There's been a growing use of Special Forces to try to rescue American hostages from Islamist militants. Given the difficulties, the track record is unavoidably mixed.
Core Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri is looking over his shoulder, not for US Seals, but at the more brutal and successful self-styled Islamic State.
Despite official denials, European nations list hostage ransoms as 'development assistance.' In 2003 a hostage cost $200,000; today the figure reaches $10 million: New York Times investigation.
It's worth listening to those who've devoted their lives to studying war and the region.
The city's takeover by Al Qaeda insurgents is a devastating military setback for the Maliki government – and a measure of the political failure of post-Saddam Iraq.
Turkey was an early supporter of Syria's rebellion, keeping its border open for refugees and aid, but has became wary of jihadi groups operating on its turf.
The US promised to support Iraq's fight to oust Al Qaeda fighters from occupied cities in Anbar Province – but no boots on the ground. Iran has also offered support.
Nasiruddin Haqqani served as the chief fundraiser for the Haqqani network, which has ties to the Taliban and Al Qaeda.
The US has hit Yemen with seven drone strikes in a little more than a week.
Al Qaeda threat: Despite the seriousness of the Al Qaeda threat, the apparent targeting of US interests abroad – rather than in the US proper – suggests the group's aspirations have contracted since 9/11.
President Obama recently announced that 100 US troops have been deployed to the poor West African country to run a new surveillance drone base. Is this the beginning of a wider intervention against Al Qaeda allies in the region?