Twenty years is a long life for a terrorist organization. This year marks 22 years since al-Qaeda was founded, and the group is still considered one of the biggest threats to Western security. Al-Qaeda has suffered several serious setbacks, especially in 2001 when the Taliban regime in Afghanistan was overthrown (as a result of 9/11) and al-Qaeda became an exiled organization. But then bombs exploded in Madrid in 2004 and in London in 2005, and Osama bin Laden appeared in recent audio recordings. An important reason why al-Qaeda has so far survived the US “war on terror” is that it managed to establish a new sanctuary in the tribal areas of Pakistan after 2001. They did this despite the fact that Afghanistan and Pakistan are far from bin Laden’s homeland. , Saudi Arabia, both culturally and geographically.
- Why has al-Qaeda gained such a strong foothold in Pakistan?
- How does al-Qaeda contribute to the uprising in Afghanistan?
- Is it possible to divide al-Qaeda and the Taliban?
According to Foodezine, the term “al-Qaeda” is today given different content:
- A core organization, based in Pakistan and consisting of less than 300 members.
- Regional “branches”based in the Middle East and North Africa, which fight mainly against local regimes , but which also support al-Qaeda’s global struggle . The most important of these are found today in Iraq, Yemen and Algeria.
- An ideological movement, made up of a large number of groups and individuals who support Osama bin Laden’s anti-Western ideology and global struggle . Since 2001, the internet
has become an important meeting place for this movement.
This article focuses mostly on the core organization al-Qaeda, which since 2001 has been based in the tribal areas in northwestern Pakistan. The core of al-Qaida (cf. 1 above) today accounts for much of al-Qaida’s ideological production. They are also involved in terrorist and insurgency activities, especially in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The nucleus still has ambitions to carry out terrorist attacks against western countries, but this has become much more difficult since 2001. It is nevertheless known that many terrorist cells that have been arrested in Europe and the United States in recent years have been trained in the tribal areas in Pakistan. We can therefore not rule out that al-Qaeda will be able to carry out new terrorist attacks against Western countries.
2: Historical review
Al-Qaeda’s rise in the late 1980s was a direct result of an armed conflict between a communist, Soviet-backed regime in Afghanistan, which the Soviet Union sought to maintain by invading the country in 1979, and Afghan insurgents. The rebels attracted not only American support, but also volunteers from all over the Muslim world in the war between 1979 and 1988.
They came to the region to support Afghan mujahedin (resistance fighters) in their fight against Soviet supremacy. Most participated in humanitarian work, but some also supported the mujahedin with money, logistics and directly in fighting. Among those who came to the region at this time were Osama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri and others who would later become key members of al-Qaeda. The joint war effort led to the formation of close ties between the Arab volunteer fighters and some local mujahedin.
The contacts that Osama bin Laden established in Afghanistan in the 1980s were to be useful later. During the civil war in Afghanistan (1992-96), many of al-Qaeda’s members went to Sudan, where they were given a temporary refuge by Sudanese leader Hassan al-Turabi. But in 1996, bin Laden was forced to leave Sudan, and he therefore returned to Afghanistan at the invitation of an old 1980s ally, Yunus Khalis, who lived in Jalalabad in eastern Afghanistan. A few months later, the Taliban movement seized power in the country, and bin Laden moved to the southern city of Kandahar at the request of Taliban supreme leader Mullah Muhammad Omar.
Al-Qaeda and the Taliban gradually developed close cooperation . Although several Taliban members were also skeptical of hosting the outspoken bin Laden. But the skeptics did not come up with their arguments, and the Taliban leadership was in any case most concerned with fighting other factions in northern Afghanistan. Al-Qaeda thus had the opportunity to use Afghanistan as a base for its global struggle . This battle culminated in the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington on September 11, 2001.
After 9/11, the United States responded by invading Afghanistan and ruling the Taliban . Many members returned to their homes and “merged” with the locals, while others fled to Pakistan. Al-Qaeda and the other foreign fighters in Afghanistan could not hide so easily, and therefore fled to neighboring countries, mainly Pakistan . Here they built a new sanctuary among Pashtun tribes in northwestern Pakistan , especially in the area known as FATA (Federally Administered Tribal Areas, often referred to as the tribal area) and parts of the NWFP (North-Western Frontier Province).