"Al Qaeda Central was and is capable of carrying out deadly actions, and at some point, it's safe to say, it will again try to attack the United States. But the fact that bin Laden hasn't carried out an attack in nearly five years—and he obviously would love to—suggests that an attack on U.S. soil is something that he can’t easily accomplish. Why is that?"i dispute the certainty 'that OBL necessarily wants to, but can't accomplish an attack in the US' (and similarly, i don't buy the logic that OBL needs to surpass 911 in the next attack)
"Indeed, as Hirsh argues, Al Qaeda isn't the all-powerful group that it is often portrayed to be; its strength and reach have been exaggerated, partly because of the extraordinary impact of the 9/11 attacks, and partly because the Bush Administration has found it politically useful to hype the group's capabilities.
Two years ago, I interviewed Jack Cloonan, a 25-year veteran of the FBI who, between 1996 and 2002, served on a joint CIA–FBI task force that tracked bin Laden. “How many members of Al Qaeda do you think there are?” he asked me. Cloonan laughed when I pegged its membership at several thousand. The real numbers, he said, “are miniscule.”
Documents discovered by the joint task force, Cloonan said, showed that Al Qaeda had 72 members when it was founded in 1989. Twelve years later, the task force got its hands on an updated membership list... It showed that bin Laden had a grand total of precisely 198 sworn loyalists."