Almost ten years ago

The Economist (Print edition September 3rd, 2011)

September 11th 2001: Ten years on. “America has made mistakes over the past decade, but it cannot afford to drop its guard against al-Qaeda.”

As America prepares to mark the tenth anniversary of the attacks on the twin towers and the Pentagon, the events of September 11th 2001 are still shaping history. The country’s fightback against al-Qaeda this past decade has been both relentless and, in many ways, successful. Even before its SEALs killed Osama bin Laden in May, America had eviscerated his organisation. Hundreds of its people have been captured and killed and many of its most dangerous plots thwarted. Its new second-in-command was killed just last month. Leon Panetta, a former director of the CIA and now defence secretary, gave a needless hostage to fortune when he said during a recent visit to Afghanistan that America was within reach of inflicting a “strategic defeat“ on al-Qaeda. The organisation still has a dangerous presence in Yemen, among other places. But after a decade of intelligence-gathering, counter-attacks and defensive measures, America does seem a good deal less vulnerable than it was on September 10th ten years ago.