Al Qaeda is the leading multi-national Islamic terrorist network. It was founded and is still led by Osama Bin Laden, a multimillionaire from Saudi Arabia who became an active Islamist in 1979, when he went to Afghanistan to fight the Soviet Union. Though Al Qaeda financially and operationally supports Islamist terror groups around the globe, its core remains Bin Laden and the Arabs who fought alongside him during the 1980's. This paper will talk about the history and structure of Al Qaeda, along with some of the operations and activities Al Qaeda has carried out in the past and the participants before and after the fall of the Taliban in Afghanistan.
The origins of Al Qaeda are rooted in the Afghanistan resistance to the Soviet invasion from 1979 to 1989. Believing that the war with the Soviet Union was a holy battle between Islam and the infidel, Osama Bin Laden, the son of a wealthy Saudi contractor, traveled to Afghanistan to aid in the fight.
At the time of the war, Afghanistan lacked both the infrastructure and manpower for a long-drawn-out war. Osama Bin Laden joined forces with Sheikh Dr. Abdullah Azzam, leader of the Palestinian Muslim Brotherhood, to establish the Maktab al-Khidamat (MAK) or the Afghan Services Bureau. The goal of the Afghan Services Bureau or MAK was to recruit Muslim fighters from around the world to fight in Afghanistan. Bin Laden paid for the Muslin fighters transportation and training, while Afghan locals provided land and resources. In 1988, Bin Laden broke ties with Abdullah Azzam and formed Al Qaeda (The Base) and declared his own jihad on a worldwide scale. Ironically, Azzam died in a car bombing in 1989, apparently carried out by his rivals in Afghanistan.
After the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan, Bin Laden returned to Saudi...