Al-Qaeda is a militant Islamist organization that was founded by Osama bin Laden between 1988 and 1989. The organization can be traced to the soviet invasion in Afghanistan. Al-Qaeda is an international organization, which is an army without any state headed in the principles of Sunni Islam. The organization calls for global jihads against western countries that oppose its operations and allies to Israel, their primary enemy. The organization has terrorized the whole world and continues to pose a threat that cannot be ignored. Understanding of its operations and goals is crucial for designing strategies that can end completely.
Origin of Al-Qaeda
The origin of Al-Qaeda comes from the one decade long invasion of the Soviet Union between 1979 and 1989. When the invasion began in 1979, Afghanistan needed all the army it could have as well as support in order to fight against the Soviet Union. Afghan Islamic extremists found a purpose for their cause. Being comprised of young Muslims, many were ready to volunteer in what was called a holy war, the Jihad. Osama bin Laden was one of the young volunteers at an age of 23. Osama was from a rich family in Saudi Arabia but was taken into the teachings of Abdullah Azzam. After participating in several battles during the invasion, his fame as a generous provider of funds to the fighting troops earned him a place as a leader.
However, his interests went beyond Afghanistan to other nations where he started building a network of international organizations. He went ahead to form some financial support networks that were known as the “Golden Chain” that was comprised of other financiers from Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf. Through the funds, together with Azzam he was able to create a services bureau served with the responsibility of recruiting young men into Afghanistan for training. With more funds from United States and Saudi Arabia as secret assistance, the rebels were gaining more grounds and finally worn the war. However, the organization did not dissolve, but a base was established, called the Al-Qaeda, headquarter for future jihad. While Azzam considered fighting in Afghanistan until an Islamism government was achieved, Osama had multinational plans. After Azzam was killed in 1989, Osama assumed the leadership role, which saw the organization engage in international terrorism over the next two decades before he was killed.
Ideology of Al-Qaeda
Al-Qaeda is based on a strong ideology that has the power to attract and incite many Islamic extremist groups. The main ideology of the multinational terrorist group asserted by their late leader Osama states that the western countries and their allies pose a threat to Islamic religion. The ideology claims that one cannot have loyalty to both religion and democracy at the same time. Therefore, it strongly advocates for violence against the western countries as their ideal response. The ideology is based on their Islamic religion interpretation, which they believe places an obligation on all believers to fight for their religion against those who pose a threat to it. However, majority of Muslims including Islamic scholars do not believe in this ideology and assert it is a misinterpretation with a malicious aim of achieving personal interests in the name of the religion.
Further, the Al-Qaeda ideology suggests that the current poverty and suffering within Muslim countries is caused by an alliance of corrupt Muslim leaders, Zionists and crusaders. Zionists and crusaders particularly refer to Israel and United States. The ideology is against western influence to the Muslim world and regards their ideas as non-Islamic. The ideology strongly opposes ideas of democracy. It claims that democracy is a rival of Islamic religion and opposes any practices that support or promote democracy such as elections of political leaders.
Goals and objectives
Although not a formal organization, just like any other, it has its goals and objectives it wishes to achieve. The main goal of Al-Qaeda is driving the western influence from all the Muslim countries. The other goal is destroying Israel and its allies such as the United States, Canada, Britain and other countries fighting against the terrorism. The organization believes that it has a duty and all other Muslims as well in raging war to these countries. For the time it has been in existence, it has only sought to destroy the western countries. The goals and objectives reflect the ambitions of Osama bin Laden, which are keeping the goals of the radical Islamic groups. These groups such as the Muslim brotherhood before him had the same goals. To achieve these goals, Al-Qaeda has several objectives.
Removing the current leadership in the Muslim countries, which the organization believes has become too secular out of the western influence, where they have allowed corruption and western practices. The other objective is removing the American military as well as the economic influence from Middle East. It also aims at continued weakening of Israel as well as its allies. Its other main objective is spreading Islam, which they believe is the only true religion to the whole world whether willingly or not willingly for the occupants.
Since its formation after the soviet invasion in Afghanistan, the leader has been Osama bin Laden until he was killed by the United States Special Forces. Other leaders of the organization that have worked under Osama include Ayman al-Zawahiri who was an eye surgeon. He founded the Egyptian militant group jihad. In 2011 after Osama’s death he was named the leader of Al-Qaeda. Other leaders are such as Al-Yazid, Umar, Laith Al-Libi and others. In order to understand the leadership of the terrorist organization, it is necessary to looks at its structural organization.
