Al Qaeda: Current and Future Trends Term Paper

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Al Qaeda: Current and Future Trends

Many people were heard to observe that "things would never be the same" following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 and some even suggested the Osama bin Laden could consider himself a "dead man walking." Almost seven years have passed, though, and while it is reasonable to assert that many things have changed, bin Laden and his al Qaeda network remain a fundamental threat to U.S. interests at home and abroad. Although there have been some military successes, fighting this shadowy international terrorist organization has defied other approaches. The purpose of this study was to provide an overview of al Qaeda, and its organizational and developmental history. In addition, the group's base and location of operations and its financing and support sources are reviewed, as well as an analysis of al Qaeda's motivations, ideology and purpose. The study also provides a list of al Qaeda's adversaries and enemies and a description of locations and tactics used in its attacks. A review of countermeasures that have been shown to be effective against al Qaeda is presented, followed by an analysis of the projected future for the group. A discussion of potential security management solutions and countermeasures that could be deployed against these projected future threats is followed by a summary of the research and important findings in the conclusion.

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There has been some progress in the war on terrorism since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 and countering the threat represented by al Qaeda. For example, the removal of the Taliban government in Afghanistan served to eliminate al Qaeda's sanctuary and training camps and destroyed an important connection in the process that once provided al Qaeda's leadership with a continuing stream of new recruits. Unfortunately, continues to face a serious threat as the organization's leadership rebounds from setback after setback to reemerge in yet another region of the world to threaten U.S. interests at home and abroad. In this environment, identifying current and future trends for this organization represents a timely and important enterprise, and these issues are the focus of this study. This paper provides an overview of al Qaeda, and organizational and developmental history, and its base and location of operations. A discussion of the group's financing and support sources is followed by an analysis of al Qaeda's motivations, ideology and purpose. An assessment of al Qaeda's roster of adversaries and enemies is followed by a description of the group's typical location of attacks and tactics employed. A review of countermeasures that have been shown to be effective against al Qaeda is presented, followed by an analysis of the projected future for the group. A discussion of potential security management solutions and countermeasures that could be deployed against these projected future threats is followed by a summary of the research and important findings in the conclusion.

Review and Discussion

Name of the organization and "type" of terrorist group.

Al-Qaeda (from the Arabic, meaning, "The Base" or, alternatively, "The Foundation," Burke, 2004) is an international terrorist network headed by Osama bin Laden (What is al-Qaeda?, 2007).

Organizational and developmental history.

While the roots of the Islamic world's dissatisfaction with the Western world dates back centuries (Aydin, 2004), the organizational and developmental history of al Qaeda itself is of fairly recent origin. According to Steadman (2007), "With his 1998 fatwa against Jews and Crusaders, Osama bin Laden publicly initiated the coalescence of the many jihadist groups into a single global movement" (p. 28).

Base or sanctuary; and location of operations.

Not surprisingly, al Qaeda, as a non-state actor in international affairs, maintains operations of varying sorts and levels in far-flung locations around the world. For instance, Pakistan, one of the few countries that were formerly Taliban supporters, has since become an important strategic ally in the fight against al Qaeda. According to Jenkins (2002), "U.S. diplomacy has turned the international outrage and concern prompted by the September 11 attacks into a global commitment to combat terrorism, confirmed in United Nations Resolution 1373" (p. 1). By all accounts, al Qaeda is nowhere in particular and everywhere in general: "The 11 September attacks on the United States were a bold, calculated transnational attack by an organization that has established and maintained a multinational presence in more than 50 countries, directed by a base located -- at least until recently -- in Afghanistan" (Smith, 2002, p. 33).

Financing/support sources.

There are some profound problems involved in trying to trace the precise sources of funding for al Qaeda for various political, security and intelligence-gathering reasons. For example, in his essay, "Funding Terrorism in Southeast Asia: The Financial Network of Al Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiya," Abuza (2003) reports that, "In early 2003, the U.S. Department of Treasury's Office of Foreign Asset Control drew up a list of 300 individuals, charities and corporations in Southeast Asia believed to be Al Qaeda funders. Due to inter-agency politics, the list was winnowed down to 18 individuals and 10 companies. But even at the time of writing in early April 2003, the list was still unannounced due to diplomatic and bureaucratic pressure" (p. 169).

