Al-Qaeda (Arabic: القاعدة, Translation: the base) is an international Jihadist terrorist organization founded in the late 1980s to fight the Red Army of the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, during the 1980–89 Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan. According to the 9/11 Commission Report, Osama bin Bin Ladin and his comrades had their own sources of support and training, and they received little or no assistance from the United States, which only provided funding to indigenous Afghan mujaheddin, which al-Qaeda was not. It was led by Osama Bin Laden until he was killed by Navy SEALs and CIA operatives on May 2, 2011. It is predominantly composed of fanatical Sunni Muslims. Ayman al-Zawahiri, former leader of the Egyptian terrorist group called the Islamic Brotherhood, now leads Al Qaeda since Bin Laden's death. Zawahiri has increasingly become the spokesperson for the terrorist network.
By 2018, Al Qaeda remained a major global terror threat.
Terrorist activities from 1998–2007
Al Qaeda is responsible for the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon killing 3000 Americans, the bombings of American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998, the October 2000 bombing of the USS Cole, and numerous other deaths and attacks. The group's wing in Iraq, many of which came from Libya, were responsible for insurgent attacks and bombings. The 9/11 Commission Report cites Bin laden meeting with Iraqi intelligence officials in Khartoum as early as 1995. Bin Laden declined reported Iraqi offers of a safe haven, instead settling in Afghanistan. Friendly contacts between Iraqis and Bin Laden continued, though there is no evidence of an operational relationship between the two sides.
"However difficult the fight in Iraq has become, we must win it," Mr. Bush said in discussing the 2007 Iraqi troop surge during a commencement speech at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in New London, Conn. "Al Qaeda is public enemy No. 1 for Iraq's young democracy. Al Qaeda is public enemy No. 1 for America as well."
Some liberals seem to have a problem calling this group what it is, a radical Islamic terrorist organization, and prefer to use the more politically correct terms: militant organization and its members rebels.
A March 7, 2007, article entitled, "The Redirection" described a recent shift in the George W. Bush administration's Iraq policy, the goal of which Hersh said was to "contain" Iran. Hersh asserted that "a by-product of these activities has been the bolstering of Sunni extremist groups that espouse a militant vision of Islam and are hostile to America and sympathetic to Al Qaeda."
By late 2009 analysts were reporting a decline in the strength and appeal of Al Qaeda. Its leadership was forced to retreat to remote mountain villages in Pakistan, and many leaders had been killed by missiles and manhunts. Its tactics of killing innocent civilians were said to have lost favor with the Muslim population in some countries. During the Bush/Cheney years of 2002 and 2009 the notion that suicide bombings are "often or sometimes justified" plunged across the Islamic world. Its terrorists launched 10 major attacks worldwide in 2004 but only three by 2008. "Al Qaeda is in the process of imploding," concluded professor Audrey Kurth Cronin of the National War College in Washington. In September 2009 American-led forces killed the leader of the Somali organization "Al Shabab," which is allied with Al Qaeda; the police in Indonesia killed the most wanted terrorist in Southeast Asia. It has become much harder for terrorists to move agents, money and supplies.
In March 2010 Abdulhakim Belhadj was released from Abu Salim prison in Libya after serving 6 years in custody. Belhadj had brought to Libya under the CIA's extraordinary rendition program in 2004. Belhadj was chased out of Libya by Gaddafi in 1988 and arrived in Afghanistan where he joined the Taliban. After the Taliban captured Kabul in 1992 he returned to Libya where he and others formed the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG). Belhadj was reported to have followed Osama Bin Laden when the al-Qaeda leader moved the center of its operations from Afghanistan to Sudan in 1996. The relation between LIGF and al-Qaeda was officially confirmed in October 2001, when the UN Security Council designated the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group as a terrorist entity for its association with al-Qaeda, Bin Laden and the Taliban. The UN Security Council specified that the LIFG relation with al-Qaeda was substantiated through the group's involvement in
"the financing, planning, facilitating, preparing or perpetrating of acts or activities by, in conjunction with, under the name of, on behalf or in support of," "supplying, selling or transferring arms and related materiel to" or "otherwise supporting acts or activities of" Al-Qaida [...], Usama bin Laden and the Taliban."In 2002 an arrest warrant was issued for Belhadj by the Libyan authorities after Gaddafi's reconciliation with Western powers and three assassination attempt's on Gaddafi's life by the LIFG. The arrest warrant alleged that Belhadj had developed "close relationships" with al-Qaeda leaders, and specifically Taliban chief Mullah Omar, and to have run and financed training camps for Arab mujahideen fighters. After the US invasion of Afghanistan in late 2001, Belhadj fled and was arrested in Malaysia in 2004 where he was rendered by the CIA to Libya.
