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Nine years after the attacks of 9/11, how safe is America?

A new report says Al Qaeda and its allies still have the capacity to kill many Americans, and that the threat today is more complex and more diverse than at any time since the attacks of 9/11.

By Staff Writer / September 11, 2010

A US soldier shields his eyes from dust as a Blackhawk helicopter UH-60 lands at the US base in Arghandab Valley in August. A new report says Al Qaeda and its allies have the capacity to kill many Americans in a single attack, and that the threat today is more complex than at any time since the attacks of 9/11.

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In the nine years since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, America has been fighting two deadly wars aimed at destroying Al Qaeda. The cost has been very high, especially for the US military personnel and their families who have endured multiple combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan

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Gains have been made, but it’s been a long military and political slog. Meanwhile, the US (and other countries) have experienced lower-level attacks inspired or directed by Al Qaeda, and more such attacks and plots have been disrupted.

So is the US safer as a result of these efforts? According to a sobering new report by the heads of the former 9/11 Commission and other national security experts, it’s a mixed picture.

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Although it would like to do so, Al Qaeda does not have the capability of launching an attack on the scale of 9/11, when hijacked airliners flown by suicidal Islamist terrorists slammed into the twin towers of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, killing thousands.

But Al Qaeda still could carry out attacks against symbolic American targets such as the New York subway system or a passenger jet – two plots that were thwarted last year and could have killed hundreds of people. And, according to the report, “This level of threat is likely to persist for years to come.”

Al Qaeda and its allies also have established the beginnings of a terrorist recruitment, radicalization, and operational infrastructure in the US, according to “Assessing the Terrorist Threat” by the Bipartisan Policy Center. (The center is a nonprofit organization established in 2007 by former Senate Majority Leaders Howard Baker, Tom Daschle, Bob Dole and George Mitchell – two Republicans and two Democrats.)

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