Given the shadowy nature of the organization, it is not surprising that its funding sources are likewise convoluted and difficult to track. According to this author, "Al Qaeda's financial network is very sophisticated and complex, dating back to the late-1980s to early 1990s. Osama bin Laden set out to establish an organization that would be self-sustaining over time; one part self-reliant, another part reliant on the ummah, the Muslim community. Built on "layers and redundancies," Al Qaeda's financial backbone was built on a foundation of charities, non-governmental organizations, mosques, websites, fund-raisers, intermediaries, facilitators, and banks and other financial institutions that helped finance the mujiheddin throughout the 1980s. This network extended to all corners of the Muslim world" (Abuza, p. 170).

What is known is that the various sources of funding for al Qaeda's operations around the world include the following:

Cash brought into the country by individuals;

Funds skimmed from Islamic charities;

Corporate entities (some very overt, others are self-sustaining fronts for terrorist activities);

Proceeds from hawala shops and gold sales;

Contributions (zakat and infaq) from its own members;

Contributions (infaq) from outsiders;

Al Qaeda investments and accounts already established in the region, especially in the region's Islamic banks, and,

Petty crime, racketeering, extortion, gun-running and kidnapping (Abuza).

Furthermore, many of these funding mechanisms remain firmly in place and there is little authorities can do about it. As Abuza emphasizes, "None of these funding mechanisms has been effectively shut down since the war on terror began. In part it has been due to the near impossibility of shutting down, for instance, hawala networks, or stopping petty crime" (p. 170). These constraints are due in part to administrative complacency, and partially attributable to a dearth of political wherewithal and conflicting diplomatic pressures (Abuza). Moreover, in their efforts to "win the hearts and minds" of potential converts, these funding sources are also responsible for some social initiatives within the Muslim community that have made them appear more benign and even benevolent from the perspective of their constituents rather than as the international terrorist organization they are in reality. For instance, according to Abuza, "Indeed, one of the aspects that made Southeast Asia so appealing to the Al Qaeda leadership in the first place was the network of Islamic charities, the spread of poorly regulated Islamic banks, business-friendly environments, and economies that already had records of extensive money laundering" (p. 170). "Al Qaeda saw the region, first and foremost, as a back office for their activities (especially to set up front companies, raise funds, recruit, forge documents, and purchase weapons); only later was it seen as a theatre of operations in its own right" (Abusa, p. 170).

Moreover, Islam is spreading across Europe in unprecedented ways, and accommodating the religious and moral views of these newly arrived immigrants is placing an enormous amount of strain on relations between European nations and the United States, but it also spells serious trouble for these countries in the future as their existing political regimens are subverted from within by the increasingly powerful and persuasive message being promulgated by "al Qaedism." In this regard, Anderson (2002) suggests that, "From a pragmatic American standpoint, too, there is little benefit to heeding the views of European elites. It is true that European cooperation in tracking down terrorist cells and security cooperation is necessary" (p. 591). This author adds, though, that the political will needed to sustain this cooperative effort will be eroded as the Islamic communities gain ground and become more influential in their presence through legitimate political channels (Anderson). For instance, Anderson writes that:

It is unfortunately especially necessary, as it turns out, that the seed beds of forces attacking America lie nearly as much in the despised immigrant Islamic communities that live at the margins of European societies -- supposedly so vastly morally superior to America, but whose Muslim… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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How to Cite "Al Qaeda: Current and Future Trends" Term Paper in a Bibliography:

APA Style

Al Qaeda: Current and Future Trends.  (2008, March 30).  Retrieved November 30, 2021, from

MLA Format

"Al Qaeda: Current and Future Trends."  30 March 2008.  Web.  30 November 2021. <>.

Chicago Style

"Al Qaeda: Current and Future Trends."  March 30, 2008.  Accessed November 30, 2021.