COLUMN SIXTY-FOUR, OCTOBER 1, 2001
(Copyright © 2001 Al Aronowitz)
THE ORIGINS OF AL-QAEDA
OH, PLEASE DON'T BOMB INNOCENT WOMEN AND CHILDREN!
A woman trapped in the World Trade Center appears to be holding a baby out one window and a man appears to be holding a small child out another window
[Subject: FW: Its long but important reading ED
Date: Wed, 19 Sep 2001 21:02:14 -0700
From: "VENIRE" <VENIRE@znet.com
From: Louis Ghio [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Tuesday, September 18, 2001 4:38 PM
To: Recipient list suppressed
Subject: Fwd: Itís long but important reading ED
Date: Tue, 18 Sep 2001 18:27:15 EDT
Subject: Its long but important reading ED
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I have just finished reading this article on "Osama Ben Laden" and I can tell you one thing. This isn't going to be an easy task to win the war against this extremely well organized movement. They have build up a net of operatives from one end of the globe to the other. Financial and moral support is given freely from all directions. This will most likely be the toughest and costliest war this country has ever fought. God help us, we sure need it.
P.S. You must not let you be deterred by its length, it is an eye opener of major proportion!!! This article is well worth the read. This is our enemy. As has been stated many times this guy is not nuts and has the intelligence network, financial support, and followers to carry out his war against the United States. Our Task to root him out and destroy this network will not be easy, but must be done.]
BY ROHAN GUNARATNA
Gunaratna is a British Chevening Scholar at the University of St. Andrews,
Scotland. He was the Hesburgh Scholar at the Institute of International Peace
Studies, University of Notre Dame, Foreign Policy Fellow at the Center for
International and Security Studies, University of Maryland and a Visiting
Research Scholar at the Office of Arms Control, Disarmament and International
Security, University of Illinois. He worked with the Government of Sri Lanka
from 1984-94. Gunaratna also served as a UN expert in 1997 to the UN Panel of
governmental experts on conventional weapon transfers. He is author of 6 books
including War and Peace in Sri Lanka.
1980s, resistance fighters in Afghanistan developed a worldwide recruitment and
support network with the aid of the USA, Saudi Arabia and other states. After
the 1989 Soviet withdrawal, this network, which equipped, trained and funded
thousands of Muslim fighters came under the control of Osama bin Laden. In light
of evidence from the recently completed US embassy bombing trials, Phil
Hirschkorn, Rohan Gunaratna, Ed Blanche, and Stefan Leader examine the genesis,
operational methods and organizational structure of the Bin Laden network---Al-Qaeda.
('The Base') is a conglomerate of groups spread throughout the world operating
as a network. It has a global reach, with a presence in Algeria, Egypt, Morocco,
Turkey, Jordan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Syria, Xinjiang in China, Pakistan,
Bangladesh, Malaysia, Myanmar, Indonesia, Mindanao in the Philippines, Lebanon,
Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Yemen, Libya, Tunisia, Bosnia, Kosovo,
Chechnya, Dagestan, Kashmir, Sudan, Somalia, Kenya, Tanzania, Azerbaijan,
Eritrea, Uganda, Ethiopia, and in the West Bank and Gaza.
creation in 1988, Osama bin Laden has controlled Al-Qaeda. As such, he is both
the backbone and the principal driving force behind the network.
Laden, alias Osama Mohammad al Wahad, alias Abu Abdallah, alias Al Qaqa, born in
1957, is the son of Mohammad bin Awdah bin Laden of Southern Yemen. When he
moved to Saudi Arabia, Osama's father became a construction magnate and
renovated the holy cities of Mecca and Medina, making the Bin Ladens a highly
respected family both within the Saudi royal household and with the public. At
Jeddah University, Osama bin Laden's worldview was shaped by Dr Abdullah Azzam,
a Palestinian of Jordanian origin. An influential figure in the Muslim
Brotherhood, Azzam is regarded as the historical leader of Hamas. After
graduation, Bin Laden became deeply religious. His exact date of arrival in
Pakistan or Afghanistan remains disputed but some Western intelligence agencies
place it in the early 1980s. Azzam and Prince Turki bin Faisal bin Abdelaziz,
chief of security of Saudi Arabia, were his early mentors, and later Dr Ayman
Zawahiri, became his religious mentor.
