasingly portrays the group as becoming gradually but steadily a spent and irrelevant force, there is evidence that this optimistic conclusion is grossly premature. Judging by the mayhem and death toll the group is inflicting in several countries -- including hundreds killed by its militants in just the past few days -- al-Qaida appears to be catching a second wind.
The dramatic Navy Seal operation that eliminated al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden in May 2011 came at a time of transformative political change in the Middle East. Many argued that the Arab uprisings represented a major defeat for al-Qaida's radical ideology because they offered Arabs an alternative to violent jihad in the quest for freedom. This line of reasoning contributed to the belief that al-Qaida, the perpetrator of the Sept. 11 attacks, was on the verge of falling into history's dustbin, ready to join other defeated, ideologically driven enemies of the West.
And yet, al-Qaida refuses to die. That much became violently clear last weekend, when al-Qaida-affiliated operatives carried out attacks in at least three different countries thousands of miles apart, showing it is still capable of carrying out major operations of unspeakable brutality.