Marc Sageman, Author of Understanding Terror Networks and Leaderless Jihad, Comments on the Death of Osama bin Laden

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Sageman predicts that, with bin Laden's death, the romance that attracted young jihadists will fade.

“Marc Sageman is deservedly one of the best-known academics working on terrorism”
–Alan Judd, The Spectator

“I believe that the death of bin Laden will have four general effects. Firstly, it will further degrade Al Qaeda Central, as Ayman al-Zawahiri, the second in command, is a very divisive and polarizing character, and Al Qaeda terrorists may refuse to follow his lead. They have sworn bayat (allegiance) personally to bin Laden and not to Zawahiri. Secondly, the end of the jihad-inspiring story of bin Laden will diminish the romantic appeal for jihad for many young wannabes. Global neo-jihadi terrorism will slowly fade away and degrade more and more to a leaderless Jihad. Since in the United States we have a tendency to personalize threats (Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Saddam, Gaddafi), we see the threat as diminishing as the face of the threat disappears. The death of bin Laden will recalibrate people’s perception of the threat to a more realistic level. After all, al Qaeda has had only one successful operation against the West in the past ten years since 9/11. Finally, this gives the United States the perfect excuse to start withdrawing from Afghanistan since the death of bin Laden means that we have won the war against the perpetrators of 9/11. We now have eliminated both the chief of the 9/11 plot and the last standing perpetrator of the plot.”

Marc Sageman, an independent counter-terrorism consultant, is a former CIA analyst and author of the influential books Understanding Terror Networks and Leaderless Jihad, which argues that Al Qaeda is no longer the central organizing force that aids or authorizes terrorist attacks or recruits terrorists. Rather, it is now more a source of inspiration for terrorist acts carried out by independent local groups that have branded themselves with the Al Qaeda name.

Praise for Leaderless Jihad:
“Dr. Sageman's incisive observations based on carefully examined evidence, astute insights and scholarship make Leaderless Jihad the gold standard in al Qaeda studies." --Joshua Sinai, Washington Times

“It might be comforting to think that angry young Islamists are crazed psychopaths or sex-starved adolescents who have been brainwashed in malign madrassas. Mr. Sageman… explodes … these myths … in an unsettling account of how al-Qaeda has evolved from the organisation headed by Osama bin Laden into an amorphous movement—a “leaderless jihad”.”
–The Economist

Praise for Understanding Terror Networks:
"The most sophisticated analysis of global jihadis yet published. . . . His conclusions have demolished much of the conventional wisdom about who joins jihadi groups."—William Dalrymple, New York Review of Books

"The best source of information about modern Islamic terrorists." —Freeman Dyson, New York Review of Books

Marc Sageman in the news:

“A Not Very Private Feud over Terrorism” The New York Times June 8, 2008

“Does Obama Still Call the Shots?” Foreign Affairs July/August 2008

“How jihad went freelance” The Economist

“Understanding Terror Networks” C-Span Book TV

Middle East Policy Council on C-Span

Saunders Robinson


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