POLS-103-02: International Relations
Al Qaeda: Origins, Development and Objectives
22 April 2014
St. Bonaventure University
Select any terrorist group we studied and explain its origins, development and objectives.
Al Qaeda is an international terrorist organization that was founded by Osama bin Laden in the late 1980s in Peshawar, Pakistan. The name is Arabic for “The Base of Operation” or “method” (Burke 2004). However, many experts agree that al-Qaeda is more dangerous as an ideology than as an organization. As an organization, it has been weakened by fragmentation, arrests, and deaths of the top leaders. This has caused the structure of the organization to be destroyed, resulting in the lack of a central hub for the militant group. One thing that remains is the ideology, which is fueled mainly by a hatred of Western, Zionist, and Semitic cultures and beliefs (Burke 2004). As a result, many people may not be directly part of the al Qaeda network or even directly linked to bin Laden. Due to their common views and beliefs of Western culture, militant groups loosely associated to al Qaeda have been formed, carrying on the original objectives that bin Laden had in mind when he created this organization.
The origins of al Qaeda date back to August of 1988, when the organization is formed at a meeting where three crucial people to the further development of al Qaeda are present (Wander, 2008). Ayman al-Zawahiri was a lieutenant to Osama bin Laden and considered to be the brains behind the organization. He was a lifetime member of the Egyptian Islamist Jihad, until he decided to merge it into Al Qaeda in 1998. He was a member of Bin Laden’s shura council, which is believed to consist of 20-30 senior members that served as advisors to Bin Laden. The second individual present was Sayyed Imam Al-Sharif, or Dr. Fadl, who is one of the oldest associates of al-Zawahiri (Wright 2008). He is one of the first members of Al Qaeda’s top council and authored a book that was used as a jihad manual in Al Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan (Wright 2006). This book was used to train people in fighting whom they considered the enemy and quickly became an important text in training jihadis. Finally, bin Laden was also present, providing an extraordinary amount of money from his Saudi wealth to fund the operation (“Osama”).
During the Soviet War in Afghanistan, Soviet troops fought the Afghan mujahideen. Since the US feared the expansion and spread of Soviet ideas, it funded and supported the Afghan mujahideen in order to help them fight the occupation of the Soviet troops (Wander 2008). Mujahideen were recruited and funds were raised through the Services Office, which was a Muslim organization founded by Bin Laden and a Palestinian Sunni Islamic scholar named Abdullah Yusuf Assam (Emerson). Assam was an influential theologian who supported the defensive and offensive jihad by Muslims in defending their country against the Soviet. As the...