The Al Qaeda Factor: Plots against the West

The Al Qaeda Factor: Plots against the West

The Al Qaeda Factor: Plots against the West

The Al Qaeda Factor: Plots against the West

Synopsis

The horrific and devastating events of September 11, 2001 changed the world's perception of Al Qaeda. What had been considered a small band of revolutionary terrorists capable only of attacking Western targets in the Middle East and Africa suddenly demonstrated an ability to strike globally with enormous impact. Subsequent plots perpetuated the impression of Al Qaeda as a highly organized and rigidly controlled organization with recruiters, operatives, and sleeper cells in the West who could be activated on command.

We now know, however, that the role of Al Qaeda in global jihadist plots has varied significantly over time. New York Police Department terrorism expert Mitchell D. Silber argues that to comprehend the threat posed by the transnational jihad movement, we must have a greater and more nuanced understanding of the dynamics behind Al Qaeda plots. In "The Al Qaeda Factor" he examines sixteen Al Qaeda-associated plots and attacks, from the 1993 World Trade Center bombing to today. For each case, he probes primary sources and applies a series of questions to determine the precise involvement of Al Qaeda. What connects radicalized groups in the West to the core Al Qaeda organization in the borderlands of Afghanistan and Pakistan? Does one of the plotters have to attend an Al Qaeda training camp or meet with an Al Qaeda trainer, or can they simply be inspired by Al Qaeda ideology? Further analysis examines the specifics of Al Qaeda's role in the inspiration, formation, membership, and organization of terrorist groups. Silber also identifies potential points of vulnerability, which may raise the odds of thwarting future terrorist attacks in the West.

"The Al Qaeda Factor" demonstrates that the role of Al Qaeda is very limited even in plots with direct involvement. Silber finds that in the majority of cases, individuals went to Al Qaeda seeking aid or training, but even then there was limited direct command and control of the terrorists' activities--a sobering conclusion that demonstrates that even the destruction of Al Qaeda's core would not stop Al Qaeda plots.

Excerpt

To What Extent Is Al Qaeda Involved in “Al Qaeda” Plots?

The horrific and devastating nature of the attacks of September 11, 2001, changed the world’s perception of al Qaeda. What had been considered a small band of revolutionary terrorists with a capability limited to attacking Western targets in the Middle East and Africa was now something very different. Suddenly the group’s threat profile changed drastically and the perception of al Qaeda’s capabilities, strength, and ability to project force was boosted to an entirely new level.

Subsequent plots against the West perpetuated this new perception of al Qaeda as an organization that spanned the globe and had a thought-out and precise strategy to defeat the West. In a classic case of mirror imaging— imagining the enemy’s characteristics to reflect your own characteristics— the perception grew that al Qaeda was highly organized and rigidly centralized and had deployed recruiters, operatives, and sleeper cells to the West who could be activated on command. These “al Qaeda agents” were also supposedly able to spot recruits, send them to Afghanistan or Pakistan for training, and then launch them back toward the West under precise command and control of al Qaeda central to carry out plots that would fulfill the organization’s strategic aims. More than ten years after September 11, 2001, we now know this to be untrue.

Instead, we now know that the role of al Qaeda Core in “global jihadist plots” against the West has varied significantly over time and not all of what have been generally termed “al Qaeda plots” have had equivalent involvement by al Qaeda. This prompted the question that drives this study: How . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.