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For thousands of years the Middle East has been involved in conflict. Wars have been fought and blood spilled. In this time, many different countries and organizations have laid claim to its territory. One of the more recent occupations, of a piece of that land, has had an effect on the world today. The Soviet occupation of Afghanistan and the resulting war to liberate that piece of the Mid-East, helped create an organization called Al Qaeda. This organization, along with its chief founder, Osama Bin Laden, has caused confusion ever since. Ironically, Al Qaeda's top enemy was the one who originally armed and trained its soldiers. The United States now is chief among those trying to crush the Al Qaeda organization for good. With the death of Bin Laden, Al Qaeda has been decapitated and, through knowing its history, criminal justice professionals can look at the causes that brought them to power and the activities it'll take to stop them in the future.
After Afghanistan was taken over by the U.S.S.R. and infiltrated their "Holy Land," the cry was made, as they found their spiritual, psychological reason to fight for the historical severity of their motherland. The Afghan Islam radicals or, as some would call them, young Islam militants, called for a holy war, or jihad. One of these young Islam militants, was a 23 year old from Saudi Arabia, named Osama bin Laden.
One of Osama Bin Laden's earliest chief lieutenant's was Abdullah Yusuf Assam who preached in favor of defensive jihad to help Afghan against the Soviet Invaders. Assam was very instrumental in recruiting, managing money for volunteers, and other strategic projects, but bin Laden became known for his major funding of the Jihad movement. According to Bill Moyers, Bin Laden's ambitions extended beyond the borders of Afghanistan, and he began to develop a worldwide organization. He set up a financial assistance system known as the "golden chain", compromised mainly of financers from Saudi Arabia and Persian Gulf States. Using this vast funding Bin laden and Assam created a department of services which helped channel recruits for the jihad into Afghanistan.
Even today, one week after the execution of Bin Laden, we have learned that he was very ambitious and used the latest technology as he expanded one of the most strategic international networks to organize his holy war. In this research, we can continue to see, even after the Soviet- Afghanistan war, the Bin Laden faction continues to spread out. Moyers states:
When the Soviets pulled out of Afghanistan in early 1989, bin laden and Azzam decided that their new organization should not dissolve. They established what they called a base also known as al-Qaeda as a potential general headquarters for future jihad. However, Bin Laden, now the clear emir of al Qaeda, and Azzam differed on where the organization's future objectives should lie. Azzam favored continued fighting in Afghanistan until there was a true Islamist government, while bin laden wanted to prepare al Qaeda to fight anywhere in the world. When Azzam was killed in 1989, Bin laden assumed full charge of Al Qaeda.
After the victory in Afghanistan in early 1989, against the Soviet Union, Bin Laden was exiled by Saudi Arabia and moved to Sudan, a country in North-Eastern Africa . It was this move in which he began to build his operation, Al Qaeda, against Europe and America. Because of their defeat of the Soviet Union, Bin Laden was able to mobilize groups from all over the Middle East and Northern Africa as he began his campaign against the West. According to Hoffman and Johnson in an article in Emergency Net News, they state:
Beginning with a fatwa called against the United States' deployment to Somalia, bin laden would continually plan and aid attacks against the united states. These campaigns against the West was stated to be the result of three fundamental facts. First, for over seven years the United States has been occupying the lands of Islam in the holiest of places, the Arabian Peninsula, plundering its riches, dictating to its rulers, humiliating its people, terrorizing its neighbors, and turning its bases in the Peninsula into a spearhead through which to fight the neighboring Muslim peoples.
Second, despite the great devastation inflicted on the Iraqi people by the crusader-Zionist alliance, and despite the huge number of those killed, which has exceeded 1 million... despite all this, the Americans are once against trying to repeat the horrific massacres, as though they are not content with the protracted blockade imposed after the ferocious war or the fragmentation and devastation.
Third, if the Americans' aims behind these wars are religious and economic, the aim is also to serve the Jews' petty state and divert attention from its occupation of Jerusalem and murder of Muslims there. While previous acts by al Qaeda had involved training, funding and aiding other groups, the new refuge in Afghanistan allowed for bin Laden to take his organization to the next level.
