The infrastructure of Islamic terror is made up of three groups: domestic infrastructure, financial infrastructure, and organizational infrastructure. The domestic infrastructure consists of the populations who are the source of Islamic terrorism, the financial infrastructure comes from the state sponsors and billionaire funders of terrorism, and the organizational infrastructure is represented by the terrorist groups like Al Qaeda that run training camps and plan operations.
Going after training camps and terror leaders made sense, but it was also the most difficult militarily, requiring the deployment of troops to distant countries to engage in guerrilla warfare in hostile environments and counterterrorism in enemy cities, and the easiest politically.
Of the three infrastructures, domestic, state, and organizational, Osama bin Laden had the smallest constituency. Political leaders, Republican or Democrat, knew that they could expect to pay the smallest political price for targeting him or other Al Qaeda terrorists on the ground.
Like the Europeans, our political elites argue that Islam has nothing to do with Islamic terrorism because politicians adopt the narratives that fit the political realities, not the military ones. The same process that led to the disastrous Afghanistan withdrawal resulted in a generation of mishandling the War on Terror by following the politically easy narratives of hunting terrorists while neglecting the backers and recruits who could continually regenerate their movements.
The conviction that Islamic terrorism was the product of a tiny minority of extremists huddling in caves and training camps was a deliberate misunderstanding of how terrorism actually worked.
Al Qaeda was a startup operation drawing on the support of powerful countries and wealthy donors above, and on recruits from massive populations of devout Muslims below. Islamic terrorist groups are just the community organizers of the Jihad, recruiting the latter for the causes of the former. Terrorism could no more be defeated by destroying Al Qaeda than the Left was beaten when ACORN was broken up. It’s easy enough for the big money to restore old organizations or form new ones that draw on the same conditions in the same populations.