Winston Churchill described Russia as “a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.” Were he alive today, the famed British statesman, who also knew something about fighting extremist Muslim tribesmen along Pakistan’s lawless frontier,[1] would likely have characterized al-Qaeda in identical terms. In this respect, the perennial question for at least the past five years has been whether al-Qaeda is on the march or on the run?[2] No less frequently the answer has presented a mixed picture of a movement under enormous pressure while simultaneously demonstrating a remarkable resiliency and capacity to adapt and adjust to even its opponents’ most consequential countermeasures.

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