In this assignment I will be answering the question, what is Al Qaeda? As this is a contentious question I will talk about what it actually is, the history of it, the strength it has got and how it got formed. Osama Bin Laden, Abdulla Azzam and Ayamn al- Zawahri are wanted terrorists and are known through out the world because of their terrorism. I will investigate and find out their history and try to understand who they are, what they did and how they are linked with Al Qaeda. Finally I will explain the current situation with Al- Qaeda, their future and it's so called leaders.
What is Al Qaeda? Al Qaeda was established about 1988 or 1989 by the Saudi Arabian militant Osama bin Laden. Subsequently to the fall of 2001, Al-Qaeda was based in Afghanistan and protected by the Taliban regime there. Following the terror attacks, it began against the USA on September 11, 2001, and theÂ US led invasion of Afghanistan in October 2001, Al Qaeda has gone further underground  . Al Qaeda has cells worldwide and is armoured by its ties to Sunni extremist networks  . Al Qaeda assisted finance, recruit, transport and train thousands of fighters from dozens of countries to be part of an Afghan resistance to defeat the Soviet Union  .
Following Al Qaeda's alleged 11 September 2001 attacks on America, the United States launched a war in Afghanistan to destroy Al Qaeda's bases there and overthrow the Taliban, the country's Muslim fundamentalist rulers who harboured bin Laden and his followers  . Al Qaeda is an international network possessing a global reach and has maintained through financing, training and logistics, Islamic militants in Afghanistan, Algeria, Bosnia, Chechnya, Eritrea, Kosovo, the Philippines, Somalia, Tajikistan, and Yemen, and now Kosovo. Additionally, Al Qaeda has been linked to quarrels and attacks in Africa, Asia, Europe, the former Soviet Republics, the Middle East, as well as North and South America  .
As a result it is impossible to say the strengths Al Qaeda carry, due to the decentralized structure of the organization. Al Qaeda may have several thousand member and acquaintances but it trained over 5,000 militants in camps in Afghanistan since the late 1980s  .
So how did Al Qaeda get formed? During the war, bin Laden had counterfeit links with the Egyptian Islamic Jihad. Under the authority of this group, bin Laden was convinced to help expand the Jihad and obtain as many Muslims as possible to rebel against so called infidel regimes. However, in 1988 he and the Egyptians founded Al Qaeda, a network originally designed to build fighting power for the Afghan resistance  . Al Qaeda later become recognized as a radical Islamic group with bin Laden at the helm, and with the United States as the key target for its terrorist acts.
Al Qaeda developed into a household world in the United States following the terror attacks of September 11, 2001. Although this attack have left the territory of current affairs and entered history, Al Qaeda remains an indefinable phenomenon. As of this writing, the hunt for its leaders has led no where; Bin Laden and Ayman al- Zawahri still show themselves with impunity on television screens worldwide, as people all over the place hold their breaths in anticipation of another spectacular, devastating attack  .
The very nature of Al Qaeda as an entity remains unclear, even when the metaphors drawn from astronomy have been exhausted, whether one calls it a terrorist nebula or a galaxy, the term points to the vastness of infinite, frightening space, but they also underscore people's ability to conceive of this unidentified object  . Al Qaeda challenges the categories through which were accustomed to understand political or religious organization and international relations at the time when the cold war between Moscow and Washington was unfolding, according to a certain number of clearly defined codes, norms, and rules. By violating them, Al Qaeda, one meaning of the Arabic phrase is "the rule" has revealed in the breach, although not clearly recognized, new rules of relations among states, nations, and societies between violence and media spectacle  .
The word itself is critical. 'Al Qaeda' comes from the Arabic root 'Qaf- ayn-dal'. It can mean a base, as in a camp or home, an institution; such is what is below a house or a stand that supports a column. The word or phrase 'Al Qaeda' was certainly in use by the mid eighties among the Islamic essentials drawn from all over the Muslim world to fight the Soviets of Afghanistan alongside the local resistance groups  .
So who is Bin Laden and how is he linked with Al Qaeda? The U.S. regime regard as Osama bin Laden to be the most dangerous terrorist in the world. Bin Laden tied with the Afghanistan battle in 1979 and became a leader in the guerrilla wars against the Soviet Union in the 1980s. After that war ended, bin Laden founded a loose association of pro-Islamic terrorists known as Al-Qaeda  . He then united with the Egyptian militants led by Ayman al-Zawahiri to form a worldwide group whose target included driving the United States out of the Middle East and overthrowing the regime of Saudi Arabia. Attacks which bin Laden is alleged to have plotted or encouraged include the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Centre, the 1995 truck bombing of a Saudi National Guard training centre, and the 1998 explosions at U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania  .
Bin Laden, a member of a billionaire family that owns the Bin Laden Group construction empire, is understood to have inherited tens of millions of dollars that he uses to help finance the Al Qaeda group. It maintains moneymaking front businesses, seeks donations from like-minded followers, and illegitimately taps funds from donations to Muslim charitable organizations  . US efforts to block Al Qaeda funding have fraught Al Qaeda's ability to obtain money. At the moment it is believed Bin Laden is hiding in the remote ethnic region along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border with his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahri  .
