The raid on Bin Laden's lair in Abbotabad did more than kill Al-Qaeda's leader. In what might be one of the greatest intelligence coups of all time, the SEALs also seized dozens of thumb drives, at least five hard drives from computers, and a great deal of printed documentation. Preliminary examinations of the materials that were seized suggest that they contain a wealth of information about Al-Qaeda and bin Laden that will give US analysts new insights into the group and its leader. Beyond the urgent matter of uncovering active plots against the United States and other nations, the treasure trove of new documents might be able to answer a set of vital strategic questions currently dividing the professional community that studies Al-Qaeda. For the past ten years, scholars and experts both inside and outside government have struggled to understand what Al-Qaeda is, how big the group is, its strategies and objectives. There is also the problem of how much command and control authority bin Laden had over Al-Qaeda members around the globe. All these issues have important implications for United States policies in the continuing war on terror and, depending on the answers that the thumb drives and computers provide, could lead to a far-reaching reconsideration of our own strategies and tactics. It would be far too simplistic to suggest that there are only two possible positions on these issues, but two views have tended to dominate discussion amongst experts. The Majority Position The vast majority of experts on Al-Qaeda and bin Laden have held a series of analytical positions and assumptions that profoundly influence their reading of the threat posed by the group. Perhaps the best proponent of this position is Marc Sageman, who has written several books on the topic, including Leaderless Jihad and Understanding Terror Networks. On Al-Qaeda itself, the majority position holds that the group is fundamentally an inspiration for militant activity. It is small in size (perhaps 350-400 members), has little direct control over the so-called affiliates (such as Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula), and uses ideology and rhetoric to inspire attacks by individuals. The main purpose and goal of the group is to attack the United States, for which it is using its safe haven in Afghanistan to train a few cells. In general, the majority position has seen Al-Qaeda as a tenuous organisation held together by personal loyalties; a group that does not seem to have a coherent strategy beyond striking the US; and one that is more involved in Pakistan than it is in Afghanistan. If this position is correct then the implications are profound: Al-Qaeda is an absolute failure, since it has been unable to carry out any successful attacks on the US (its main objective), it has been unable to attract the Muslim community to its cause, and its size and influence have shrunk since 9/11, primarily due to US strikes and attrition. This position also forces the United States to reconsider its commitment to a war in Afghanistan, since it implies that the problem in that country is not Al-Qaeda, but rather the Taliban, and that it does not make sense to continue to fight a war against a group of less than 500 people. The majority position also has views of bin Laden that are significant for US policy, arguing that he was an inspirational figurehead rather than a commander in chief. His speeches and rhetoric were used to convince others to carry out attacks for him and in Al-Qaeda's name, but he was incapable (and perhaps did not even desire) to exercise any meaningful command and control over people or groups other than his own. Instead he aspired to convince individuals to carry out multiple attacks on the US and American allies around the world. His tenuous ties with other groups, including the Taliban led by Mullah Umar, were based on his personality alone, and he claimed authorities over local organisations like Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, the Shabaab in Somalia, and elsewhere that he did not have. Once again, the implications of this view are significant: bin Laden might be all that is holding Al-Qaeda together, making an appeal to the rest of the Muslim world to carry out attacks against the US, or keeping other groups (including the Taliban) working with Al-Qaeda. At the same time, this position suggests that local militant groups have their own reasons for declaring war on their countries and their own grievances or grounds for hatred that will motivate them to fight on. The Minority Position There is, however, another view - one held by a small minority of analysts and experts-that is quite different and that implies therefore very different policies for the US to follow. The best-known proponent of this view is Bruce Hoffman, as expressed in such articles as "The Myth of Grass-Roots Terrorism," "American Jihad," and many others. This is also the position that I take, and the description that follows contains my thought as much as that of Hoffman and other experts. The minority position argues that Al-Qaeda is primarily an organisation, one that is cohesive, disciplined, and has a sophisticated hierarchy of committees and commanders that run it. It is much larger in size than the majority opinion holds - perhaps thousands of members - and controls branches in Iraq, Yemen, Somalia, and North Africa, and is working on creating affiliates elsewhere. The group has not been permanently damaged by strikes carried out by the US, but has managed to regenerate itself numerous times despite serious losses. Al-Qaeda has a coherent strategy that has evolved over time, beginning with a plan to attack the US in order to undermine our support for the "tyrants" of the Muslim world and ending with the creation of a physical worldwide Islamic state. Striking the US is therefore not the main purpose or objective of the group, as the majority position contends; this is merely the means to much greater ends. The ideology and rhetoric of leaders was used not only to inspire, but also to radicalise groups and individuals in order to create an integrated global jihad aimed at common strategic objectives. Those who support this position see Al-Qaeda as committed to both Afghanistan and Pakistan equally, since the organisation considers this area of the world a single whole. The implications of this view differ profoundly from those of the majority opinion. Al-Qaeda is not a failure because it has been unable to strike the US since 9/11, rather it is winning its war in some places (Somalia, Yemen, North Africa, Pakistan), while losing in others (Algeria, Turkey, Indonesia). Al-Qaeda is in fact in the process of taking over sections of the Muslim-majority world, in some cases through fighting, but in others through default in remote areas only nominally held by weak central governments. Saving Pakistan from insurgency or civil war is vital, as the majority argues, but the war in Afghanistan is also an integral part of defeating Al-Qaeda. Lastly, the revolutions in the Middle East might prove to be Al-Qaeda's undoing as the majority opinion holds, but the organisation might also be in a position to subvert and co-opt the uprisings in places like Egypt. The minority position on bin Laden diverges quite significantly from the majority view as well. Bin Laden's primary function within the group was as the "Emir of Jihad," his official title within Al-Qaeda, and he thus had the authorities of Commander-in-Chief in an organisation with global reach. He had-or at least attempted to have-far greater command and control of Al-Qaeda and its operations both in Afghanistan/Pakistan and around the world than the majority position holds, although before his capture experts who supported the minority view had difficulty explaining how he could actually do so from isolated areas of Northern Pakistan or Southern Afghanistan. Bin Laden used his personality to win over groups and individuals to his side, but his appeal and ties with other terrorists was based as well on common ideological principles, strategies, and objectives. These views of Bin Laden suggest that he was more than the inspirational and aspirational figure of the majority model, but was rather the operational commander for a cohesive fighting group that was developing a global reach. At the same time, they imply that Al-Qaeda is more than bin Laden: it is an organisation with an ideology, strategies, and objectives that are far greater than just one person. Foreign Policy