on Friday March 8, 2011, President Obama told reporters he would appoint an official to maintain contact with the "Libyan opposition." The number two official at the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli, Christopher Stevens was tasked with helping to coordinate assistance to the "rebels," whose top military commander, Abdelhakim Belhadj, was the leader of the Al Qaeda affiliate, the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG). Hillary Clinton attended a meeting in Paris with Stevens and representatives of the "Libyan opposition," as did U.S. Ambassador Gene Cretz, who has also had contacts with the "opposition." Clinton discussed what she persuaded the Obama administration to do to help the jihadis, and that they would do more than just provide humanitarian aid.
Wall Street Journal reported on April 2, 2011 about Americans' training terrorists in the port city of Derna; when the Americans left to concentrate on the Syrian operation, terrorists beheaded people in front of small children as part of their training. The Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) is centered in and around Derna and Benghazi. The Sinjar documents captured during the Iraq insurgency revealed 20% of all Iraq insurgents came from Derna, Sirte, and Misurata, 82% of which volunteered for suicide attacks. In 2015 twenty-one Christians in Derna were beheaded enmasse.
On February 22, 2012, in a show of bipartisanship, Senators Richard Blumenthal, John McCain, and Lindsey Graham visited Libya and meet with Abdulhakim Belhadj, who was put in charge of training jihadis in Eastern Libya (principally Derna and Benghazi) by the Obama administration for the second leg of Operation Zero Footprint in Syria.
On October 5, 2014, the Shura Council of Shabab al-Islam Derna, Libya declared itself part of the Islamic State. In February 2015 the ISIS jihadis beheaded 21 Christians and distributed an uncut video of the gruesome event to world. On March 2, 2015 Katherine Herrige of FOX News reported that Obama administration senior intelligence officials told her Abdelhakim Belhadj is firmly aligned with ISIS and supports the Islamic State training camps in eastern Libya.
"Critics say Libya's new position as a safe haven for ISIS reflects one of the most significant policy failures of the so-called Arab Spring."
Herridge added that counter-terrorism sources have confirmed that the new support base for ISIS in eastern Libya is now providing "tangible assistance" in the form of training camps around the city of Derna, in addition to a growing number of Libyan fighters joining the terror group in Syria and Iraq.
Al Qaeda in North Africa
For a more detailed treatment, see Al-Qaeda in the Maghreb.
The Benghazi rebellion started as a series of protests in eastern Libya on February 16, 2011. Ansar al-Shariah, an offshoot of Al-Qaida in the Maghreb (AQIM), vowed to overthrow secular strongman Muammar Gaddafi and establish Sharia.
Abdel-Hakim al-Hasidi of the U.S. organized Libyan Fighting Group said jihadists who killed American troops in Iraq were now serving on the front lines in Libya. NATO's Supreme Allied Commander James Stavridis told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee days before President Obama publicly admitted he ordered intervention that U.S. intelligence knew al Qaeda and Hezbollah elements were among the Libyan insurgents.