Azzam founded Maktab al Khidmat lil-mujahidin al-Arab (MaK), known commonly as
the Afghan bureau. As MaK's principal financier, Bin Laden was considered the
deputy to Azzam, the leader of MaK. Other leaders included Abdul Muizz, Abu
Ayman, Abu Sayyaf, Samir Abdul Motaleb and Mohammad Yusuff Abass. At the height
of the foreign Arab and Muslim influx into Pakistan-Afghanistan from 1984- 1986,
Bin Laden spent time traveling widely and raising funds in the Arab world. He
recruited several thousand Arab and Muslim youths to fight the Soviet Union and
MaK channeled several billion dollars' worth of Western governmental, financial
and material resources for the Afghan jihad. MaK worked closely with Pakistan,
especially the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), the Saudi government and
Egyptian governments, and the vast Muslim Brotherhood network.
fighting and relief efforts were assisted by two banks---Dar al Mal al Islami,
founded by Turki's brother Prince Mohammad Faisal in 198 and Dalla al Baraka
founded by King Fahd's brother- in-law in 1982. The banks channeled funds to 20
non-governmental organizations (NGOs), the most famous of which was the
International Islamic Relief Organization (IIRO).
Both IIRO and
the Islamic Relief Agency functioned under the umbrella of the World Islamic
League led by Mufti Abdul Aziz bin Baz. In addition to benefiting from the vast
resources and expertise of governments channeled through domestic and foreign
sources, MaK developed an independent global reach through several mosques and
charities throughout the world.
relationship with Azzam suffered towards the end of the anti-Soviet Afghan
campaign. The dispute was over Azzam's support for Ahmadshah Massoud, the
current leader of the Northern Alliance fighting the Taliban. Bin Laden
preferred Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, former prime minister and leader of the
Hizb-i-Islami (Islamic Party), who was both anti-Communist and anti-Western.
Soviets withdrew, Bin Laden decided to form a group that could unite the whole
Muslim world into a single entity. Despite their differences, Azzam and Bin
Laden worked together until Azzam was assassinated in September 1989. Although
Soviet troops withdrew that year, they installed the pro-Communist leader
Najibullah in Kabul. MaK strengthened the organization in order to fight the
Najibullah regime and to channel resources to other international campaigns
where Muslims were perceived as victims. In addition to benefiting from MaK's
pan-Islamic, as opposed to pan-Arab, ideology, Al-Qaeda drew from the vast
financial resources and technical expertise mobilized during the decade-long
At the end of
the campaign Bin Laden returned to Saudi Arabia where he helped Saudi Arabia to
create the first jihad group in South Yemen under the leadership of Tariq al
Fadli. After Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait, the failure of Saudi rulers to
honor their pledge to expel foreign troops when the Iraqi threat diminished led
Bin Laden to start a campaign against the Saudi royal house. He claimed the
Saudi rulers were false Muslims and it was necessary to install a true Islamic
state in Saudi Arabia. The Saudi regime deported him in 1992 and revoked his
citizenship in 1994.
the National Islamic Front, led by Hasan al Turabi, came to power in Sudan and
sent a delegation to Pakistan. Bin Laden had moved his infrastructure of
well-trained and experienced fighters from Pakistan to Sudan beginning in 1989
and remained there until international pressure forced him to return to
Al-Qaeda is organized with Bin Laden, the emir-general, at the top, followed by
other Al-Qaeda leaders and leaders of the constituent groups. Horizontally, it
is integrated with 24 constituent groups. The vertical integration is formal,
the horizontal integration, informal. Immediately below Bin Laden is the Shura
majlis, a consultative council.
committees---military, religio-legal, finance, and media---report to the majlis.
Handpicked members of these committees---especially the military
committee--conduct special assignments for Bin Laden and his operational
commanders. To preserve operational effectiveness at all levels,
compartmentalization and secrecy are paramount.
organization has evolved considerably since the embassy bombings, the basic
structure of the consultative council and the four committees remains intact.
