The Rise and Fall of al-Qaeda

By Fawaz A. Gerges | Go to book overview

1
The Rise of Al-Qaeda

As an operationally organized, independent, and centralized transnational group, al-Qaeda did not exist until the second half of the 1990s—not the late 1980s, as received wisdom in the United States and the West would have it. By the time American forces had expelled bin Laden and his associates from their home base in Afghanistan at the end of 2001, al-Qaeda was but five years old.

Far from being a social movement with deep historical roots in Muslim societies, al-Qaeda, and transnational jihad in general, is an orphan within the militant Islamist family, an ambitious venture founded and led by a small vanguard. “Small” is the key word. AlQaeda has only ever attracted a limited number of ardent adherents and has never developed a mass following. Its brief history has been characterized by the absence of a thick and durable social base, and by its essentially nomadic quality. Any overview of the rise of alQaeda must acknowledge these humble and limited social origins, for they reveal the context and conditions that have given rise to the bin Laden generation.

And they are very limited. From the very beginning, al-Qaeda has been structurally constrained by weak societal ties and links. There is, in fact, less to it than meets the eye. Nonetheless, the conventional terrorism narrative continues to portray al-Qaeda as a potent global power. Rohan Gunaratna, whose book on al-Qaeda

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The Rise and Fall of al-Qaeda
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Introduction- Life after Death 3
  • 1 - The Rise of Al-Qaeda 29
  • 2 - The Growing Rift 69
  • 3 - A Success and a Miscalculation 84
  • 4 - Decline and Fall 104
  • 5 - Legacies and Aftershocks 127
  • Conclusion- Down to Size 192
  • Notes 215
  • Index 249
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