Al Qaeda: Evergreen Threat or Yesterday’s Fight?

Al-Qaeda has served as the principal enemy of the U.S. War on Terror launched after 9/11 for over twenty years. Osama bin Laden, the group’s infamous founder, was killed in Pakistan over a decade ago but al-Qaeda continued without him and now encompasses regional terrorist affiliates stretching from Africa to Asia. Al-Qaeda maintains close relations with the Taliban and maintains the expressed intent to target the West, particularly the United States. However, al-Qaeda central failed to conduct a single successful terrorist attack against the United State or Europe throughout the 2010s and its capabilities are degraded according to most official assessments.  Should the al-Qaeda threat still give leaders in Washington pause or does the group represent yesterday’s fight? How should policymakers approach al-Qaeda and prioritize it relative to other threats, including non-terrorist threats like climate change and global pandemics? Is there a way to mitigate al-Qaeda’s potential harm while shifting the national focus elsewhere? What is the legacy of the War on Terror vis-à-vis al-Qaeda? Join us for a panel and informal debate that explores these questions and more with Tricia Bacon, Assistant Professor at American University’s School of Public Affairs, Daniel Byman, professor at Georgetown University Walsh School of Foreign Service’s Security Studies Program, and Asfandyar Mir, Senior Expert at the United States Institute of Peace. Quincy Institute’s Adam Weinstein will moderate.


Tricia Bacon

Dr. Tricia Bacon is an Assistant Professor at American University’s School of Public Affairs where she directs the Policy Anti-Terrorism Hub and brings over a decade of experience at the State Department working for the Bureau of Intelligence and Research, Bureau of Counterterrorism, and the Bureau of Diplomatic Security. She is the author of Why Terrorist Organizations Form International Alliances published in 2018 and co-author of Terror in Transition: Leadership and Succession in Terrorist Organizations to be published in September 2022.

Daniel Byman

Dr. Daniel Byman is a professor in the Georgetown University Walsh School of Foreign Service's Security Studies Program, senior fellow in the Center for Middle East Policy at Brookings, and foreign policy editor of Lawfare. He served as a staff member with the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks on the United States, also known as the 9/11 Commission, and the Joint 9/11 Inquiry Staff of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees. He also worked for the RAND Corporation and in the U.S. government. He is the author of numerous books on terrorism, insurgency, and the Middle East. His newest book Spreading Hate: The Global Rise of White Supremacist Terrorism was published in March.

Asfandyar Mir

Dr. Asfandyar Mir is a Senior Expert in the Asia Center at the United States Institute of Peace. Previously he was a postdoctoral fellow at the Center for International Security and Cooperation at Stanford University. He holds a Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of Chicago. His research focuses on counterinsurgency, counterterrorism, drone warfare, political violence, and al-Qaida with a regional focus on South Asia. His academic research has appeared in International Security, International Studies Quarterly, and Security Studies. His commentary has been published in Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, H-Diplo, Lawfare, and Washington Post Monkey Cage.

Adam Weinstein (Moderator)

Adam Weinstein is a Research Fellow at the Quincy Institute. He previously worked for KPMG’s international trade practice. Adam’s current research focuses on security, trade, and rule of law in Afghanistan and Pakistan. He is a member of the American Pakistan Foundation’s Leadership Council, and previously worked as senior law and policy analyst at the National Iranian American Council where he focused on the securitization of U.S. immigration policy and its effect on immigrant communities. He received a JD from Temple University Beasley School of Law with a concentration in international law and transitional justice. Adam served as a U.S. Marine and deployed to Uruzgan Province Afghanistan in 2012.