Bin Laden's intention to expand his operations has been curbed by the
post-bombing security environment, and both Bin Laden and Al-Qaeda have become
membership is estimated at between 3,000-5,000 men, most of whom fight alongside
the Taliban against the Northern Alliance and are designated the 055 Brigade. It
has camps in Khost, Mahavia, Kabul, Jalalabad, Kunar, Kandahar, and depots in
Tora Bora and Liza. There are no female members. In terms of recruitment of
experienced fighters, Bin Laden has benefited from his vast Mujahideen database,
created during the anti-Soviet campaign.
support and operational cells have been detected and neutralized in Italy,
Germany, UK, Canada, USA, Tanzania, Kenya, Yemen and Albania, but they have
since been replaced. Cells have also been identified in about 50 countries
including Somalia, Eritrea, Sudan, and the Philippines. Al-Qaeda operational
cells comprised of 'commandos' operate under Mohammad Atef, alias Abu Hafs. They
are mostly suicide members. The organization also has a Security Service led by
its extensive support and operational infrastructure to its broad ideological
disposition. Bin Laden's ideology appeals to both Middle Eastern and non-Middle
Eastern groups that are Islamic in character. Although an Arab, Bin Laden
advocates pan-Islam, not pan-Arabism. His thinking in this direction was greatly
influenced both by Azzam, his Palestinian mentor, and to a lesser extent by
Hasan Turabi, the spiritual leader of Sudan.
To put his
ideology into practice, Bin Laden dispatched several hundred Afghan veterans to
join Islamic groups in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East, boosting the domestic
and international guerrilla and terrorist agenda of these groups. Bin Laden's
cadres are drawn from a 50,000 strong pool of two generations of Afghan
veterans. The first generation fought in the multinational Afghan campaign in
1979-89, the second generation in campaigns in Tajikistan, Bosnia- Herzegovina,
Kashmir, Mindanao, Chechnya, Lebanon, Nagorno-Karabakh, Algeria and Egypt. These
fighters are devout Muslims inspired by Islamic scholars and are willing to
sacrifice their lives for Islam.
supports three types of groups. First, groups fighting regimes led by Muslim
rulers, which they believe, are compromising Islamic ideals and interests (as in
Egypt, Algeria, and Saudi Arabia). Second, groups that are fighting regimes
perceived as oppressing and repressing their Muslim populace (as in Kosovo,
India and Indonesia). Third, groups fighting regimes to establish their own
Islamic state (as in Palestine, Chechnya, Dagestan and Mindanao). Bin Laden has
also directed his efforts and resources to fight the USA, a country he sees as a
direct threat to Islam, closely followed by Europe, Israel, Russia and India in
importance as targets.
broad ideology has enabled it to infiltrate many Islam-driven groups. After
realizing the potential for inflicting damage to Europe and North America, Al-Qaeda
infiltrated the European network of the Armed Islamic Group (Groupe Islamique
Arme---GIA) after 1997. Although the GIA is an Al-Qaeda constituent, the Al-Qaeda
fatwa did not claim GIA as one of its signatories, possibly because it believed
that exposing the association would be counterproductive. Compared to other
groups that openly signed the fatwa, the GIA had a greater reach into the West.
Most of Al-Qaeda's
membership is drawn from the two Egyptian groups: Islamic Group of Egypt (Gamaya
al Islamiya) and Egyptian Islamic Jihad (Al Gamaya Al Islamiya). Khamareddine
Kherbane, an Afghan veteran, was close to both the GIA and Al-Qaeda leaderships.
Two Algerian groups, the GIA of Antar Zouabri and the Salafist Group for
Preaching and Combat (Groupe Salafiste pour la Predication et le Combat---GSPC)
of Hassan Hattab developed ties with Al-Qaeda early on, but large-scale
penetration of Algerian groups came in 1997-8. Bin Laden also cemented ties with
Jaish Aden Abin al Islami of Yemen, and members of several small Islamist
parties from Tunisia, Libya, Morocco and elsewhere also joined. With the
exception of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Abu Sayaaf Group (ASG),
Al-Qaeda links with Asian Islamist groups, notably those fighting in Kashmir,
developed in the second half of the 1990s.
constituent or affiliated organisations include al Jamaa essalafya lid Daawa wal
Q it al, en Nahda, Sipah e Sahaba Kashmir, Hizb-al-Islami in Kashmir, Harakat ul
Mujahjideen and Harakat-ul Jihad in Kashmir, Hizbullah in Lebanon, Hamas in the
Occupied Territories and the Islamic Party of Turkistan.