Who is Ayman al- Zawahri? He is often referred to as second-in-command of the Al Qaeda terrorist network, behind Osama bin Laden. Zawahiri, an ideological agitator of Egyptian birth, assisted bin Laden configure his political ideas and projects, and in return bin Laden bankrolled Zawahiri's pre-existing operation of militancy. The question now arises is how did Zawahiri become involved with Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda? Zawahiri and bin Laden's history of collaboration began in the city of Peshawar, in the Pakistan-Afghanistan border region, in 1980  . Zawahiri, a surgeon, was functioning for the Red Crescent Society, the Islamic associate of the Red Cross. Bin Laden had come to Peshawar to raise money. The city, a refuge for Afghani refugees escaping Soviet occupation and the home of a relatively open black-market for weapons and narcotics, was bristling with revolutionary Islamist sentiment  .
What is Ayman al-Zawahiri's role in Al Qaeda? U.S organization believes Zawahiri functions as Al Qaeda's most significant ideological leader, and possibly the main operational organizer of the network's activities.Â Numerous counter-terrorism officials believe Zawahiri was more influential in the tactical planning of the September 11 attacks than bin Laden himself  . A year after he achieved his master's in surgery from Cairo University, months after he was married, Zawahri joined Egyptian Islamic Jihad in 1979 and, like bin Laden, rapidly moved to Afghanistan to assist in the fight against the Soviet Union  .
Who is Azzam and how is he linked with Al Qaeda? Abdullah Azzam, the leader ideologue of the non-afghan militants drawn to battle beside the mujahideen and an early spiritual mentor of bin Laden, used the word to describe the role he predicted the most committed of the volunteers playing once the war against the Soviets was over. Azzam saw Al Qaeda as a base, a base that was to be poised of individuals committed to the cause who would, throughout the increasing weight of their actions, instigate great change  . However, in November 1989, Azzam was killed by a devastating bomb blast that also killed two of his sons. No executor was ever found guilty, but many of Azzam's followers blame the United States for the assassination. Azzam was the first of numerous radical Islamic leaders and groups, most holding an unbinding abhorrence for the U.S. who would make the U.S a centre of their activity  .
How is Azzam linked to bin Laden? Addullah Azzam became bin Laden's first mentor, providing him with an overview of current events on the Muslim world. He discussed the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, stressing the obligation of liberating that Muslim country from foreign occupation  . Azzam organized a secret trip to Pakistan for bin Laden through his own contacts which he travelled to Peshawar and Karachi, where he met the leaders of the Afghan Islamic groups. This trip lasted for a month and was followed by several others until bin Laden eventually moved to Afghanistan more or less full time in 1982  .
Al Qaeda group has been alleged targeting American and other Western interests as well as Jewish targets and Muslim governments it sees as corrupt or impious, above all, the Saudi monarchy. These include, in May 12, 2003 where a car bomb attacked on three residential compounds in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Secondly in November 2002, this is where a car bomb attack and a failed attempt to shoot down an Israeli jetliner with shoulder-fired missiles which were both in Mombasa and Kenya. Nevertheless, the well known September 11, 2001, this is the hijacking of the plane that led to attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon killing 3000 people. Additionally Al-Qaeda is suspected of carrying out or directing sympathetic groups to carry out the May 2003 suicide attacks on Western interests in Casablanca  .
Furthermore, Al Qaeda has been alleged to several plans that were disrupted or not carried out. These include, assassinating Pope John Paul II during his visit to Manila in late 1994. To bomb in airborne, a dozen US trans-Pacific flights in 1995, and to set off a bomb at Los Angeles International Airport in 1999. In December 2001, alleged Al Qaeda associate Richard Colvin Reid attempted to ignite a shoe bomb on a transatlantic journey from Paris to Miami and an attempted to shoot down an Israeli chartered plane with a surface-to-air missile as it departed the Mombasa airport in November 2002  .
What is the future of Al Qaeda? Well the latest attacks, primarily the attacks in Europe and in Sharm El- Sheikh in Egypt have shown that Al Qaeda is not only still in existence, but have a long term strategy and a solid ideological base. Al Qaeda is increasing more influential and by having transformed itself into an ideology, physical and geographical restrictions no longer apply  . Al Qaeda is unique in the history of fundamental organizations. It is the first to have such a significant global constituency. They are exceptionally dangerous because it has the potential to mobilize thousands of the world's 1.3 billion Muslims by applying an interpretation of Islam which, alone among world religion, includes the obligation to fight among its tenets  .
It is difficult to say what Al Qaeda is planning because the whereabouts of the alleged leaders are unknown and therefore it seems that the current situation might be a stable one. Al Qaeda's strategy was special, due to using the fear of the international community from Islamic fundamentalism, in order to provoke a disproportioned response. The backlash in the Muslim community was used to create more terrorist alliances and recruit new people.
In conclusion I believe Al Qaeda has been described as many different things, which includes a federation of different Islamist groups who are all devoted to mayhem against the West, Christians, Jews and Muslim regimes that do not conform to its ideas. It may have only a small number of members, but seems to have many supporters and sympathizers, some of whom may be inspired to terrorist deeds by Al Qaeda "fatwas" (judgments or religious rulings). To most in the west, Al Qaeda is seen as an embodiment for terror: a deadly, highly organized fanatical group masterminded by Osama bin Laden. I believe Al Qaeda is merely a convenient label applied by the west to a far broader and thus more dangerous and phenomenon of Islamic militancy which shows how eradicating a single figure or group will do nothing to combat terrorism. Nevertheless, Al Qaeda might not have as much money as other groups, or not as many guns, but the ability of coordinated attacks all over the world, gives it a special status in the terror community.