- Published: October 30, 2021
- Updated: October 30, 2021
- University / College: University of Alberta
- Language: English
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1.0 Historical Background of Al-Qaeda
Al-Qaeda is a global terrorist network established by Osama bin Laden between 1988 and 1989. The mission of Al-Qaeda is to free Muslim Nations of what it considers irreverent western influence and replace their leadership with fundamentalist Islamic Governments[ CITATION Jay11 l 2057 ]. Despite having started in the 1980s the network only came to light after September 11 2011 attacks on Washington and New York, following which the United States of America and Her allies declared war on terror[ CITATION Dav11 l 2057 ]. Al-Qaeda works through a network multinational and stateless armies aswell as through a radical Sunni Muslim movement calling for Jihad.
The origin of Al-Qaeda can be traced to the 1979 invasion of Afghanistan by the Soviet Union. The Afghanistan war (1979 December to 1989 February) involved the Afghan mujahideen “holly worriers” on one side and the Afghan Marxist aided by the Soviet army on the other hand. Ironically America, which is now the major target of the Al-Qaeda, funded the mujahideen (through Pakistan) believing that the involvement of the Soviet Union as part of the Soviet’s attempts to expand its territory. In 1980 the Service Office (Maktabal-Khidamat-MAK) was established by Abdullah Azzam, a Palestinian Muslim cleric, and Osama bin Laden to raise funds, recruit and train ‘holy worriers’ from foreign countries to fight the Soviet Afghan invasion. Most of the operations of the Service office were funded by the Saudi Arabia government and individual Muslim business men from Saudi Arabia, with the Saudi government donating up to $ 600 million to the jihad annually[ CITATION Jay11 l 1033 ].
In 1986 MAK set recruitment offices in the U.S. with the hub being the Al Kifah Refugee Center in Brooklyn .The MAK Brooklyn recruitment center was headed by Omar Abdel –Rahman and Ali Mohamed. MAK set up guest houses in Peshwar, next to the Afghan border, as well as training camps at the same site and within Afghanistan. Through his connection with the Gulf petrol barons and the Saudi royal family bin Laden became one of the major financiers of the MAK’s operations in 1987. Bin Laden is said to have played a major role in organizing the training camps for the mujahideen from foreign countries. The Soviet Union Withdrew in 1989 and three years later the mujahideen overthrew the Afghan’s communist government. However the mujahideen could not agree on the governance of Afghanistan thus the country was ravaged by internal war. Bin Laden formed the Al-Qaeda in the late 1980s in an attempt to spread the Jihad beyond the Afghanistan[ CITATION Mic081 l 1033 ].
2.0 The evolution of MAK into Al-Qaeda
The desire by some of the mujahideen leaders, among them Osama, to spread their operations to other Muslim struggles, such as in Kashmir and Israel, led to the formation of several interrelated and overlapping organizations all over the world. Bin Laden and Azzam met with some senior leaders of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad (EIJ) in August 1988 out of which the Al-Qaeda was born. The idea was to join the military expertise of the EIJ with Osama’s financial connections and to draft the requirements for membership. In 1989 Azzam was assassinated and the MAK split with a majority of its members joining Al-Qaeda. In the same year Ali Mohamed, a retired Special Forces sergeant, joined Osama and helped in plotting attacks against America as well as Osama’s relocation to Sudan[ CITATION Mic081 l 1033 ].
3.0 The origin of Al-Qaeda’s aggression against America
Following the withdrawal of the Soviet troops from Afghanistan Osama returned to Saudi Arabia in February 1989. Iraqi attack on Kuwait in August 1990 presented a risk to Saudi Arabia and Osama offered the services of his holy worriers to protect Saudi Arabia, whose army despite being well equipped was outnumbered. The Saudi royal family declined the offer instead choosing to host the U.S and its allied troops. This angered Osama, who felt the foreign troops desecrated the sacred soil of the ‘land of the two mosques’ (Mecca and Medina), and he spoke against the decision of the Saudi government to host the American troops. Bin Laden was then banished and he relocated to Sudan. From 1992 to 1996 Osama and his al-Qaeda movement operated from Sudan at the invitation of Hassan Turabi, an Islamic theoretician. The al-Qaeda aided the Sudanese Islamic government and established training camps in Sudan[ CITATION Jay11 l 1033 ].