Due to fears
of penetration, especially since the embassy bombings, Al-Qaeda is likely to
become more discreet in its decision making process, with fewer operatives
knowing the next target. Target selection, preparation and acquisition will
remain confined to Bin Laden and a handful of leaders in the military committee.
SOURCES OF SUPPORT
state sponsors have included Sudan, Iran, and Afghanistan. Pakistan has not
supported Bin Laden's terrorist campaigns but it does assist several hundred
Afghan veterans currently serving directly under Al-Qaeda, notably Harakat ul
Mujahidin that is engaged in fighting Indian troops in Kashmir.
funding sources vary. His personal inherited fortune is in the region of US$280
to $300 million according to the estimates of Western intelligence agencies.
Wealthy Arab well-wishers in the Middle East, especially in the Gulf states,
continue to support Bin Laden and sympathetic organizations. Bin Laden is also
known to siphon funds from overt Muslim charities. A wide variety of banks in
the Gulf are used, with Bin Laden front organizations transacting businesses.
The transfers of funds occur via international banks in the Gulf where his
brother-in-law Mohammad Jamal Khalifa is based. He is responsible for managing a
part of the financial network and manages significant investments, notably in
Mauritius, Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines. His businesses range from
trade in diamonds to fish. Despite some sources saying he has been disowned, Bin
Laden has received significant funds from wealthy donors including his family.
distribution of funds was managed by an exiled Saudi businessman in Ethiopia,
Sheik Mohammad Hussein Al-Almadi, and the Afghan-based Abu Zubayda, who is
thought to be a Palestinian originally named Zein Abedein Mohammad Hassan. Funds
are transferred through a number of banks in the United Arab Emirates, Saudi
Arabia, and Kuwait.
1990s, contributions from Bin Laden's accounts have funded a number of
operations, including providing hotel accommodation, safe houses and cars to
mount reconnaissance on physical and human targets. His funds have also
purchased or manufactured key components for explosive devices. US authorities
were able to trace $5,000 transferred by Bin Laden to the operational group in
Yemen that attacked the USS Cole. He had specifically allocated funds to video
the attack, a task that could not be accomplished.
overall evidence suggests the extent of Al-Qaeda funding is limited, a result
perhaps of successful US attempts to block finance to and from Al-Qaeda or of
limits on communication placed on it by the Taliban.
support is difficult to quantify as it is in the interests of Bin Laden to keep
his involvement covert. It is also difficult to assess the validity of US
government agency and mass media claims about him, as there are some indications
that they exaggerate his influence.
In any case,
the embassy bombers received little funding. Ahmad Ressam and his associates,
arrested in the USA and Canada in 1999, were involved in either credit card
fraud or petty theft; and terrorists associated with Bin Laden arrested in
Jordan appear to have financed themselves by bank robberies, burglaries and
forged checks, and were planning ransom kidnappings to raise funds.
Bin Laden and
his deputy, Ayman, direct a number of support and strike operations using their
own support activists and attack teams. Al-Qaeda's elite consists of experienced
Egyptian, Algerian and Yemeni cadres.
a high capacity for infiltrating any Muslim community irrespective of size and
geographic location. Individually, Al-Qaeda members have joined Muslim
communities from New Zealand to India, and the organization has infiltrated both
authoritarian and democratic states.
authoritarian states of the Middle East, especially in the oil-rich Gulf, Al-Qaeda
enjoys the support of Islamic philanthropists and foundations. In emergent
democracies, it infiltrates by providing goods and services to Muslims in need.
In democracies, it operates by forging links with influential Muslim communities
with the aim of soliciting and channeling their support to Muslim communities in
lead-up to the 1998 bombings demonstrated, several Al-Qaeda infiltrators were
sleepers for several years. In some cases, members who have left have been
re-approached by Al-Qaeda leaders for assistance, and have returned to the fold.
