Homeland Security – Al Qaeda
A terrorist group refers to a movement or group that utilizes terror to advance and pursue its goals (Jones & Libicki, 2008). One of the most prominent international terrorist groups is Al Qaeda. This paper will focus on understanding of the group and identifying the reasons for the group’s notoriety in former years as well as its recent weakening.
Al Qaeda is a terrorist organization formed by some mujahedeen soldiers who had fought in the Soviet-Afghan war from 1979 to 1989. Among the founding fathers of the organization, were Osama bin Laden and Abdullah Assam. Over the years, it has evolved into a Jihadist militant group with the West its primary target. The organization’s high command are the key decision makers. A Shura Council, consisting of high-rank members, serves as the primary advisors to the Al Qaeda leader. Osama bin Laden served as the leader of Al Qaeda from its formation until his assassination in 2011 by the US military in Pakistan. Ayman al-Zawahiri, who had served as bin Laden’s deputy, became Al Qaeda’s leader after bin Laden’s death (Bajoria & Bruno, 2012).
Al Qaeda’s organizational structure includes a military branch whose military duties are similar to those of the government armies. It recruits members, conducts weapons training, acquires and stocks arms and materials that are assembled to form weapons; it deploys insurgent forces and plans attacks. Furthermore, the organization has a business branch that handles its financial commitments. These include obtaining financing for the organization’s operations such as recruitment, training, buying weapons, and acquiring forged documents. The business branch of Al-Qaeda also gets money from its underground financial activities (Sude, 2015).
Al Qaeda’s ideological goal is to spread the true Islam by forming Islamic caliphate states in the Middle East, enforce Sharia laws, and annihilate the Kaffirs. The terrorist group believes that Western governments have Zionist ideologies, which makes them enemies of Islam. Al Qaeda’s founders have been influenced by the teachings of Sayyid Qutb who was an Islamic author and theorist (Atwan, 2006). By claiming to promote the spread of Islam and opposing the spread of Western influence, Al Qaeda can recruit young Muslims into the organization.
After Al Qaeda’s Mujahedeen operations against the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, Al Qaeda’s commanders decided to spread the Jihadist operations to other countries in the world. Osama bin Laden issued a fatwa against the US and other western governments. This fatwa became the onset of several Al Qaeda jihadist attacks against the Western targets around the world. Most notable cases of terrorism formulated by Al Qaeda include the 1993 World Trade Center attacks, the bombings in Aden in 1992, the September 11 attacks in the United States, the bomb attacks on the US embassies in East Africa in 1998, and bomb explosions in Istanbul in November 2003 (Global Security Group, 2015). Following most of these attacks, Al Qaeda leadership has been known to issue broadcast messages to praise the terrorist attacks and the suicide bombers.
Counterintelligence and military operations against the group have been moderately successful. The most notable military action against Al Qaeda was after the September 2011 attacks on the US homeland. The US government and allied invasion of Afghanistan dealt a deadly blow to Al Qaeda. Most of the top Al Qaeda leaders were apprehended, taken into custody in the Guantanamo prison facility, and thoroughly interrogated. These interrogations exposed the military and financial structure of Al Qaeda, leading to an operation against bin Laden in 2011 that had him killed (Bajoria & Bruno, 2012).
The secretive organizational structure of Al Qaeda was a key factor in its “successful” terrorist attacks. However, most of its operational and financial structures were exposed after the US-led allied invasion of Afghanistan. The US-led offensive against Al Qaeda and the eventual death of Osama bin Laden have weakened Al Qaeda in recent years. The security lessons learned by the US security organizations and the US forces while dealing with Al Qaeda will go a long way in improving homeland security.