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“”Al-Qaeda's home grown terrorists have a near perfect track record of failing in almost every single terrorist attack - because the only people they're able to recruit now are idiots.
|—Alejandro Beutel, Muslim Public Affairs Council.|
Al-Qaeda (also transliterated al-Qa'ida, Arabic for "The Base") is an Islamist terrorist organization founded by Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri, adhering to a fundamentalist form of Sunni Islam that originally promoted unity among Muslim sects. It sprung out of the Egyptian Jihadist movement and the anti-Soviet mujahideen in Afghanistan.
Al-Qaeda is estimated to consist of approximately 200 people mostly Osama bin Laden's former friends and close followers. The organization does not, as a general rule, recruit members, but rather trains like-minded groups to wage jihad. This terroristic outsourcing makes it difficult to capture actual al-Qaeda members, as distinct from dirt-poor and impressionable insurgents who have merely been trained by al-Qaeda but know nothing about the organization.
In 1979, bin Laden answered the Saudi Kingdom's call for jihad against the Soviet Union which had invaded the Muslim lands of Afghanistan. From Pakistan he and the spiritual leader of the jihad, Imam Abdullah Azzam, "funneled money, arms and fighters from the outside world into the Afghan war" through an organization which by 1984 was known as Maktab al-Khidamat[wp] (Services Bureau), or MAK. MAK "was nurtured by Pakistan’s state security services, the Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI), the CIA’s primary conduit for conducting the covert war against Moscow’s occupation."
By war's end bin Laden and a few other leaders established al Qaeda, which was composed of the more extremist elements in MAK.
In late 1988 the Soviet Union declared victory and went home, the Afghanis began fighting among themselves, and the Arab jihadis plotted their next moves. Azzam and bin Laden wanted to keep the movement together, but there was no consensus on the next objective. Azzam wanted to liberate Palestine; Zawahiri wanted to liberate Egypt from its secular leaders; and men like Abu Musab al-Zarqawi wanted to liberate their homelands from their near enemies - the secular apostate regimes of their homelands. Bin Laden was odd man out - he was then still a loyalist to the Saudi regime, and was welcomed as a hero back home. Azzam's untimely death made bin Laden the undisputed leader of the movement.
In 1991 an opportunity presented itself to use the jihadis when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait; bin Laden offered them to the House of Saud[wp] to defend the Kingdom, but was rejected. Bin Laden took it personally and nursed a chip on his shoulder. Many jihadis afterward refused to join al Qaeda, viewing it as built only to force bin Laden's former patrons, the Saudi royal family, to recognize bin Laden's influence, grant him political power, and restore his wounded pride. Zawahiri and his Egyptians however, hooked up with bin Laden, largely because Zawahiri'S breakaway group lost its bid for mastery as the premier Egyptian jihadist movement and needed bin Laden's financial support.
 Focus on the far enemy
Bin Laden had peculiar views that were outside the mainstream of jihadist thought. Since the time of Sayyid Qutb jihadists viewed the secular regimes of their homelands as agents and stooges of the global infidel alliance which divided Islam into nation states. These local regimes were regarded as "the near enemy" and prevented the resurrection of an Islamic Caliphate and Islamic State. Zawahiri was the very embodiment of this tradition and strategy.
Mecca is the heart of Islam, which presently is controlled by the Saudi's, who are in bed with Western infidels, who support Israel, and are all backed up by the economic and military power of the United States. Therefore, argued bin Laden, the best, quickest, and surefire way to re-establish the Caliphate over Mecca is to attack the far enemy, the United States. Most jihadis thought this was crazy, but Zawahiri who needed bin Laden's money, had an organization, supported bin Laden's ideas, and helped recruit the suicidal lunatics willing to help carryout bin Laden's egomaniacal schemes.
 As a vehicle for the Salafi creed
To be legit, al Qaeda needed backing of religious scholars. By the mid 1990s Abu Qatada al-Filistini[wp] and Abu Musab al-Suri[wp] joined the organization's inner council and converted bin Laden to their ideas. Al-Qaeda became the vehicle for recruitment and training for their radical Salafi-jihadist thinking. Bin Laden however, had differing views regarding Shia Muslims than his compatriot Sunni Salafis, and envisioned a unity alliance of all Muslims (with himself as head, of course) against the Zionists and Crusaders. So bin Laden, trained as an engineer, and Zawahiri a physician, issued some of their own radical fatwas and refuted some of the oldtime religious scholars.
By 2000, Abu Musab al-Suri wrote of the new evolving ideas for global jihad,
|Al Qaeda is not an organization, it is not a group, nor do we want it to be...it is a call, a reference, a methodology.|
Lawrence Wright in the New Yorker says Suri predicted,
|the next stage of jihad will be characterized by terrorism created by individuals or small autonomous groups (what Suri calls "leaderless resistance") [lonewolves], which will wear down the enemy and prepare the ground for the far more ambitious aim of waging war on "open fronts" -- an outright struggle for territory. Suri says, "Without confrontation in the field and seizing control of land, we cannot establish a State, which is the strategic goal of the resistance."|
Al-Suri's legacy was to codify the doctrines that animated jihad, so that Muslim youths of the future could discover the cause and begin their own, spontaneous religious war.
 Terrorist attacks
“”Then came the events of the Blessed Tuesday, and the thrones of the kuffar were shaken. And the preachers of the Truth were oppressed... the Shaykh issued a verdict regarding the permissibility of these blessed operations, and he wrote a treatise with the title, This is What I Take as My Din to Allah, in which he expounded upon the legality of these operations, and the permissibility of targeting that people with these types of operations, and even operations which are more severe than those.
