It’s definitely good news that there may be a drop in the number of Western foreign fighters traveling to the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), but it should come as no surprise. First and foremost, military actions – including the use of drones – have made the environment less hospitable for those traveling to it. These military activities have had significant operational effects on al Qaeda (and associated entities) by disrupting pipelines to the region, activities of key facilitators, and training camps. The challenge now is to continue, consolidate, and solidify these gains.
Recent U.S. and allied military successes undoubtedly serve also as a strong deterrent. Think of it as suppressive fire: The more time al Qaeda and its ilk spend looking over their shoulders, the less time they have to train, plot, and execute terrorist attacks. And with al Qaeda senior leaders on their back heels, now is the time to exploit this unique window of counterterrorism opportunity by maintaining, if not accelerating, the operational tempo.
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