Al-Qaeda means “the base. ” The Anti-Defamation League (2007) reported that this organization is “a complex international Islamic terrorist network” operating with other affiliations and covert cells and communicating with its operational leaders, Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri. It is considered to be the most dangerous and the most feared terrorist organization. The organization became known after the September 11 attack in the United States. By means of its trademark style of high-profile, tightly coordinated violence, the group’s operatives hijacked four of U.S. airlines.
The operatives crashed two of the airliners into the World Trade Center. The third hit the Pentagon while the last one crashed in Pennsylvania. Osama bin Laden serves as the leader of Al-Qaeda. He also founded the conglomerate in 1988 with the aim of uniting the international network that bin Laden instituted during the Afghan war. The existence of Al-Qaeda is closely tied to its primary goal of advancing Islamic uprising throughout the Muslim world. It also aims to prevent any foreign intervention in the Middle East (Anti-Defamation League, 2007).
Until today, he is still the head and driving force of the organization. Documents regarding Osama bin Laden and his organization showed that he developed a liking for jihad after he fought with the Soviets in Afghanistan. Jihad means holy war which aims to free occupied Muslim lands. Bin Laden used to work for Sheikh Abdullah Azzam who operated a paramilitary group of mujahideen. It was called “The Office of Services. ” Mujahideen are Muslim fighters who battled with the Soviets when they invaded Afghanistan in 1979. These ‘holy warriors’ became the original primary membership base of al Qaeda (Zalman, 2007).
Bin Laden split with Azzam to found al Qaeda in 1988. The CIA knew about the split, and a few months later, Azzam was killed (“Al Qaeda,” n. d. ). For a long time, al Qaeda was inactive. However, the organization was building a financial and operation infrastructure while bin Laden went back to Saudi Arabia as a war hero. He raised and earned money from his wealthy Saudi friends. During the Gulf War in 1991, bin Laden tried to help with an army of mujahideen to defend Saudi Arabia but he was rejected by the assistance of the United States.
Since then the presence of United States in the Persian Gulf became offensive in his eyes. Around 1992, al Qaeda has a new role, and it aimed to drive U. S. forces away from the Gulf (“Al Qaeda,” n. d. ). Structure Zalman (2007) said that al Qaeda’s structure was compared to the Hydra, a serpent in the Greek mythology that has many heads. The Hydra is hard to kill because its head grows back after being destroyed. In the same way, al Qaeda is known for its small, autonomous cells. Despite their exposure and destruction, it does not adversely affect the organization as a whole (see Table 1).
In order to achieve its goal, the organization implements different and new patterns of operations to keep with up with the counter-terrorism efforts which resulted to the death of several of al Qaeda’s commanders. Recently, al Qaeda was reported to rely less on centralized operations, such as training camps and a hierarchical command structure. It now carries out much of its activities through independent cells which have loose ties with the leadership. Moreover, it relied heavily on the Internet for propaganda and communication (Anti-Defamation League, 2007).
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. Goals and Tactics Al Qaeda believed that the presence of the United States in Muslim lands, such as North Africa, Iraq and Saudi Arabia, is an obstruction to the realization of a pan-Islamic nation. This is why the organization wants to drive out Westerners, Americans in particular, from these lands.
Driving out the United States from the Muslim lands means executing campaigns of terror that will cause political, economic and physical damage. But the core leadership of Al Qaeda cannot do this. Thus it relies on local operatives and affiliates to carry out the operations. Bin Laden and other core leaders of Al Qaeda believe that if they remove the American presence and power, it can create a power vacuum. However, this strategy is not just for the United States but all over the world (McCullough, Keats & Burgess, 2002). The goals of the organization mirror Osama bin Laden’s ambitions.
