Bruce Riedel joined Newsweek to discuss the continuing threat from Al Qaeda, their successes and failures, and options for fighting the organization now and in the future.
NEWSWEEK: Why this book now?
Bruce Riedel: I started writing this book two years ago when I retired from CIA, because I think Al Qaeda is still the No. 1 threat to America; but there is still much that is misunderstood or not understood about the nature of that threat.
NEWSWEEK: After seven years?
Riedel: The Bush administration deliberately conflated the Al Qaeda threat with the problem posed by Saddam’s Iraq. Then [they] deepened the confusion with the claim that Al Qaeda hated the United States because of our freedoms and our way of life. As [Osama] bin Ladin has said, if that were the case, Al Qaeda would have attacked Sweden. So what is it that motivates AQ and the terrorists that belong to it? A sense that the Islamic world has been under systematic attack by the West for the last century, and that in order to defend itself from Western attack, the Islamic world has to take thewar to the United States and its allies in order to drag them into quagmires that will bleed them until they finally admit defeat and leave Islamic world.
I think it's unusual for the chief of staff to go on a trip, particularly on a trip this long. The chief of staff is usually more of a chief operating officer in the White House itself, and normally when your principal—whether it's the president himself or the head of Cabinet agency—goes abroad, you have his deputy and those folks staying behind to help manage operations in his absence.
Putting the context of [Trump's speech in Saudi Arabia] aside, the imagery is striking: Here is Donald Trump in the birthplace of Islam speaking to Muslim leaders from across the world, and the Koran is bring recited before he gives his address...That's at least somewhat positive in showing that he's going out of his way to address Muslim leaders in a way that's not overly antagonistic.