It looks like al-Qaeda is still alive.  They are somewhat active in Iraq, Syria, and Mali.  Al-Qaeda is is a radical Sunni group; most of the 9/11 hijackers came from Sunni Saudi Arabia.  Now they are one of the groups terrorizing the current Shiite government of Iraq, and one of the groups undermining the Alawite/Shiite  government of Assad in Syria.  Meanwhile they are taking over the government of Mali in central Africa.  So, the US is opposing al-Qaeda in Iraq in order for us to support the Maliki government we have set up, although Maliki is very close to Iran, our declared enemy.  We are supporting the goal of al-Qaeda in Syria of overthrowing Assad, even if we so not support al-Qaeda explicitly.  The Syrian rebels deny that they work with al-Qaeda, which may be true, but only because al-Qaeda works in Syria without identifying itself overtly.  Finally, in Mali al-Qaeda makes no bones about openly taking over the government, leading to concerns that it may become a new base of operations for al-Qaeda, as Afghanistan was before 9/11, according to CNN’s Erin Burnett.

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