Bin Laden was more angered by Saudi Arabia’s support for the Oslo Accords which drew a roadmap for peace between Palestinians and Israel thus he continued his public verbal attack on King Fahd. The Saudi king revoked bin Laden’s Saudi’s citizenship in 1994 and froze his assets in Saudi. In addition under the persuasion of the Saudi government Osama’s family disowned him and cut off its financial aid. In 1996 Following two failed attempts on the Egyptian’s prime minister’s life by bin Laden’s associates; he was expelled from Sudan alongside his movement. Bin Laden viewed all these events as America’s influence on the Islamic government thus the beginning of his aggression against the United States of America. Osama and his movement relocated to the Taliban-led Afghanistan where they enjoyed government support and trained more mujahideens. Al-Qaeda declared jihad to expel foreign interests and troops from Islamic Nations and Osama issued a fatwa against America and its allies in 1996. Al-Qaeda started redeploying its resources to anti America propaganda. In June 1996 the Al-Qaeda bombed the Khobar towers in Saudi Arabia killing 19 people and wounding 372[ CITATION Jay11 l 1033 ].
In 1998, under the umbrella of the World Islamic Front for Combat against the Jews and Crusaders, Osama, Ayman al-Zawahiri, an EIJ leader, and other Islamic leaders issued another fatwa calling on all Muslims to kill Americans and their allies whenever and wherever they could. They declared that it was the Islamic duty of every Muslim to do so in order to free the al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem and the Mecca holy mosque from the pagans grip and remove them from the Islamic lands. Though they had no religious qualification to issue such a declaration they did so claiming that those with the authority were paid servants of the western forces[ CITATION Jay11 l 1033 ].
4.0 Al-Qaeda operations and expansion
Although Al-Qaeda originated from Afghanistan it spread its operations and mandate to other parts of the world mainly targeting the American allied countries through affiliated groups. The Al-Qaeda has changed its base from one country to another depending on the how favorable the government is. Following Al-Qaeda’s September 11 2001attack on America, America declared war on terrorism and attacked the Afghan Al-Qaeda hideout overrunning the Taliban government. Al-Qaeda shifted its base to the tribal areas of Pakistan. With its popularity in Pakistan and other countries declining, Al-Qaeda has been relying more on other affiliated terrorist groups to carry out its agenda. Some of the terrorist groups associated with Al-Qaeda include the EIJ, the Islamic Army of Aden in Yemen, the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, Iraq’s Jama’at al-Tawhid wal jihad, Kashmir’s Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Muhammad, Algeria’s Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, Uzbekistan’s Islamic movement, Abu sayyaf group in Malaysia and Philippines, the Jemaah Islamiya in Southeast Asia and many others[ CITATION Mic081 l 1033 ].
Through the these affiliated groups and autonomous cells in about hundred countries Al-Qaeda has spread to almost every part of the world making it virtually impossible to estimate how big Al-Qaeda is . In 2008 the U.S. State Department reported an estimated membership of between several hundreds and several thousand stating that it was impossible to give precise figures due to the decentralized nature of the organization. Most of the leaders of Al-Qaeda are reported to be residing in Pakistan. The fight against terrorism led by America has seen many of Al-Qaeda’s leaders captured or killed changing the face of Al-Qaeda to a more ideological organization with reduced training and more inspirational role. Through its media wing, al-Sahab, and the internet the terrorist organization has been able to spread its ideologies and propaganda against America and its allies. The evolution of the Al-Qaeda over the last three decades has made the organization the most adaptive and dangerous enemy of the western world implementing various attacks. Over the last decade Al-Qaeda has carried out several attacks on American, European and Jewish interests as well as Muslim governments perceived to be collaborating with the Western world in any way. The most recent attacks Carried out by Al-Qaeda include the Detroit-bound Northwest flight attempted bombing in December 2009; the suicide bombing of Benazir Bhutto (former Pakistani prime minister) in 2007; the Saudi Arabia Abqaiq petroleum processing plant attack in 2006 February; the London bomb attacks of July 2005; the Madrid trains bombing in 2004; multiple car bombing in residential in Saudi Arabia in 2003; several attacks in Tunisia, Pakistan, Yemen and Kenya in 2002; the Washington and New York attack in 2001 September and many more. The diffuse Al-Qaeda attacks have united the world against terrorism (Buckley & Fawn, 2003).