One of the goals is removing the current Islamic leadership. Bin Laden’s organization recognized the leadership as promoting corrupted forms of Islam, secular, and guilty of letting foreign occupation. The other goal is removing U. S. influence in the Middle East and Islamic countries. Another goal is weakening Israel (Zalman, 2007). Zalman also said that there were rumors about Al Qaeda’s establishing an Islamic caliphate. It consists of a transnational government of Muslims around the world which looks into the state affairs and religion. After the Al Qaeda realizes its short-term goals, it will restore Islamic rule in the Muslim lands.
One of its tactics is to replace fallen regimes with an autocracy like that of the former Taliban rule in Afghanistan. Local Al Qaeda affiliates will form these autocracies and expand jihadi influence through them. Al qaeda also plans to join all of the Islamic governments to restore the Caliphate and rule in the Muslim lands (McCullough, Keats, & Burgess, 2002). Aside from all of these, Al Qaeda uses many other tactics. They include car bombing, hijackings, suicide bombing, roadside bombing and paramilitary operations which target civilians and the military. The organization attacks are carefully planned and usually last for months or years.
But Al Qaeda became known for its use of multiple suicide bombings, such as the November 2005 bombing in Amman and July 2005 bombing in London. In a suicide bombing, two to five bombers synchronize their attacks. This tactic causes more damage and fatalities and creates panic among the victims. Al Qaeda also used the media for its goals. People watched its attacks on television and its taped messages are listened to by millions around the world (Anti-Defamation League, 2007). In Bergen’s (2002) editorial, he reported that Al Qaeda has new tactics, in the form of threats to the United States and other countries.
Bin Laden has released taped messages about the continued war against the west. This was brought about by the organization’s loss of headquarters in Afghanistan. Al Qaeda transformed into a less centralized, but more widely spread organization. Bergen (2002) added that the wave of attacks against the American embassies in Africa and in Yemen was intended to be on economic targets. In 2001, bin Laden again released a videotaped message about the drop in the value of the stock market, loss of jobs and physical damage to New York. Through this tactic of targeting the economy, the organization reached beyond American targets.
A truck bombing in Tunisia killed German tourists. Al Qaeda also killed French defense contractors in Pakistan. Bin Laden believed that these attacks were done by “pious Muslims. ” Sappenfield’s (2007) article also discussed that the Taliban left tribal roots for Al Qaeda tactics. It told about the suicide bombings and kidnappings – aggressive tactics that are distinctively Al Qaeda’s. In the article, the author mentioned that the Taliban killed two South Korean hostages and was still holding 21 others. These actions, Sappenfield said, suggested that the Taliban is becoming a branch of Al Qaeda.
The kidnappings were done to spread fear among the Afghanistan’s international coalition. Crimes The al Qaeda has been at the forefront of the many terror acts around the world. Terrorist attacks have been made towards the United States. It started when al Qaeda targeted U. S. troops in Yemen in 1992, although it failed. The organization’s terrorist attacks include a boat attack on the U. S. S. Cole, which led to 56 fatalities (Zalman, 2007), embassy bombings, train bombings on March 2004 in Madrid (Anti-Defamation League, 2007), and even airplanes and movie theaters bombings in the Philippines.
There were also rumors about the al Qaeda’s involvement on the attacks against the U. S. Consulate in Pakistan, and another one in Bali (“Al Qaeda,” n. d. ). Though it wasn’t proven and there were no supportive evidence yet, al Qaeda was suspected of the Oklahoma City bombing. It was also linked with the terror and war in Afghanistan and Iraq. Their notable attacks include the August 1998 attack on the U. S. embassies in Dares Salaam, Tanzania and Nairobi, Kenya. Considering the fact that the organization can execute two attacks at the same time in two different countries showed the power and strength of its capabilities.
The most notable attacks of al Qaeda were the suicide attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. The attacks killed more than 3,000 people. The Al Qaeda was also responsible for the bombings in London on July 2005. Hayes and Brunner (2007) provided a list of the attacks inspired by or suspected of Al Qaeda. It showed that in 1993, the World trade Center was bombed, with six recorded casualties. A few months later that same year, American soldiers were killed in Somalia. In 1994, investigations revealed that the bombing in WTC was just a small part of a plan of attacking the CIA headquarters.
