A leading terrorism expert, James Forest, recently addressed the question of al-Qaida's future in a commentary on the Praeger Security International database.
In the long run . . . al-Qaida will cease to be a threat. No terrorist organization of any kind has been around forever. Their attacks have already alienated an overwhelming majority of the Muslim world, which is al-Qaida’s primary audience. They’re constantly appealing for support, and trying to justify their actions to the Muslim world, but at the same time al-Qaida attacks over the last decade have killed 8 Muslims for every 1 non-Muslim. That kind of hypocrisy undermines their ability to sustain the movement over the long term.
It may take a generation before al-Qaida loses all hope of financial support, recruitment, and safe haven. When the day comes that some al-Qaida figurehead releases a video statement, and absolutely nobody in the world is the least bit concerned, that day will make the final strategic victory. Osama bin Laden's "vision of the future", a future which (according to him and his colleagues) requires the murder of countless innocent people around the world, will someday meet the fate of bin Laden himself. When al-Qaida's ideology fails to resonate with anyone, and nobody anywhere in the world is inspired or motivated to murder on behalf of al-Qaida, the strategic victory that begins with the death of bin Laden will be complete.