5.0 The Leadership and Funding of Al-Qaeda
Al-Qaeda is led by the shura council, made of 20 to 30 senior leaders, that deliberates and approves all operation. Before he was killed by the U.S. Special Forces on May 1 2011 Osama bin Laden was the top leader and the head of EIJ, Ayman al-Zawahiri, was his right hand man and ideological adviser. Abu Yahya al-libini , a Libyan theological scholar captured by the Pakistani government in 2002 only to escape from prison in 2005, has emerged as the top strategist and face of A-Qaeda as well as the most effective jihad promoter due to his scholarly credentials. Due to its close association with EIC most of Al-Qaeda’s top leadership is of Egyptian origin and include Mustafe Abu al-Yazid, Saif al-Adel and Abdullah Ahmed Abdulla. Other leaders of Al-Qaeda leaders lead affiliate terrorist groups such as Abdelmalek Droukdel, the leader of the North African AQIM arm, and Nasser al-Wahishi, the leader of the Yemen Al-Qaeda wing. Though decision making is centralized the execution is decentralized with the council making the decisions and the leaders of the autonomous cells and affiliated organizations executing the decisions[ CITATION Jay11 l 1033 ].
Al-Qaeda is also organized into committees that carry out different vital functions. The military committee carries out the function of training mujahideens, planning attacks and acquiring weapons. The business committee is responsible for financing the operations through an unregulated banking system (hawalaI) manly in Pakistan and other Islam nation. This committee also issues false passports and air tickets, runs businesses to raise money and pays al-Qaeda staff. The law committee evaluates whether al-Qaeda’s courses are in line with Sharia law. The Media committee handles the publicity issues. It is however important to note that the structure and operations of the Al-Qaeda movement is in dispute with most of the information having been acquired from al-Qaeda leaders captured by America and/or allies.
In the 1990s and 2000s al-Qaeda’s majority finances were from Osama’s wealth. The organization is also funded through a complex fundraising network facilitated by financial facilitators. Some of the funds are provided by diverted Islamic charity donations from rich Muslim business men. Before the September 11 attack on America imams at mosques were used to divert zakat (compulsory donations) to al-Qaeda. Most fundraising organizations masquerade as charity organizations. There are claims that some governments have been involved in funding the al-Qaeda operations but no evidence has been forced. There are also claims that al-Qaeda relies on funding from drug and diamond trafficking. The money from the mentioned sources is disbursed through the hawala banking system.
Even as the world rejoices the killing of Osama bin Laden by America Al-Qaeda is not about to relent and already efforts to find a successor are already in place. Al-Qaeda has evolved from a small organization in 1989 to world wide spread organization spreading terror in almost every region.
Bajoria, J., & Bruno, G. (2011, May 2). al-Qaeda (a.k.a. al-Qaida, al-Qa’ida). Retrieved May 12, 2011, from Council on Foreign Relations: http://www.cfr.org/terrorist-organizations/al-qaeda-k-al-qaida-al-qaida/p9126
Buckley, M., & Fawn, R. ( 2003.). Global Responses to Terrorism: 9/11, Afghanistan and Beyond. Contributors. London. Publication: Routledge.
Chossudovsky, M. (2008). America’s “War on Terrorism”,. Washington DC: Global Research.
Morgan, D. ( 2011 , May 3). U.S. believes it can now destroy al Qaeda. Reuters , p. 7.
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