It was the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan that radicalized Muslims and gave birth to modern jihad. (Yet another thing to thank the Soviets for!)
Two concepts are central to the Islamist extremists’ worldview: Jihad – that the extremists take to mean holy war against disbelievers, and Takfir – the act of pronouncing other Muslims to be disbelievers and therefore making them into valid targets of jihad.
This ideology was turned into a global phenomenon through the war against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. Islamists were oppressed in numerous Muslim states; marginalizing them from the political process and giving them no way to express their ideology. Denied the ability to act in their own states, many travelled to Afghanistan to take part in the jihad against the Soviets. Many Arab and Muslim states actively supported the jihad financially and politically, both to bolster their own Islamic credentials at home and as a way of allowing devout young men to act on their beliefs in a manner that did not threaten the security of their own states.
When the Soviet Union was defeated, numerous well trained and radicalised fighters, linked by their ideology, dispersed around the world forming the basis of the loosely connected ‘network of networks’ of terrorists we see today. – FIIA Report (PDF)
The operations against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan created experienced jihad veterans who recruited others and provided support for newcomers to jihad. Most of those involved in jihad could go away from the 'battlefield' and return home without much fear of repercussion from their home governments let alone from the Soviets. Some of these groups even received funding from the US, as assistance in kicking the Soviets out of Afghanistan. Providing them with Stinger missiles gave them serious teeth and a way of bring down their armored helicopters, causing real problems for the invaders, which eventually led to their pullout of the country.
However, going on Jihad is a completely different commitment today than it was in the early 80’s. First there is a new enemy, the West in general, the United States specifically. The US was seen as an easy (soft) target when compared to the Ruthless Soviets. I am not exactly sure why, especially since the US managed to beat the Soviets, the Nazis and the Japanese in addition to putting up a bloody fight in Korea and Vietnam. Nonetheless, the US was seen as weak. The US’s pullout of Somalia contributed to this myth as did a lack or proper response to a number of terrorist attacks; the ’93 WTC bombing, the USS COLE bombing, and the African Embassy bombings.
One thing about the US is that the chances are good that you can blindside us once, but we do learn quickly. On September 11 the passengers of the first hijacked flights did not fight back against their captors as the common belief was that they would be taken as hostages and traded for something and that the safe way out of the situation was to cooperate with the terrorist's instructions. Once it was clear what they planned to do with the planes, the passengers of Flight 93 attempted to regain control of the plane despite personal risk because they knew that doing nothing was no longer an option. The plan (mostly) worked that one day but it will never work again. We are all that much smarter now.
In addition to the 19 hijackers, the 9/11 attacks cost the terrorists their safe haven and training camps in Afghanistan, lost their safe haven in most of Pakistan (Many of the high al-qaeda leaders have been captured there), Lost any assistance they had with Iraq, as well as lost the financial assistance of many 'non-profits' that were collecting money for their cause. In addition, once a person is know to take part in terrorist activities, they become wanted men, not only by the US, but also by most every country on the planet, including their own. Ever wonder why the wanted pictures of these terrorists look like passport pictures? Because they are obtained from their home countries. Travel is limited mostly overland making movement much more difficult.
The human cost to their operations today are higher than ever. You cannot reuse a suicide bomber. Suicide bombers are trained for one ‘final’ attack. Luckily for them, a suicide bomber does not require much training and in some cases even their knowledge that they are a suicide bomber. At least one who lived to tell about it, said that he was ordered to move a truck and while driving it the truck just happened to explode. That is not exactly the best way to win against the US. Worse is that all of the experienced people within al-qaeda are being eliminated or captured creating a knowledge gap for those who remain to carry on the fight.
Manhunts in Asia, Africa and Europe have pushed most of the rest deep underground — finding refuge in wartorn Somalia or the jungles of the southern Philippines. While there are still recruits ready to take up al-Qaida's call to arms, analysts say the newcomers have fewer connections than the men they are replacing, less training and sparser resources. - Yahoo News
Terrorists cannot expect any celebration other than the one given by their relatives on the news of their death. A picture on a poster is hardly something worth fighting for, especially since their name will be forgotten almost immediately. That is provided that they don't end up rotting in Gitmo instead.
I have been thinking about this for a while and Day by Day Cartoon's (Homepage) for today forced me into getting this out:
Its funny because its so true.
The feared 'next generation' of Jihadis dead or on the run - Secular Blasphemy
Many in terrorists' 'next generation' dead - Yahoo News
The Finnish Institute of International Affairs
– International Terrorism and Finland (PDF)
Islam was not Hijacked - FFI - 21 January 2006
Signs that Allah (God) is not on Your Side - FFI - 28 July 2005