Anwar al-Awlaki
Anwar al-Awlaki, a U.S.-born cleric linked to al Qaeda's Yemen-based wing, gives a religious lecture in an unknown location in this still image taken from video released by on September 30, 2011. Reuters

The news that Anwar al-Awlaki has been killed in Yemen, courtesy of a U.S. drone attack, must surely round off a pretty poor week in an even worse year for the followers of Al-Qaeda.

Not only have the world's most famous Islamist terrorists had their leader assassinated and thrown into the sea, they have now lost a man said to be one of their top operatives in the Arabian peninsula and the alleged spiritual guide for 9/11 hijackers and for lesser criminals such as those responsible for the Fort Hood massacre and the "Underpants bomb plot."

As if this were not bad enough the organisation apparently resorted this week to castigating the Iranian President for being a 9/11 "Truther." As far as Al-Qaeda is concerned, it would seem, 9/11 was their finest hour -- and they don't want anyone taking the credit and giving it to George W. Bush.

Indeed, in the past the current head of Al-Qaeda and former deputy of Mr. Bin Laden, Mr. Ayman al-Zawahiri, has complained that rumours the U.S. government demolished the twin towers have been put out by Iran and Hezbollah in order to prevent people thinking that Sunni Muslims could ever strike a serious blow against the "Great Satan."

Despite these troubles al-Qaeda, or at the very least its allies and imitators, remain a blight on the planet and the day that organisation collapses or is destroyed cannot come soon enough.

Around the time of the 10<sup>th anniversary of the 11<sup>th September attacks the question was often asked, "Has the War on Terror made us safer?" Many answered that it had. Al-Qaeda is on the run, Saddam Hussein is no longer around to menace anyone with WMD (real or imagined) and terrorist attacks are few and far between.

This is of course true if you live in America or Britain, where life goes on as usual even if under more strained economic circumstances.

It is not true however to say that the War on Terror has made people safer if those people happen to live in, for example, Pakistan, Somalia or Afghanistan.

In these countries ordinary people face daily the risk of being shot, blown up or kidnapped by the principle villains in this war and also on occasion those who are supposed to be protecting them.

Of these countries Somalia is perhaps the most pitiful. Around half the country has been overrun by militants while a group of people, laughably called the "government" of Somalia, have de facto control over the capital alone, sometimes not even that. It no more runs Somalia than Barking & Dagenham Borough Council runs Britain.

Afghanistan is scarcely much better, with many of the locals apparently longing for the return of the Taliban, not out of love for stonings and burkas, but for the return of certainty and perhaps a bit less corruption.

Meanwhile Pakistan continues to be the two-faced nation that accepts Western aid, while covertly, it has been alleged, aiding and abetting the enemies of the West (and the enemies of India one might add).

Indeed one cannot help but think that the Abbottabad compound housing Mr bin Laden, aside from being a Pakistani construct, might just have been funded, albeit indirectly, by British or American aid money.

One also imagines that the ridiculous Pakistani President, Mr Asif "10 per cent" Zardari, even if he is unaware of the shady doings of the state of which he is the head, he probably does not mind so long as he can continue with the various schemes that earned him his nickname.

With friends like that, as they say, who needs enemies?

Sadly the War on Terror is unlikely to come to an end any time soon. It would require either the military defeat of an extremely nebulous, not to mention internationally active, enemy, or the appeasement and victory of that enemy.

What would it take to appease them? At the very least the return of "Muslim lands" to the rule of a restored Islamic Caliphate.

What are "Muslim lands" in their eyes? Well it seems Israel for a start. In the West there are some who seem to think this may be a price worth paying, but once Israel is handed over what next?

Might these self appointed champions of Islam (even though they seem to specialise in killing their fellow Muslims) not then want East Timor back before moving onto the Balkans and even Spain? All of which have been "Muslim lands" in the past.

Whatever the outcome it will be a long time before al-Qaeda can be consigned to the dustbin of history where they belong. For them and for their victims in the Islamic world, the War on Terror began well before 9/11 and continues today, even as people in Europe and America go about their daily affairs apparently unaware and untouched by events and ideas which still have the power to kill.