Al-Qaeda's ability to survive, move, recruit, destroy and develop itself and its members has proved how dangerous the organization is, as no other group resembling the network of terrorism and misery has emerged in 50 years. No terrorist organization born after World War II can be compared to al-Qaeda's global identity capabilities.
The most important of its weapons is manipulating extremist religious thought. This has helped it to recruit soldiers who are willing to give up their money, souls and sons, more so than any others in the world. It has remained the most prominent active terrorist organization despite the fact that most if its early leaders and founders, except for a few like Ayman al-Zawhiri, have been killed or arrested. Moreover, the organization was displaced from its first home, Afghanistan and defeated in Saudi Arabia – its dream land. In addition, it has failed to infiltrate American territory since the 9/11 attacks. More than 30 countries have dedicated their capabilities to monitoring and pursuing al-Qaeda through a quasi-international consensus to fight the most dangerous organization in the world. Despite this, al-Qaeda continues to breath and is working towards achieving its aims.
The “war on terror”
Currently, al-Qaeda does not pose a threat to a specific regime.Abdulrahman al-Rashed
Arresting Abu Anas, who seems to have been kidnapped, reminds us that the war is ongoing luckily the Americans are a party in this battle. This monster dubbed “al-Qaeda” possesses capabilities that cannot be fought by one country. There's no doubt that ever since the 9/11 attacks, the Americans have considered al-Qaeda to be the biggest threat against their security and have therefore decided to dedicate all their capabilities to fight it. The war between al-Qaeda and its rivals is almost daily on the level of pursuit across the world.
What's interesting is that the Americans and the West in general used to be suspicious in the 1990s about the reality of the presence of this organization in its ideological meaning. Most of what was written then focused on explaining the phenomenon as one resulting from poverty, unemployment and lack of political freedoms. But in the second decade after the 9/11 attacks, many realized that al-Qaeda is a radical ideological movement that has nothing to do with jobs, human rights, freedoms and elections. Perhaps the model that it resembles most closely is the Nazi Movement of the 1940s which rejected others and which believed that its ideas were superior over all others. However, al-Qaeda is more dangerous because it exploits religion.
Luckily for all of us, al-Qaeda has targeted a big number of the world's governments and has encouraged an alliance committed to fighting it. If al-Qaeda had continued to operate like it did in its youth - targeting specific countries like Egypt and Saudi Arabia - the situation would have been more dangerous. Currently, al-Qaeda does not pose a threat to a specific regime. However, it's capable of causing harm everywhere. It has proven that it’s capable of surviving, hiding and renewing its cells no matter how much it is pursued. It has also proven that it's capable of juggling and rebuilding its leadership despite the extermination or the killing of its key players.
Al-Qaeda documents previously revealed that a dispute among its leaders regarding carrying out the 9/11 attacks. According to the documents some objected to the idea of targeting the Americans in their main land arguing that such a move must be kept for later. But Bin Laden knew that attacks against prominent targets, like buildings New York and Washington, would be a message to the world highlighting their ability, determination and aims. The attacks they previously carried out against American interests in Saudi Arabia and Yemen were part of limited battles. But targeting the United States is what altered the game and changed the world. Arab countries did not have the power to confront this horrifying threat that is still part of the biggest ongoing war today. It must also be noted that the Americans could not have won over this extremist organization if it weren't for the cooperation of Islamic countries which better understand local customs and that are more capable of confronting the organization’s strengths linked to religion. The Americans continue remain to have the field capability for war against al-Qaeda.
This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on Oct. 7, 2013.
Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today.