Among the acts for which they have credibly claimed responsibility are the World Trade Center attacks of September 11, 2001, the bombing of the USS Cole[wp], attacks on the US embassies[wp] in Kenya and Tanzania. the Assassination of Benazir Bhutto[wp] and the Charlie Hebdo attacks.
Priority operations devolved upon Al Qaeda in Iraq, Al Qaeda in the Maghrib, Al Qaeda Central (Pakistan and the Pakistan Taliban), Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (primarily Yeman and the Hejaz), the Al Nusra Front, and Boko Haram.
 Global jihad
In 2005 Zawahiri outlined the plan for global jihad and world dominion to Der Spiegel magazine:
- 2000 – 2003 “The Awakening Phase” in which the West will be provoked (via 9/11) unto war with the Islamic world.
- 2004 – 2006 “The Opening Eyes Phase” in which jihad would become a social movement and experience a huge recruitment drive. The Iraq insurgency will be the operational center for their army of Jihadis.
- 2007 – 2010 “The Arising and Standing Up Phase” which will focus on destabilizing Syria, Turkey, Jordan and Israel.
- 2010 – 2013 “The Unification Phase” which will be aimed at the collapse of the near enemy (the Middle Eastern) governments. This coincided with the Arab Spring.
- 2013 – 2016 “The Caliphate Rising Phase” a new Caliphate will be declared. This strategy was carried out on 29 June 2014 by the group formerly known as Al Qaeda in Iraq, elbowing Zawahiri aside for the top job of Caliph.
- 2016 – 2018 “The Total Confrontation Phase” in which the empowered Caliphate will use its Islamic Army to fight the unbelievers.
- 2018 – 2020 “The Definitive Victory Phase” in which the world “unbelievers” will be defeated after a two year war by a unified Muslim army of 1.5 billion men.
 Post-bin Laden era
When Caliph Ibrahim al-Badri sought to consolidate the Syrian and Iraqi al Qaeda factions into the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria it was a direct challenge to Zawahiri's leadership, not as the successor of bin Laden's organization but as leader of the global jihad.
The leader of the Syrian faction, the al Nusra Front, was a former lieutenant of al-Badri back in the days of the Iraq insurgency, and the Caliph now demanded the Syrian al Qaeda swear allegiance to him. Al Badri disregarded Zawahiri's orders not to unite the two factions - one fighting the Baghdad government and the other the Syrian regime. Al Nusra's commander declined al-Badri's instructions and remained true to Zawahiri. ISIS murdered the envoy Zawahiri sent from Pakistan to mediate their differences, and local al Nusra militias began making truces, alliances or outright defections to ISIS. What remains of al Nusra is regarded by Western media and the U.S. Government as "moderate rebels" they'd be willing to work with to unseat Bashar Assad and rollback ISIS.
Currently it is active in unstable countries, such as Syria, Yemen, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Somalia, Sudan, and the Russian federal Republic of Chechnya, and has been especially difficult to pin down for a variety of reasons, among which are its intentionally limited use of technology and its highly decentralized, cellular structure (in fact, it is as much an idea as an organization).
 See also
- Wahhabism — the original religious foundation of al-Qaeda
- Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant
- ↑ BBC News - An American face of Islam
- ↑ Wikipedia estimates 5000+ in both Somalia and Syria with another 2000 worldwide, so it may claim a fighting force of approximately 12,000+ globally. But it would not be unfair to say 200 actually know who and what they are fighting for.
- ↑ 3.0 3.1 3.2 "Bin Laden comes home to roost: His CIA ties are only the beginning of a woeful story". MSNBC. August 24, 1998. 
- ↑ Fault Lines in Global Jihad: Organizational, Strategic, and Ideological Fissures, Assaf Moghadam & Brian Fishman, Taylor & Francis, May 10, 2011, p.49.
- ↑ The Far Enemy: Why Jihad Went Global, Fawaz A. Gerges, Cambridge University Press, Apr 13, 2009, p. 190 pdf.
- ↑ The Master Plan, For the new theorists of jihad, Al Qaeda is just the beginning, Lawrence Wright, The New Yorker, 9/11/2006, Vol. 82, Issue 28, p. 3-4.
- ↑ in "vexation and exhaustion operations"; see The Management of Savagery, 2004, p. 36-50 pdf, et seq.
- ↑ Islamism is basically a Resistance movement to Westernization.
- ↑ Democracy: A Religion!, Abu Musab al-Maqdisi, Al Furqan Islamic Information Centre, 2012, About the Author, p.11 pdf.
- ↑ Minbar Al-Tawhid Wal-Jihad – Major Jihadi Website Inciting Attacks on the U.S. – Hosted in NJ, MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 3960, July 1, 2011. "Following the 9/11 attacks, [Maqdisi] issued an unprompted fatwa approving their religious legality."
- ↑ "Al-Qaeda Commander: Islam Doesn't Distinguish Between American People, American Gov't – Both Are Infidels and At War with Islam." The Middle East Media Research Institute. July 24, 2008. 
- ↑ http://www.spiegel.de/international/the-future-of-terrorism-what-al-qaida-really-wants-a-369448.html
- ↑ Al Qaeda’s Top Envoy Killed in Syria by Rival Rebel Group, TIME Magazine, February 24, 2014.