They knew they would be dealing with an unusual enemy, a stateless force based on ideology and religion based hatred. This foe was weak, in the conventional military sense, but was armed with two powerful weapons. First, there was the suicide bomber, and terrorism in general. Against civilian populations, this was a very effective weapon. Against a professional and resourceful military foe, it was much less so. But the enemy had another weapon; the media and political opposition in their opponents homeland. The media is eager to report real or imagined disasters and mistakes. This is how the news business has stayed solvent since the mass media first appeared in the mid 19th century. Al Qaeda was run by people who were aware of this, and knew how to exploit it, both among friendly (Moslem) populations, and in nations they had declared their enemy. This they did by exploiting the proclivities of the political oppositions in the West.
Many in the West considered terrorism a police matter. But al Qaeda believed that if they could turn it into a military campaign, by getting Western nations to use military force, they would trigger an angry reaction among Moslems. Al Qaeda had long preached that the West was the enemy of Islam, and a Western invasion of Moslem nations would prove this. They also knew that many in the West would not approve of military action. These politicians, and their followers, would continue to insist on treating Islamic terrorism as a police matter. This would cause political turmoil in the West, and weaken counter-terror operations.
But al Qaeda still had a lot of Support in the West. The political opposition in the United States, true to form (as in all past American wars) found ways to criticize the Iraq operation without actually joining the enemy. The media in the West backed the opposition, as that’s where the headlines, and the profits, were.
Oppositional elements within the Counter Insurgent’s polity seek to de-legitimize the war effort, damage The People’s confidence in the government and military, and persuade The People that “The Loyal Opposition” has a better way. The Insurgent seeks to do the same. They are partners in regime change. This partnership cannot really be dealt with decisively by a democratic Counter Insurgent lest they appear to be “repressive” and “authoritarian” and “illegitimate.” Fear of embarrassment, ridicule and persuasive counter-argument by Counter Insurgent supportive citizens infuriated by “The Loyal Opposition’s” enthusiastic collaboration with the Insurgent are the only brakes on sedition.