On March 21, 2011, President Obama announced he ordered U.S. military force operations in Libya two days earlier over the objections of his most trusted and knowledgeable experts. Secretary of Defence Robert Gates opposed the action as did National Security Adviser Tom Donilon, Deputy National Security Adviser Denis McDonough, and White House counterterrorism chief John O. Brennan. Libya was not vital to American national security interests and the rebels had ties to Al Qaeda. However Secretary of State Hillary Clinton "won the bureaucratic battle to use [Department of Defence] resources to achieve what's essentially the State Department's objective... and Obama let it happen." Secretary Clinton stated:
|“||We are currently doing everything we can to bomb, strafe and use missiles to carry the rebels into power in Libya. We want them to win. We just don’t know who they are.” ||”|
A March 29, 2011 article in the Washington Post included these paragraphs:
|“||"It’s almost a certitude that at least part” of the Libyan opposition includes members of al-Qaeda, said Bruce Riedel, a former senior CIA analyst and adviser to President Obama. Riedel said that anti-Gaddafi elements in the rebel stronghold of Benghazi have had “very close associations with al-Qaeda” dating back years....I would hope that we now have a good sense of the opposition in Libya and can say that this is 2 percent, not 20 percent,” Riedel said. “If we don’t, then we are running the risk of helping to bring to power a regime that could be very dangerous.||”|
A document published by the U.S. West Point Military Academy's Combating Terrorism Center revealed that jihadi rebels between 2005 and 2007 exited Libya to join the Iraq insurgency in greater numbers than any other country. Many of those jihadi rebels that came from Libya to Iraq to kill American soldiers came from among the very people Obama pledged to protect in the name of "humanitarianism." One group—the Libyan Fighting Group (jamaʹah al‐libiyah al‐muqatilah)—claimed to have Afghan veterans in its ranks. The Combating Terrorism Center document concludes,
|“||The Syrian [ Assad regime] and Libyan [Gaddafi] governments share the United States’ concerns about violent salafi‐jihadi ideology and the violence perpetrated by its adherents. These governments [Syria, Gaddafi, and the US] like others in the Middle East, fear violence inside their borders and would much rather radical elements go to Iraq rather than cause unrest at home. U.S. and Coalition efforts to stem the flow of fighters into Iraq will be enhanced if they address the entire logistical chain that supports the movement of these individuals—beginning in their home countries – rather than just their Syrian entry points.||”|
This set off a fierce debate in the Obama administration over the wisdom of arming terrorists. It is now known sometime prior to March 31, 2011, at the urging of Hillary Clinton and over the objections of his National Security Council, Obama signed a Presidential Finding authorizing support for the rebel jihadis.
Ghaddafi's murder and Sharia law installed
By October 2011, Libyan rebel fighting groups with support from NATO, overtook the capital of Tripoli and toppled the government. Ghaddafi was captured and brutally and sadistically murdered. The jihadis were immediately recognized by the U.S. and the U.N. as the legitimate government. Mustafa Abdul-Jalil, chairman of the National Transitional Council, announced that Sharia will be the source for all legislation in Libya and that all laws conflicting with Sharia are null and void. Abdel Rahim al-Kib, the country's interim prime minister, echoed Jalil's words a couple of days later. Around the same time these statements were made an Al Qaeda flag was flown above the Benghazi courthouse, and reports were surfacing that the Libyan jihadis imposed Sharia law in some parts of the country even earlier.
- For a more detailed treatment, see Benghazi Attack.
With several U.S.embassies besieged on the anniversary of the September 11 attacks, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney declared authorities had no reason to believe the attack on the sovereign territory of the United States consulate in Benghazi less than two months before the 2012 Presidential election, resulting in the deaths of several Americans, was a terrorist attack.
|“||The unrest that we’ve seen around the region has been in reaction to a video that Muslims, many Muslims, find offensive.||”|
This became the official White House line. President Obama went on the Comedy Channel to say the deaths of Americans was "not optimal." When pressed by reporters, who pointed out evidence that the violence in Benghazi was a terrorist attack, Press Secretary Carney argued “the unrest around the region has been in response to this video.”
Leading suspected jihadis in the murders and terrorist attack were the local Benghazi branch of Ansar al-Shariah, known to have ties to al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. A commander of the terrorist group boasted jovially about the attack over drinks with reporters for the New York Times in Benghazi.
Two weeks to the day after the attack which killed four Americans including an Ambassador and left many with puzzling and unanswered questions, President Obama declared victory from the speakers platform at the United Nations using the premise of his strawman talking points, "[T]he future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam."
Algeria and Mali
Two more Americans were killed, along with 35 others, after being taken hostage by rebel jihadists in Mali shortly after the Libyan upheaval.
Hillary Clinton testified before the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee in the wake of the Benghazi murders that occurred under her stewardship, that weapons and fighters equipped by the Obama administration made their way into Mali and Algeria:
|“||There is no doubt that the Algerian terrorists had weapons from Libya. There is no doubt that the Malian remnants of AQIM [Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb] have weapons from Libya.||”|
- 9/11 Commission Report, The Foundation of the New Terrorism, pg. 56.
- In his memoir, Ayman al-Zawahiri contemptuously rejects the claim that the Arab mujahideen were financed (even “one penny”) or trained by the United States. See Zawahiri, “Knights Under the Prophet’s Banner,” Al Sharq al Awsat, Dec. 2, 2001. CIA officials involved in aiding the Afghan resistance regard Bin Ladin and his “Arab Afghans” as having been militarily insignificant in the war and recall having little to do with him. Gary Schroen interview (Mar. 3, 2003).
