The 16 people murdered by Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) in a Morocco explosion last week, for instance, didn’t die at bin Laden’s hands or on his orders. Whether AQIM flourishes or fails has almost nothing to do with bin Laden.
Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), the Yemen-based group that claimed responsibility for sending the failed underwear bomber to the US, is also autonomous and more internationally engaged than the old core of Al Qaeda in Pakistan.
Bin Laden’s death comes at a time when the irrelevance of his worldview has never been clearer.
The Saudi-born militant had convinced himself that the victory of the mujahideen against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan had led to the collapse of that empire and that terrorist attacks against the United States and its allies would likewise lead to the crumbling of what he saw as a godless and corrupt order.
That desire was at the heart of his and Zawahiri’s creation in 1998 of the Global Front for Jihad against Crusaders and Jews, as Al Qaeda was originally known. The house of Saud in his homeland, he believed, was utterly reliant on the US for its power, and in his mind the road to Mecca would be paved with US bodies.