Al-Qaeda: The History of the World's Most Notorious Terrorist Organization

ISBN: 9781500325114
*Includes pictures
*Includes quotes by bin Laden and other al-Qaeda leaders about the group's history and ideology
*Explains the formation, influences, ideology, and goals of the group
*Includes footnotes and a bibliography for further reading
*Includes a table of contents

Since the attacks on September 11, 2001, the world has struggled to define al-Qaeda, an amorphous, growing, and seemingly inexhaustible organization. Once a relatively organized group based in one country with a defined hierarchy and clear leadership, al-Qaeda has transformed into a transnational phenomenon over the last few decades, with branches and affiliates operating in dozens of countries across the world. Many call al-Qaeda an enemy, while some define it as an ideology, and others analyze it as a network. Of course, a small minority takes it up as their cause and an extension of their religion.

To that end, what is perhaps most clear about al-Qaeda is that there is no single definition that can comprehensively and precisely identify just what it is. Who can be described as an al-Qaeda terrorist? What is the exact makeup of al-Qaeda? These are all questions that are fairly straightforward and seem like they should be simple to answer – as they are with most other terrorist organizations – but in the case of al-Qaeda, there is no commonly accepted understanding. Bruce Hoffman, former director of RAND and a specialist in terrorism and counterterrorism affairs, wrote in 2003, “It is remarkable that more than a decade after its founding…al-Qaeda remains such a poorly understood phenomenon.” He further noted, “Is [al-Qaeda] a monolithic, international terrorist organization with an identifiable command and control apparatus or is it a broader, more amorphous movement tenuously held together by a loosely networked transnational constituency?...Is al-Qaeda a concept or a virus? An army or an ideology? A populist transnational movement or a vast international criminal enterprise? All of the above? None of the above? Or, some of the above?”
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