- Mora, Edwin (October 6, 2018). Al-Qaeda Remains Top Global Jihadi Threat on 17th Anniversary of Afghan War. Breitbart News. Retrieved October 6, 2018.
- Ramzi Yousef, who delivered the explosives in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing killing six people, is the nephew of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, a top figure in al-Qaeda. After the September 2001 attack, it was the opinion of many investigators and analysts that the perpetrators of that attack had a state sponsor – Iraq. A number of details, including the fact that Yousef was traveling on an Iraqi passport, as well as the date of the 1993 attack – the second anniversary of the U.S. liberation of Kuwait in the Persian Gulf War – furthered suspicions of Iraqi involvement in the 1993 incident. His uncle, Sheikh Mohammed was one of the masterminds the 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, and was arrested in Rawalpindi, Pakistan on March 1, 2003. 
- Hersh, Seymour M. (March 5, 2007). "Annals of National Security: The Redirection". The New Yorker. http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2007/03/05/070305fa_fact_hersh.
- Scott Shane, "Rethinking What to Fear," New York Times Sept. 27, 2009
- Vicken Cheterian (May 2012). "Libya’s rebel leader with a past". Le Monde Diplomatique. http://mondediplo.com/2012/05/08libya.
- "'We Are Simply Muslim': Libyan Rebel Chief Denies Al-Qaeda Ties", 4 September 2011.
- "From Holy warrior to hero of a revolution: Abdelhakim Belhadj".
- Burr, J. Millard (2014-10-13). "Libya – Ali al-Salabi and the Re-Emerging Muslim Brotherhood." American Center for Democracy.
- "Profile: Libyan rebel commander Abdel Hakim Belhaj", 5 September 2011.
- Ian Cobain. "Special report: Rendition ordeal that raises new questions about secret trials", 8 April 2012.
- US Names Chris Stevens Liaison to Libyan Opposition, ABC News Radio, March 14, 2011.
- ‘White Out’ on Benghazi: State Dept. Issues Report, Clare Lopez, December 23, 2012. http://counterjihadreport.com
- Sinjar Documents
- The Sinjar Documents are a collection of al Qaeda computer data captured by Americans in 2007 in a predawn raid near Sinjar, Iraq, six miles from the Syrian border.
- Al Qaeda in N. Africa backs Libya uprising: SITE
- Libya uprising.
- Libyan rebel commander admits his fighters have al-Qaeda links.
- Libyan, Once a Detainee, Is Now a U.S. Ally of Sorts.
- How Obama turned on a dime toward war.
- A First Look at the Sinjar Documents
- The Sinjar Documents are a collection of al Qaeda computer data captured by Americans in 2007 in a predawn raid near Sinjar, Iraq, six miles from the Syrian border.
- Leading from behind - a critique of Obama foreign policy
- Libya: Al Qaeda flag flown above Benghazi courthouse - Daily Telegraph
- New Libyan PM backs Islamic sharia law
- U.S. Intelligence Now Says Up To 20,000 Advanced Surface-To-Air Missiles Missing From Lib, Weasel Zippers, September 27, 2011.
- Hamas boosting anti-aircraft arsenal with looted Libyan missiles - Haaretz
- Interview with Jon Stewart of the Daily Show.
- Algeria: 37 Foreigner Hostages Killed in Attack, Associated Press, Jan. 21, 2013. TIME magazine.
- Clinton says militants used weapons from Libya in Algeria attack, Reuters, Jan 23, 2013.
- Top Ranking CIA Operatives Admit Al Qaeda Is a Complete Fabrication.
- BBC Profile of Al-Qaeda
- Bush shares al Qaeda plans - Jon Ward, Washington Times - May 24, 2007
- Al Qaeda in Northern Africa Has Become Pipeline for New Iraq Recruits, Reena Ninan, Fox News Channel, February 20, 2008
- Al Qaeda Trains Young Boys as Terrorists, Tapes Show,
- Purported Al Qaeda Video Shows Prisoners Burned Alive
- Difference Between Taliban and Al Qaeda.
- Are Theological Tensions Distancing Taliban From Al-Qaeda?
- Turkey's Islamic leader, Israel's Chief Rabbi, and Al Qaida's assassination attempt
- Two Flags, Multiple Explosions, One God, and no Escape