The Western intelligence community believes there are sleepers in Europe and
North America waiting to be activated.
against Al-Qaeda poses several challenges. Bin Laden has built an organization
difficult to disrupt, degrade, and destroy. The intelligence community is
unfamiliar with the network's fluid and dynamic structure and the past offers
little guidance. The time-tested strategy to destroy a politically
motivated-armed group is to target the core and penultimate leadership, but in
Bin Laden's case, this is a difficult proposition. In Sudan, several rings of
Sudanese as well as Al-Qaeda bodyguards protected him and in Afghanistan, the
Taliban provides security as well as Al-Qaeda bodyguards.
If Bin Laden
is eliminated, he is likely to be replaced by another Islamist, although none in
the second tier possess his charisma. The penultimate leadership is
operationally significant, and so Al-Qaeda is likely to remain operational even
if Bin Laden is captured or killed. Both his contemporaries and successors are
likely to draw lessons from the unique experience and expertise of long-range
land and sea operations nurtured by Bin Laden.
resilient for four principal reasons:
*it is the
symbol of resistance against Western domination. Although Bin Laden is a
veritable icon of terrorism to the West, in parts of the Islamic world he is
seen as the only leader that can stand up to the big Satan (the USA) and the
little Satan (Israel). To draw maximum support, Al-Qaeda created the 'World
Islamic Jihad against the Jews and Crusaders'. As such, Al-Qaeda has a ready
base of recruits, supporters, and sympathizers. To deepen and widen Al-Qaeda's
reach, Bin Laden departs from tradition and embraces a pan-Islamic view. As a
result, Al-Qaeda draws the support of both Arab and non-Arab Muslims. With time,
Al-Qaeda's vast active and potential support base will grow and mature;
built strategic depth by maintaining leadership and operational links with some
of the largest and deadliest Middle Eastern and Asian terrorist groups. As an
experienced practitioner, Bin Laden's stature and personal relationships with
the leaders of these groups facilitated Al-Qaeda links. Bin Laden's generosity
with funds and, more importantly, words of praise has enabled him to cement
strong working relationships at both leadership and operational levels. Although
conceptualized, planned and even financed by Al-Qaeda, the targeting end of
terrorist operations will be by constituent groups such as GIA, MILF, and ASG.
Attributing individual attacks and finding the perpetrators will be a long
Afghanistan provides Al-Qaeda with a political, security and geographic shield,
which, by imposing sanctions, the international community has only strengthened.
Afghanistan's isolation has major implications for intelligence collection,
especially for the generation of high-grade intelligence, which usually comes
through human sources. Without people-to-people contact it is difficult to
influence their thinking;
physically and/or ideologically penetrates international and domestic Islamic
NGOs throughout the world. Thus the Al-Qaeda infrastructure is inseparably
enmeshed with the religious, social and economic fabric of Muslim communities
worldwide. Host countries such as the UK, Canada, Australia, and even the USA,
are hesitant to investigate Islamic charities, including foreign charities.
Al-Qaeda is not invulnerable. As was seen in Sudan in 1995, diplomatic and
political pressure and shortage of resources can threaten the network.
Similarly, when Libya pressured Sudan, Bin Laden asked Al-Qaeda's Libyan members
to leave the group.
to US intelligence agencies, Al-Qaeda has suffered gravely since the embassy
bombings, but it still retains a high capacity to replenish its losses and
wastage. However, Al-Qaeda can be destroyed with the allocation and sustained
application of resources, political courage, legal and diplomatic tools. The key
to disrupting, degrading and destroying Al-Qaeda lies in developing a
multipronged, multidimensional and multinational strategy that targets the core
and the penultimate leadership and the network's sources of finance and
In Afghanistan, Al-Qaeda forces fight alongside the Taliban. If the Taliban defeats the Northern Alliance, Western intelligence and security agencies fear tens of thousands of foreign and Afghan fighters would then be free to engage in other theatres and other conflicts in which Al-Qaeda might take an interest. Russia, India, China, Europe, and the USA have regional interests in Chechnya, Kashmir, Xinjiang, the Balkans and the Middle East, all conflicts in which Islam is a central factor. ##
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