However, many debates have revolved around its structural organization where one hand asserts that it is highly structured organization with the leader having direct control over the organization. Another extreme asserts that the organization no longer exists and that people just use it as a brand name for linking other terrorist groups. Both views are not totally correct. However, there are few remaining leaders of pre 9/11. These leaders have remained active in planning of attacks although it has been highly disrupted by the anti-terrorism campaign. The organization is left with linked networks that share the ideology. Contact of the linked networks with the main leaders happens occasionally. It also has inspired networks and cells that consist of groups sharing the ideology. Currently, the organization has been highly disrupted and there is no longer a good base for their training. Before this disruption, the organization was highly structured with leadership centralized and coming from top, to the lower ranks with junior leaders served with responsibilities of planning attacks.
For quite a long time Al-Qaeda has terrorized the whole world due to its ability as well as facilities it had. The organization was funded by people from Saudi Arabia and other western countries such as United States during the soviet invasion in Afghanistan. After the war was over with Afghanistan winning, the groups had a lot of power as well as facilities and a base for their training. This gave them a good start in their cause. After the war and after they started attacking the western countries as well as their ideologies, the funding mainly came from individuals who shared the same ideologies.
For some time it was believed that Osama funded that organization with his own fortune but this was not true since other donors helped in funding its operations. Some of the donors were individuals, non-profit organizations imams from mosques and others. The money was distributed immediately since no evidence of a bank or any kind of deposits where the organization drew money from. However, after 9/11 attack in American soils would see this change since the organization was disrupted with its major sources of funds being frozen. Before the 9/11 attack, the organization used its funds for training and maintaining its military base and facilities. Although its sources of funds have gone down, so has its expenditure since it no longer supports the Taliban or any other army like before the 9/11 attack. Therefore, it is still capable of
Conducting attacks since it still gets some funding from individuals as well as organizations secretly.
Capabilities: Physical bases, Training programs and communication
Immediately after its formation, the organization was quite capable of even overthrowing a government considering it helped Taliban rise to power. The organization had a strong military base, hence the name Al-Qaeda. This is where much of the operations such as planning and training programs took place. This established a strong capability for the organization to be in a position to carry out its operations. However, this was soon to end after the 9/11 where its operations were disrupted. Majority of its training bases as well as its fund sources were destroyed, which reduces its capabilities significantly.
Communication before the 9/11 was good and went wide enough, solidifying it as an organization before majority of the leaders was captured and others killed. This also reduced its communication. It used sophisticated communication methods including internet in recent developments. Other communication strategies included face to face, telephone, and couriers as well as through proclamation of attacks through the mass media. The best method for the organization is through face to face, which poses less risks of being caught. Such communication occurs at the homes of one of the leaders where meetings can take place. Although the organization maybe disrupted, it still remains a threat to international security considering it is capable of carrying out attacks. Some of its strengths come from the support of many extremists that provides willing volunteers for their operations. Its ideology is the main strength it has since it attracts so many people to join them in their operations.
Current threat and possibility of attacks
Although Al-Qaeda is currently not in a position to operate its operations with ease, there is a possibility it can conduct attacks. Considering the 9/11 attack where nobody expected an attack on American soil, the possibility of attacks is still at large. In the 9/11 attack, the terrorists conducted a highly organized attack using four hijacked air planes. Although Al-Qaeda is not known to use lethal weapons, it has used missiles and other explosives in its operations. However, meaning they have not used lethal weapons does not mean it does not have them. After the 9/11 attacks, the United States intelligence learnt that Al-Qaeda had advanced in terms of biological weapons, which it called “agent X”. Therefore, it is likely that it could use them. Additionally, with the rising nuclear activities in many countries, a chance or loophole could exist to allow Al-Qaeda to have access to weapons of mass destruction. Al-Qaeda uses several processes of attacks, with suicide bombing being the most popular.
Al-Qaeda has for a long time posed a huge threat to international security and continues to pose a substantial level of threat. It is surprising that the origin of Al-Qaeda is the soviet invasion with United States and other western countries playing a role. It is clear that the organization was strong before the 9/11 attack after when a campaign against terrorism was launched. Currently, the threat is not quite much but still remains substantial. This means that the antiterrorism war is achieving its goals. However, more needs to be done considering Al-Qaeda was highly organized and still exists.
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