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On the morning of September 11, 2001, the entire world was introduced to Al Qaeda and its enigmatic leader, Osama bin Laden. But the organization that changed the face of terrorism forever and unleashed a whirlwind of counterterrorism activity and two major wars had been on the scene long before that eventful morning. In Al Qaeda, the Islamic State, and the Global Jihadist Movement: What Everyone Needs to Know, Daniel L. Byman, an eminent scholar of Middle East terrorism and international security who served on the 9/11 Commission, provides a sharp and concise overview of Al Qaeda, from its humble origins in the mountains of Afghanistan to the present, explaining its perseverance and adaptation since 9/11 and the limits of U.S. and allied counterterrorism efforts.
The organization that would come to be known as Al Qaeda traces its roots to the anti-Soviet jihad in Afghanistan in the 1980s. Founded as the Soviets withdrew from Afghanistan, Al Qaeda achieved a degree of international notoriety with a series of spectacular attacks in the 1990s; however, it was the dramatic assaults on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on 9/11 that truly launched Al Qaeda onto the global stage. The attacks endowed the organization with world-historical importance and provoked an overwhelming counterattack by the United States and other western countries. Within a year of 9/11, the core of Al Qaeda had been chased out of Afghanistan and into a variety of refuges across the Muslim world. Splinter groups and franchised offshoots were active in the 2000s in countries like Pakistan, Iraq, and Yemen, but by early 2011, after more than a decade of relentless counterterrorism efforts by the United States and other Western military and intelligence services, most felt that Al Qaeda's moment had passed. With the death of Osama bin Laden in May of that year, many predicted that Al Qaeda was in its death throes. Shockingly, Al Qaeda has staged a remarkable comeback in the last few years. In almost every conflict in the Muslim world, from portions of the Xanjing region in northwest China to the African subcontinent, Al Qaeda franchises or like-minded groups have played a role. Al Qaeda's extreme Salafist ideology continues to appeal to radicalized Sunni Muslims throughout the world, and it has successfully altered its organizational structure so that it can both weather America's enduring full-spectrum assault and tailor its message to specific audiences.
Authoritative and highly readable, Byman's account offers readers insightful and penetrating answers to the fundamental questions about Al Qaeda: who they are, where they came from, where they're going-and, perhaps most critically-what we can do about it.
What Everyone Needs to Know® is a registered trademark of Oxford University Press.
Daniel Byman is Professor of Security Studies, Georgetown University School of Foreign Service, author of A High Price and Deadly Connections.
Table of Contents
Chapter One: History What Was Impact of the Anti-Soviet Jihad on the Jihadist Movement? Did the United States Fund Bin Laden and Al Qaeda? Why Was Al Qaeda Founded? What Did Al Qaeda Do in the Sudan? What Were Al Qaeda's Initial Goals? Why Did Al Qaeda Focus on the United States? What Was the Role of Egyptian Militants during Al Qaeda's Formative Years? What Was Al Qaeda's Relationship with the Taliban before 9/11?
Chapter Two: Key Attacks and Plots Why Were the 1998 Embassy Attacks So Important? What Were Al Qaeda's Most Important Attacks before 9/11? How Did Al Qaeda Carry Out the 9/11 Attacks? Could the 9/11 attacks have been prevented? How Did Al Qaeda Justify the 9/11 Attacks? What was the fallout from the 9/11 attacks for Al Qaeda? What Attacks Has Al Qaeda Done Since 9/11?
Chapter Three: Strategy and Tactics What Are Al Qaeda's Goals Today? Does Al Qaeda Have a Strategy? How Did Al Qaeda Become a Suicide Bombing Factory? How Dangerous Are Lone Wolves? What Do You Learn in an Al Qaeda Training Camp? Could Al Qaeda Get a Nuclear Weapon? Should We Laugh at Al Qaeda?
Chapter Four: Ideas and Influences Key Schools of Thought that Influence Salafi Jihadism Who Are the Key Thinkers Jihadists Admire and Read? How Does Al Qaeda Differ from the Muslim Brotherhood? Why Do Other Jihadists Criticize Al Qaeda? How Does Al Qaeda Justify Killing Civilians? What Themes Does Al Qaeda Push in Its Propaganda?
Chapter Five: Organization and Recruitment Why Was Bin Laden Such an Effective Leader? How Does Ayman al-Zawahiri differ from Bin Laden? How Is Al Qaeda Organized? So Why Does Al Qaeda Make So Many Mistakes? Is There an Al Qaeda Profile? How Does Al Qaeda Recruit? What is the Role of War? What Is the Role of the Internet? Where Does Al Qaeda Get Its Money? How Does Al Qaeda Spend Its Money?
Chapter Six: Friends and Enemies How Did the 2003 Iraq War Shape Al Qaeda? How Does Al Qaeda View Iran and the Shi'a? Is Saudi Arabia Secretly Supporting Al Qaeda? Why Does Pakistan Support Jihadists? What Is the Relationship between Pakistan and Al Qaeda? Why Doesn't Pakistan Cooperate More with the United States? How Important Is Israel? How Do Muslims Perceive Al Qaeda and Why Does It Matter? How Did the Arab Spring Affect Al Qaeda?
Chapter Seven: Beyond the Al Qaeda Core What Are the Key Al Qaeda Affiliates? What About Like-Minded but Unaffiliated Groups? What's In It for Al Qaeda? What's In It for the Affiliates? What are the limits of cooperation? Does the Al Qaeda Core control the Salafi-jihadist movement anymore? So What Do We Talk About When We Talk About Al Qaeda?
Chapter Eight: The Islamic State Who is Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi? What Should We Call This Group? Where Did the Islamic State Come from? Why Did the Islamic State Fight with Al Qaeda? What Does the Islamic State Want? How Strong Is the Islamic State? How Does the Islamic State Publicize Its Cause? What is the Khorasan Group? Is the Islamic State a Terrorist Threat to the American Homeland? Why Did the United States Go to War with the Islamic State?
Chapter Nine: Counterterrorism Isn't Diplomacy Worthless when It Comes to Fighting Terror? What Role Does the Legal System Play? What about military tribunals, Guantanamo, and other post-9/11 legal measures? What Is "Rendition" and Why Is It So Controversial? How Do We Go After Al Qaeda's Money? What is the Role of Military Force? What About Drones and Other Air Strikes? Do Drones and Other Controversial Tools Result in "Blowback?" How Do We Collect Intelligence on Al Qaeda? How Do Tools Change When Fighting Affiliate Movements? The Broader Cause as a Whole? How do we win the war of ideas? What is the role of allied governments threatened by terrorists? How Does Al Qaeda Adapt? How do you counter radicalization? What threat does Al Qaeda pose today to Europe? To the United States? Can We Defeat Al Qaeda and the Broader Jihadist Movement? How Is Fighting the Islamic State Different from Fighting Al Qaeda?