Tony Karon in Time:
The purpose of the 9/11 attacks was not simply to kill Americans. Rather, the attacks formed part of bin Laden's strategy to launch a global Islamist revolution aimed at ending U.S. influence in Muslim countries, overthrowing regimes there allied with Washington and putting al-Qaeda at the head of a global Islamist insurgency whose objective was to restore the caliphate that had once ruled territory stretching from Moorish Spain through much of Asia.
Today, however, al-Qaeda is believed to comprise a couple of hundred desperate men, their core leaders hiding out in Pakistan's tribal wilds and under constant threat of attack by ever present U.S. drone aircraft, their place in Western nightmares and security determinations long since eclipsed by such longtime rivals as Iran, Hizballah, Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood. This year's official threat assessment by the U.S. Directorate of National Intelligence cited the global economic downturn as the primary security challenge facing the U.S. The report found “notable progress in Muslim public opinion turning against terrorist groups like al-Qaeda” and said no country was at risk of falling to al-Qaeda-inspired extremists. It argued that sustained pressure against the movement's surviving core in the Pakistani tribal wilds was degrading its organizational cohesion and diminishing the threat it poses.