THE SIZE OF THE AL QAEDA SYNDICATE
In addition to Al Qaeda’s Pakistani-based high command and the hundreds of other operatives in its core organization, “Al Qaeda Prime”, Osama bin Laden’s terrorist syndicate includes dozens of affiliates located in over sixty countries throughout the world. Although America’s post-9/11 campaign appears to have eliminated most of Al Qaeda Prime’s operatives within its former stronghold of Afghanistan, the two most crucial targets have eluded the superpower. The syndicate’s operational director Ayman al-Zawahiri still controls Al Qaeda, issuing regular communications to the world at large and strategic guidance to the syndicate in private, while Bin Laden remains the indomitable symbolic leader of this anti-American insurgency. Additionally, many of the Al Qaeda Prime operatives who were sent from Afghanistan and Pakistan to other areas of the world remain at large. This dispersed group constitutes an unknown number of terrorist agents recruited from the tens of thousands of trainees that filtered through Al Qaeda’s camps, located either in Afghanistan prior to 9/11 or in Pakistan after 9/11. Following America’s disastrous public relations fallout from the Iraq invasion, the 2007 U.S. National Intelligence Estimate’s classification of Al Qaeda being “as strong as ever” suggests that Al Qaeda Prime may in time regenerate its depleted membership with a surge of new recruits motivated to join Bin Laden’s anti-American insurgency. Furthermore, nearly a decade after 9/11 Al Qaeda’s numerous affiliates remain largely in tact, as evinced by such catastrophic terrorist attacks as the Mumbai Massacre executed via the Pakistani-based affiliate Lashkar-e-Taiba at the behest of the Al Qaeda command sub-unit known as the “313 Brigade”. Perhaps most troublesome, Al Qaeda Prime has fortified its base in Afghanistan and Pakistan with the large percentage of Taliban operatives allied to Bin Laden under the leadership of Mullah Omar and the “Mehsud” coalition, along with affiliates like the Haqqani and Hekmatyar networks. The total membership of this umbrella organization that Bin Laden and Zawahiri have cobbled together numbers in the tens of thousands and provides Al Qaeda Prime with a global reach unmatched by any other terrorist network.
Former CIA Director Michael Hayden (November 14, 2008): “Al Qaeda, operating from its safe haven in Pakistan’s tribal areas, remains the most clear and present danger to the United States. Today, virtually every major terrorist threat that my agency is aware of has threads back to the tribal areas. Whether it is command and control, training, direction, money, capabilities, there is a connection to the FATA (Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas)” http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/asia/article5153713.ece
Since 1993, Bin Laden’s syndicate has launched
attacks that killed thousands of Muslims and non-Muslims in over three
countries across the world. Usually
avoiding direct claims of responsibility for this nihilistic violence,
the attacks were not attributed to Al Qaeda until years later. Some of the group’s most influential
terrorist attacks on non-American targets include:
In addition, the Al Qaeda high command has been tied to numerous other major terrorist attacks in Russia and India, as well as attacks in Pakistan targeting Shiites and Sunni collaborators.
Since 1993, Al Qaeda’s leadership has killed over
twenty-five hundred American civilians and over one thousand other
sixteen major terrorist attacks against U.S. targets (this tabulation
insurgent attacks, such as those that killed Americans within the war
Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan). These
terrorist attacks include:
Using his characteristic innuendo in 1996, 2002 and October 2004, Bin Laden claimed personal complicity in the infamous October 1983 bombing of U.S. Marines in Lebanon that killed 241 Americans (an attack previously attributed solely to the Iranian-backed terrorist group Hezbollah).
In addition to demonstrating the breadth of Al Qaeda’s unprecedented global terrorist campaign, this tabulation of attacks tied to Bin Laden’s inner circle reveals that no Al Qaeda affiliate has launched a major attack on America without authorization from the high command (with one apparent exception, the August 2003 bombing of an American hotel in Indonesia). In a most impressive demonstration of this command control exercised by the leadership of Bin Laden’s syndicate, no Al Qaeda affiliate has defied the high command’s apparent prohibition of overt terrorist attacks inside the vulnerable American homeland since 9/11. Perhaps even more than its terrorist attacks, the perseverance of Al Qaeda’s command control over its members and affiliates throughout the 9/11 War serves as a powerful testament to the operational strength of the global syndicate. Similarly, the U.S.-led alliance’s inability to completely eradicate Al Qaeda’s presence in any of the over sixty nations where it has established bases demonstrates the fortitude of Bin Laden’s syndicate. In the wake of the host of devastating attacks launched by Al Qaeda against the Western world, the persistence and growth of its affiliates and rejuvenated high command has convinced the U.S. counterterrorism community that the syndicate continues to represent the most imminent existential threat to the superpower.
Bin Laden’s inner circle has been identified as the
catalyst for numerous ongoing wars across the world. Most
notably, Bin Laden provoked the worldwide 9/11 War, encompassing
the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as the escalating U.S.-Taliban
conflict in Pakistan, and the U.S.-led “shadow war” against Al Qaeda’s
in over sixty nations. Additional
conflicts spawned by the Al Qaeda syndicate include:
For more information on Al Qaeda’s post-9/11 terrorist campaign and its leadership’s command control, see Bin Laden’s Plan: The Project for the New Al Qaeda Century by David Malone, chapters 6, 8-9.