"Al Qaeda Is Searching for a Nuclear Capability."
Prove it. Al Qaeda may have had some interest in atomic weapons and other weapons of mass destruction (WMD). For instance, a man who defected from al Qaeda after he was caught stealing $110,000 from the organization -- "a lovable rogue," "fixated on money," who "likes to please," as one FBI debriefer described Jamal al-Fadl -- has testified that members tried to purchase uranium in the mid-1990s, though they were scammed and purchased bogus material. There are also reports that bin Laden had "academic" discussions about WMD in 2001 with Pakistani nuclear scientists who did not actually know how to build a bomb.
But the Afghanistan invasion seems to have cut any schemes off at the knees. As analyst Anne Stenersen notes, evidence from an al Qaeda computer left behind in Afghanistan when the group beat a hasty retreat indicates that only some $2,000 to $4,000 was earmarked for WMD research, and that was mainly for very crude work on chemical weapons. For comparison, she points out that the Japanese millennial terrorist group, Aum Shinrikyo, appears to have invested $30 million in its sarin gas manufacturing program. Milton Leitenberg of the Center for International and Security Studies at the University of Maryland-College Park quotes Ayman al-Zawahiri as saying that the project was "wasted time and effort."
Even former International Atomic Energy Agency inspector David Albright, who is more impressed with the evidence found in Afghanistan, concludes that any al Qaeda atomic efforts were "seriously disrupted" -- indeed, "nipped in the bud" -- by the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan and that after the invasion the "chance of al Qaeda detonating a nuclear explosive appears on reflection to be low."