Two years later, 19 American servicemen were killed, and hundreds were injured when a truck bomb exploded in Saudi Arabia. In 1999, suspected Algerians were arrested before they can bomb the millennium celebrations in Seattle. As was mentioned above, the U. S. S. Cole was bombed in 2000 in Yemen, which killed 17 U. S. sailors. Then the Al Qaeda attacked the WTC and Pentagon in 2001. In 2002, explosion in Tunisia killed German tourists. A car exploded in Pakistan in 2002. Fourteen were killed, including French citizens. A month later, a bomb exploded which killed 12.
There were also bombings in nightclubs in Bali, Indonesia, resulting to 202 deaths. Most of them were Australian. That same year, a suicide attack in Kenya killed 16 people. In 2003, there was a suicide bombing in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, which killed 34. There were also four bombings in Morocco and suicide car bombing in Indonesia. Another attack in Saudi Arabia has killed 17. In November 2003, suicide car bombings in Istanbul, Turkey killed 25 and injured hundreds. A week later a British bank in Turkey was attacked. In 2004, 202 were killed and 1,400 were wounded from the simultaneous explosion of ten terrorist bombs in Madrid, Spain.
In Saudi Arabia, a Saudi oil company was attacked by terrorists. Twenty-two were dead. An American was also killed in Saudi Arabia in 2004. In December the same year, militants, alleged of being connected to Al Qaeda, went to the U. S. consulate in Saudi Arabia and killed five employees. In 2005, train bombings occurred in London, resulting to 52 deaths. Suicide bombs in Indonesia killed 22 in the same year. Fifty-seven people were also killed in Jordan in 2005. The start of the year 2006 witnessed two bombers in Baghdad. They blew themselves up, killing almost 20 police officers.
In August 2006, 24 Muslims, who were suspected of planning to blow up planes, were arrested. In April this year, 35 were killed and more were wounded when a government building was attacked in Algiers. The following day, eight people died when a suicide bomber attacked a building in Baghdad. Finances With its extensive operations around the world, the organization would need funds to execute its plans. Osama bin Laden used his inheritance to finance his operations. It was said that he inherited an amount of $250-300 million. He had started training camps and a logistical infrastructure (McCullough, Keats & Burgess, 2002).
Aside from his inheritance, Al Qaeda’s funds came from Bin Laden’s business partnerships and investments throughout the years. Moreover, charities and other for-profit organizations and individuals were said to give funds to Al Qaeda. In fact, the United States government closed some charities, which include Holy Land Foundation and Al-Haramain Foundation. These charities were suspected of funding Al Qaeda. Several countries also moved to shut down the alleged sources of Al Qaeda’s funds. But, the Anti-Defamation League (2007) emphasized, the organization can survive with a small amount of money. Affiliations
It was said that al Qaeda is affiliated with other terrorist groups, such as Abu Sayyaf, Hezbollah, Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Hesb’I Islami, Egyptian Islamic Jihad, Jemaah Islamiah and the Islamic Group (“Al qaeda,” n. d. ). Other groups that are affiliated with Al Qaeda are The Salafist Group for Call and Combat (GSPC), Ansar al-Islam, Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group (GICM), Ansar al-Sunna, Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) and Lashkar-e-Taiba (LET) (Anti-Defamation League, 2007). Bin Laden and Al Qaeda were successful in convincing other terrorist groups in joining or affiliating with the organization.
The influence of Al Qaeda increased, and it helped to train, fund and direct smaller terrorist groups. After the fall of Taliban in 2001 and the military campaigns in Afghanistan, Al Qaeda’s ties with other terrorist groups became the larger aspect of its operations. After the U. S. forces destroyed the headquarters and training camps of the organization, Al Qaeda continued to achieve its goals by helping operatives from regional groups in planning the attacks (Anti-Defamation League, 2007). Recruitment Hayes and Brunner (2007) reported that Al Qaeda can recruit from Arab Afghan veterans and radicals anywhere in the world.
