Maintaining the Last Line of Defense: American Vigilance

With the killing of Osama bin Laden, a significant strategic and symbolic blow was dealt to al Qaeda and their network of affiliated terror organizations. The cache of intelligence obtained during the raid on bin Laden’s compound revealed the terror mastermind to be an active and integral player in the engineering of al Qaeda’s ongoing attempts to wreak havoc against the West.

The long term implications of having killed bin Laden are no doubt favorable to the ongoing efforts of the United States and our allies to contain and eradicate the jihadi threat. But what of the short term implications? Bin Laden’s death will most surely spark a dash among al Qaeda affiliates or individual acolytes determined to avenge his death, or prove their worth in ascending to the forefront of the global jihadi movement. 

Terror organizations such as the Taliban and al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), both of whom promulgate the twisted jihadi narrative that bin Laden avowed, have spoken of their continued resolve to attack the United States and her broader interests in the wake of bin Laden’s death.

In speaking of bin Laden, Abu al-Fida, a leading member of AQAP, stated, “He has always longed for martyrdom. However, this will not harm Al-Qaeda or its followers. It will mark a new chapter in our war against America and its allies.”

In the same vein, al Qaeda issued a statement urging retaliation, and leaving the United States with an ominous threat. “His blood will be turned into a curse that will haunt Americans and their allies.”

Now is the time for Americans to remain resolute in War on Terror. The domestic law enforcement community, along with the broader citizenry, must remain vigilant in observing and uncovering the seedlings of retaliatory attacks on the homeland. 

Areas of popular interest or sites within the nation’s identified critical infrastructure are particularly vulnerable as al Qaeda seeks nothing more than to demonstrate their continued relevance in the wake of their leader’s death. 

Combating terrorism is a zero sum game. When terrorists are successful, elements within the broader counterterrorism community have necessarily failed. As complacency often accompanies great success, it is necessary to resist those inclinations. In the aftermath of our nation’s historic triumph in the killing of bin Laden, the domestic counterterrorism community can ill afford a descent into complacency. Now more than ever, resolve must carry the day. 

This article appeared at The Heritage Foundation's Foundry Blog