In 1998, the U.S. embassies in Kenya, Tanzania were attacked by terrorists, yet this time, it was planned, directed and executed solely by al Qaeda and bin laden. Al Qaeda would also be responsible for the 2000 strike against the U.S.S. Cole in Yemen, which left 17 American sailors dead.
September 11, 2001 marks one of the most tragic days in America's history. Al-Qaeda attacked, hijacking four planes, flying them two of them, filled with civilians, right through the twin towers and a third plane hitting the Pentagon. The fourth plane, which later was discovered to be heading toward the Capitol building in Washington D.C., was unsuccessful. Nearly 3,000 people lost their lives that day. The United State responded quickly by sending troops and declaring war in Afghanistan.
With the onslaught of troops from around the world, led by the US, Al Qaeda's leadership was believed to have moved to tribal areas, including the mountainous region between Afghanistan and Pakistan. It was in these areas that Bin Laden set up training camps for potential terrorists. Although suicide missions have been a tactic used by many since the beginning of time, its practice in its current form was taught and encouraged. The Taliban organization, as well as Al Qaeda affiliate groups in Iraq, Yemen, and multiple countries in North Africa, all gained training from these camps. One such bombing that resulted from these camps, was the assassination of former Pakistani Prime Minister, Benazir Bhutto.
Through the actions of the coalition forces fighting in Afghanistan, The Taliban government was removed from power and only loosely controlled the tribal areas. That, in addition to Bin Laden's disappearance, caused Al Qaeda to become decentralized. Most of the decision making of the organization shifted from Bin Laden to operational commanders and cell leaders. Bin Laden was still the commander, but wasn't believed to have been directly involved with many of the terror attacks, after 9-11, that were attributed to Al Qaeda. The autonomous cells that make up the "new" Al Qaeda, are said to be established in of 100 countries. That includes the UK, Italy, France, Spain, Germany, Albania, and Uganda, where law enforcement has broken up cells.
In addition to the cells directly associated with Al Qaeda, other terrorist organizations such as, the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, The Libyan Islamic fighting Group and the Islamic Army of Aden, all are believed to have been given training and funding. Since they share the Sunni Muslim, traditionalist beliefs, they naturally fit with the Al Qaeda image. The large number of cells and affiliate organizations causes havoc for law enforcement since stopping one group has not had a significant effect on the workings of another.
With Osama Bin Laden's death, many, including myself, hope that all terrorist organizations are hurt. Although we know that Al Qaeda was a loose organization, Bin Laden was a powerful propagandist who videos and voice recordings were inspiration for some of the worst acts of violence this world has seen. Unfortunately, many of the suicide bombings and acts of terrorism weren't handed down from Bin Laden. Many organizations used the man as a recruiting and ideological tool, so although he is gone, those organizations still stand. How the will eventually react is unknown. It is my belief that law enforcement needs to realize that this is the time to strike the theoretical foundations of these organizations. The message of peace and inclusion that worked to quell violence and protests during the Civil rights/Vietnam war era in the United States needs to be applied around the world. It's imperative that the message of peace and inclusion is spread immediately before someone else becomes the spokesman for the terrorist movement. I'm not sure how many, if any, people of Jewish descent Hitler personally killed, but his speeches inspired genocide. On a much smaller scale, Osama Bin Laden was "Hitler" and the Al Qaeda organization is the "Nazi's"; it's not enough to kill the leader, we must promote zero tolerance and peace to keep those organizations from growing and to keep others from rising.
PBS News: Bill Moyers Journal (2007), Brief History of al Qaeda. Retrieved from http://www.pbs.org/moyers/journal/07272007/alqaeda.html
Hayes. L, Brunner. B, Rowen.B (2007). Al-Qaeda: Osama bin Laden's Network of Terror. Retrieved from http://www.infoplease.com/spot/al-qaeda-terrorism.html
Anti-Defamation League: Osama bin Laden (2011), Retrieved from http://;www.adl.org/terrorism_america/bin_1.asp
Emergency Response and Research Institute: Osama Bin Laden and Al-Qaeda (2000),Retrieved from http:emergencynet- news.com/pdf/binladen97-00.pdf