McCullough, Keats and Burgess (2002) reported that Al Qaeda is very highly selective when it comes to recruiting members. It only allows the most committed and capable operatives in becoming qualified members. The Anti-Defamation League (2007) also stated that the Maktab Al Khidamat, or Services Office, provided recruits. In their article, Van Natta and Ondon (2003) said that Al Qaeda increased its efforts in recruiting young Muslim men into the organization. They reported that the anger brought about by the American campaign for war was the new recruiting tool of Al Qaeda.
Officials in Europe, United States and Africa reported that a new generation of terrorist operatives was being formed. It was also said that Iraq became the center for recruitment of new members. Recruitment efforts were visible in Britain, Spain, the Netherlands, Italy and Germany. With the terrorist attacks, nations have been active in creating counter-terrorism strategies. In a statement by the General Assembly President of the United Nations (n. d. ), he said that the strategy will strengthen the General Assembly’s role in counter-terrorism.
The plan of action includes preventing and combating terrorism, strengthening the role of the United Nations, ensuring respect for human rights, and addressing the conditions that are favorable to terrorism. The General Assembly President also relayed the importance of combating terrorism as it affects everyone. He said that people must remain strong in condemning terrorism. The capabilities of all states must be enhanced so that they can protect their territories. The General Assembly President also called for the United Nations system to further increase their efforts to reinforce counter-terrorism strategies.
Terrorism is very real – it manifests in many forms. Governments and nations have been, for many years now, trying to carry out strategies and actions to stop the spread of terrorism. Al Qaeda, in particular, has earned many enemies when it led the many attacks on countries. Al Qaeda, with Bin Laden at the forefront, was responsible for many terrorist attacks carried out by its operatives. But despite the government initiatives in suppressing Al Qaeda, the organization proved to be hard to destroy, as it is affiliated with many other terrorist groups around the world.
References “Al Qaeda. ” (n. d. ). Retrieved on December 8, 2007 from http://www. rotten. com/library/history/terrorist-organizations/al-qaeda/ Anti-Defamation League. (2007). Al-Qaeda. Retrieved on December 8, 2007 from http://www. adl. org/terrorism/profiles/al_qaeda. asp Bergen, Peter. (2002). Al Qaeda’s new tactics. Retrieved on December 8, 2007 from The New York Times online, http://www. criminology. fsu. edu/transcrime/articles/Al%20Qaeda’s%20New%20Tactics. htm Hayes, L. , & Brunner, B. (2007). Al Qaeda: Osama bin Laden’s network of terror.
Retrieved on December 8, 2007 from the InfoPlease web site, http://www. infoplease. com/spot/al-qaeda-terrorism. html McCullough, C. , Keats, A. , & Burgess, M. (2002). In the spotlight: Al-Qaeda (The Base). Retrieved on December 8, 2007 from the Center for Defense Information web site, http://www. cdi. org/terrorism/alqaeda. cfm Robb, J. (2004). Al Qaeda’s structure. Retrieved December 8, 2007 from Global Guerillas web site, http://globalguerrillas. typepad. com/globalguerrillas/2004/08/al_qaedas_struc. html Sappenfield, Mark. (2007). Taliban leaves tribal roots for Al Qaeda tactics.
Retrieved on December 8, 2007 from the Christian Science Monitor web site, http://www. csmonitor. com/2007/0801/p01s05-wosc. html Statement by the General Assembly President. (n. d. ). Statement on the introduction of the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy. Van Natta, D. & Ondon, D. B. (2003). Terrorist recruitment. Retrieved on December 8, 2007 from http://www. anotheramerica. org/terrorist_recruitment. htm Zalman, Amy. (2007). Al Qaeda – Profile of Al Qaeda. Retrieved on December 8, 2007 from About. com, http://terrorism. about. com/od/groupsleader1/p/AlQaeda. htm