The attempted Christmas attack also put Al Qaeda’s resourcefulness on full display. In its third decade, under severe pressure, it has evolved into a jihadi version of an Internet-enabled direct-marketing corporation structured like Mary Kay, but with martyrdom in place of pink Cadillacs. Al Qaeda shifts shapes and seizes opportunities, characteristics that argue for its longevity. It will be able to wreak havoc periodically for as long as it can recruit suicide bombers and well-educated talent, as it has done consistently.--Steve Coll.
Yet Al Qaeda is also weakening. Osama bin Laden sought to lead the vanguard of a spreading revolution. Instead, he and his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, are hunkered down, presumably along the Afghan-Pakistani border, surrounded by only about two hundred hard-core followers. Their adherents in Yemen and Africa number no more than a few thousand. Al Qaeda in Iraq is a tiny fragment of its former self. Bin Laden’s relations with the Taliban seem brittle. Unlike Hezbollah, Al Qaeda provides no social services and thus has built no political movement. Unlike Hamas, its bloody nihilism has attracted no states that are willing to defend its legitimacy. In a world of at least one and a half billion Muslims, this does not a revolution, or even a vanguard, make.
Relating to Coll's observations on hysteria in the U.S, Mark Mardell has suggested that sometimes American media do Al Qaeda's job for it.