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Analysis: Al-Qaeda likely to survive
By BBC News Online's Richard Allen Greene
With the capture of the Tora Bora cave complex, the United States has achieved a major aim in its campaign against the al-Qaeda network in Afghanistan.
But security experts warn that the loss of al-Qaeda's base will not shut down the network accused of carrying out the 11 September attacks on New York and Washington.
For one thing, few al-Qaeda leaders have been apprehended or killed.
"The leadership is still at large. Only six or seven of the 30 senior leaders have been eliminated," says Dr Magnus Ranstorp, deputy director of the Centre for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence at St Andrews University in Scotland.
Al-Qaeda 'can survive without Bin Laden'
Analysts warn further that - even if the al-Qaeda leadership is somehow smashed - militant cells in the field can operate without leadership from the top.
"The fact that Bin Laden might be gone doesn't mean that al-Qaeda is finished," said a spokesman for the Community Security Trust, a Jewish anti-terrorist organisation in London.
"This goes to the heart of modern terrorism - it tends to be networked, with self-motivating groups," said the spokesman, who asked not to be named.
Analysts warn that only the leaders - not the operatives - of the network are or were in Afghanistan.
By flushing al-Qaeda out of Afghanistan, Washington has tackled two levels of the network, Dr Mustafa Alani said.
"The leadership and the military forces were there, but the terrorist network was not based in Afghanistan," said Dr Alani, an expert in Islamic extremism at Britain's Royal United Services Institute (RUSI).
Dr Ranstorp agreed.
"Cells exist in many countries around the world," he said.
Those cells can operate without instructions from a central commander, he said.
"Localised cells have the ability to launch operations without the leadership," he explained.
The Community Security Trust spokesman said the operatives who carried out the 11 September attacks, allegedly under the leadership of Mohammed Atta, were such a group.
"Mohammed Atta had operational control of 11 September - that wasn't controlled from the top," the spokesman said.
"There could be dozen more Attas. Al-Qaeda operatives are still on the loose in North America and Europe," he said.
-Loud and Proud Desi Opinions
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