Al Qaeda is made up of war veterans who fought against the Soviet Union’s occupation in Afghanistan in 1980s. Osama bin Laden serves as the figurehead and leader and Ayman al-Zawahiri is his deputy. Bin Laden has been working and establishing the International Islamic Front for Jihad against the Jews and Crusaders since 1998. It was established to manage activities through a shura (council) led by bin Laden. The Front’s members include the Al Qaeda, the Egyptian Islamic Jihad led by Zawahiri and other terrorism-related organizations in the world.
The Front, according to McCullough, Keats and Burgess (2002), called for Muslims to kill U. S. citizens and allies. However, the hierarchical nature of Al Qaeda changed when the U. S. overthrew the Taliban regime in Afghanistan after the September 11 attacks and bin Laden was forced to hide (Anti-Defamation League, 2007). The second generation of Al Qaeda commanders was the veterans of more recent revolutions. Although they were not tightly affiliated with the central command, the veterans helped to strengthen the organization’s dominance.
Moreover, it expanded by joining forces with other regional groups, such as the Al Qaeda in Iraq. Its leader, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, was in alliance with bin Laden (Anti-Defamation League, 2007). Aside from these war veterans, Al Qaeda can also exploit the talents of other Islamic militants. The organizational structure also includes cells, terrorist individuals and ad hoc organizations that may have less affiliation with the operatives of Al Qaeda but still execute attacks in Al Qaeda’s name. The Anti-Defamation League (2007) also expressed doubt about the extent of the control and direction of Al Qaeda.
In fact, some people think that Al Qaeda is not an organization but a movement, and bin Laden is just “a source of incitement. ” However, there are evidences that showed the unbroken control of Al Qaeda and the important roles of the network of operators in terrorist plots. The strength of the organizational structure can also be seen through the launching of a new terror campaign in the year 2002 with the aim of destabilizing Saudi Arabia. Al Qaeda was said to rely on its operatives and command.
The campaign began with an attack in Riyadh, followed by kidnappings and bombings. Robb (2004) listed the probable structure of Al Qaeda. The organization consists of a core controlling the strategic direction and financing. This core includes bin Laden and Zawahiri. They are safeguarded by a layer of network. Next comes the key financiers, managers and communications nodes. The financiers are responsible for the cash flows and different connections. The managers are in charged with the multiple cells that execute operations in a particular region.
Communications nodes are responsible for the organization’s Internet connectivity for the sharing of information. Down the ladder are Intelligence, Operations, Finance administration and Entrepreneurs. They run the sparse cells. The Entrepreneurs have much freedom. They have a choice of starting their portfolio and be independent. Then, foot soldiers and administrative support. They are usually chosen from the ad hoc members. The bottom ladder consists of the sympathetic supporters, including the family. Personal connections are very important as they can be a source of recruitment.