Research Paper: Terrorist Organization That Affects National Security

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¶ … terrorist phenomenon has changed the perspective through which security, both homeland and international, is perceived. The complex nature of terrorism that spans across borders, nations, and territories had impacted the way in which security strategies are drafted and implemented and has given rise to new meanings of security projected in terms of human, social, economic, and most importantly political security (Buzan, 1991).

Perhaps the most important and well-known terrorist group is represented by the Al Qaeda terrorist organization that has been responsible for the most significant terrorist attack in terms of public impact in human history, the 9/11 attacks on the United States. There are few people that are unaware of the human and psychological damage the attacks on the World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon Headquarters had on the collective beliefs of the American people and of the world. The notion of terrorism was redefined in broader, more complex terms but, above all, the attacks provided solid and undeniable evidence that terrorism is no longer an isolated phenomenon but rather it represents a global threat and should be dealt with accordingly. The masterminds of the 9/11 attacks, the Al Qaeda terrorist organization, have proven to be one of the most solid and flexible organization of its kind and not only and through their continuous attacks on the integrity of states around the world, have determined a constant reconsideration of security and defense strategies.

The group's history

The history of the group was largely influenced by the 80s war against the Soviet Union. More precisely, "after Afghanistan was invaded by the Soviet Union, the Afghan Islamist extremists found a rallying call for their cause, as young Muslims from around the world came to Afghanistan to volunteer in what was being called a "holy war," or jihad, against the invading Soviets. One of these young Muslims was a 23-year-old from Saudi Arabia named "Usama" bin Ladin." (PBS, 2010) in order to create a strong opposition against the Soviet forces, bin Laden set a special funding scheme that would enable the newly established organization to form an armed resistance against future alleged foreign forces including Western countries. However, during the resistance period against the Soviet Union countries such as the United States or Saudi Arabia financially supported the opposition and provided billions of dollars to the activities of Al Qaeda.

After the withdrawal of the Soviet Unit at the end of the 80s, Al Qaeda had become a full-fledged organization that had benefited from support including logistics from neighboring countries. Even so, bin Laden was forced to withdraw from Afghanistan ad orchestrate his activities in the newly identified enemy, the Western countries, from Sudan (PBS, 2010). In this sense, "from the sanctuary of Sudan, bin Laden began synching up with groups from all over the Middle East and northern Africa, and began laying the groundwork for his jihad against the West" (PBS, 2010). In this context, the organization would start plotting various terrorist attaches against the U.S. troops in Somalia and as well on U.S. soil, taking responsibility for the 1993 World Trade center bombing.

Given the pressures of the international community and the difficult situation Sudan was facing economically and politically, the Sudanese leaders forced bin Laden to withdrew once again to Afghanistan where he succeeded in creating a new training camp for the militants of the Holy War. In this sense, bin Laden, together with Ayman al-Zawahri, one of the most important personalities of the Egyptian terrorist movement, formed the new improved version of the Al Qaeda, strongly supported by the Taliban movement that rose in the 1990s in Afghanistan. This type of organization, with strong and clearly identified leadership, benefiting from a safe haven in Afghanistan, was able to orchestrate attacks against the U.S.S. Cole, and most importantly, against the United States in 2001.

Strengths of the organization

One of the most important strengths of the organization represents the power of its followers. It has to be noted that the organization, through its message and tools, do not appeal to the Muslim community worldwide. Their actions consist of violent and deadly acts against Western countries in particular. However, the means through which Al Qaeda managed to attract so many adepts are strongly related to the simplicity of the message they are basing their Holy War on. More precisely, "Al Qaeda propagates a simple popular message ... that "Islam is under attack," militarily, religiously, and economically. Al Qaeda's simple message of foreign occupation, desecration and exploitation seems to resonate deeply" (Reuters, 2009). This is largely due to the fact that given the certain "clash of civilizations" that has been nominated by Samuel Huntington as being the new reason for wars in the 20th and 21st centuries (Huntington, 1996), the falls between civilizations are sensed at the lowest levels of the Muslim society. The discrepancies between the Western world as opposed to the Muslim world are constantly being exploited and distorted to resemble a "war" between the West and the Muslim world. Al Qaeda is basing its simple message on this aspect and gain momentum.

Another strong aspect of the organization is its global nature. Unlike other organizations, regardless of their activity, Al Qaeda managed to forge on the religious aspect to create ties all over the world and strong connections in the Muslim world. An important aspect is related to the fact that religion in the Muslim world plays a key role in bringing communities together. Putting forward an idea such as a "holy war" against invaders and undermining elements of the core values of the Muslim faith, would attract enough support and followers around the world (Reuters, 2009). Furthermore, the effects of globalization and of the dismantling of border lines is not efficient solely in terms of economic purposes but also it provides space for transnational maneuvers for this types of organizations.

Weaknesses of the organization

A major weakness of the organization is their lack in political support (Reuters, 2009). Despite the fact that the organization benefits from the support of important countries in the Middle East, this is not sustainable on the long run largely because there is no foundation for Al Qaeda to base its actions on something else than violent attacks. More precisely, sustainable political power cannot be obtained only by means of violence and killings. The fact that Al Qaeda has no longer a political core that could represent an alternative to a current political situation in Afghanistan will not make the presence and support for the organization a long-term certainty.

Another weakness of the organization is related to the first point in the sense that given its lack of sustainability and of the nature of increased violence, the organization will not benefit from popular support on the long run and therefore the image of Al Qaeda would eventually fade out. Even more, with the removal of bin Laden, the actual symbol of the organization, the iconic figure of the fight against the West has lost its momentum. More precisely, "some time in the future, al Qaeda will loose its attraction among the youth, and to pose as a jihadist will no longer be "cool." Already, al Qaeda is slowly but steadily becoming yesterday's enemy" (Reuters, 2009).

How it has affected the United States

The existence of the organization greatly affected the United States and western countries alike from different points-of-view and perspectives.

From a political point-of-view, the 9/11 attacks had a real impact on the perception of terrorism as a global threat and of the lack of preparedness of the United States in facing this threat. The United States was perceived as invincible, yet the events that took place in 2001 proved that not even the U.S. would have been able for foresee such a situation. The Commission analyzing the attacks… [END OF PREVIEW]

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