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Al Qaeda threat? US embassy closings signal it has changed, not disappeared. (+video)

Despite US successes against Al Qaeda's 'center' in Pakistan, the terror organization's affiliates have found fertile territory for growth elsewhere in the Middle East, experts caution.

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The killing of Osama bin Laden in May 2011 and the absence of any Al Qaeda-hatched terrorist attacks on US soil since 9/11 may have lulled Americans into dismissing Al Qaeda as a bygone threat.

But the State Department’s extension Sunday of the closings of nearly a dozen US embassies and consulates across the Middle East – with the addition to the list of several diplomatic facilities in Africa – plus an increasingly specific focus on Al Qaeda’s affiliate in Yemen as the central source of the current threat, have many terrorism experts cautioning that claims of the terrorist organization’s retreat and even demise were premature.

A list of factors – from the post-Arab Spring chaos in the Middle East to the Obama administration’s successful but much-hated drone-strike wars in Pakistan and Yemen – have led to what these experts say is certainly a different but no less lethal Al Qaeda than the one that attacked the US on its soil 12 years ago.

“Those who have been claiming Al Qaeda has been defeated or is on its death bed either have bad analysis or have been dishonest with the American people,” says Bill Roggio, editor of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies’ Long War Journal, which tracks and analyzes what it calls the “global war on terror.”

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