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The Purpose of Al-Qaeda Report (Assessment)

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Updated: Feb 25th, 2022


This paper focuses on Al-Qaeda, a transnational extremist organization founded in 1988 by Osama bin Laden and unites Islamic extremists and Salafist jihadists. Watching at Al-Qaedas foundation date, it could be noted that it was established during the penultimate year of the Soviet-Afghan War that lasted from 1979 to 1989. The initial purpose of Al-Qaeda was to provide assistance to Muslims in fighting against the Soviet Union. However, after the withdrawal of the Soviet troops from Afghanistan in 1989, the terrorist organization did not dissolve. Instead, the counteraction to the corrupted Islamic regimes and the leaders of foreign states who intervene in the internal affairs of Islamic countries became the purpose of Al-Qaeda. At the same time, there is an opinion that the terrorist organization was founded in order to “challenge the incumbency and authority of rulers in various Middle Eastern countries, including Saudi Arabia” (Haynes, 2005, p. 177). In spite of the various views on the initial motivation for the establishment of Al-Qaeda, it remains evident that, in the early 1990-s, it went global with the aim to change the balance of power between the Islamic and the Western world.

From the paragraph above, it could be inferred that the short-term goals of Al-Qaeda vary in every single case. For instance, during the Soviet-Afghan War, the leaders of the terrorist organization wanted to undermine the forces of the communists (Byman, 2019). In the mid-2010s, the strikes of Islamist radicals in Iraq were organized to inhibit the formation of local armed forces and police (Novenario, 2016). In the long-term perspective, the key objective of Al-Qaedas actions is to show that the West is vulnerable and its armed forces unable to resist the Islamic militants (Novenario, 2016). Apart from that, Al-Qaeda facilitates the further polarization of already tense Shia–Sunni relations.

Undoubtedly, the ideology and the goals of the discussed terrorist organization threaten the entire world. However, during recent years, the Arabian Peninsula could be regarded as the epicenter of events because of the ongoing civil war in Yemen that takes place since 2014. The UAE is engaged in this conflict as a part of the coalition of pro-Hadi forces headed by Saudi Arabia that battles against Yemen’s Shiite rebels. Al-Qaeda, in its turn, acts as the third side of the conflict as it attacks both coalitions to seize territories.


Since there is no precise data on the numbers of Al-Qaeda’s members, the only option is to rely on estimations and predictions. According to Hoffman (2018), its staff consists of approximately 40,000 people. On average, the terrorists are recruited at the age of 22 and undergo training in Afghanistan and Sudan (Bloom, 2017). By the way, the young age of the enlisted members contributes to the overall decline of the organization due to their lack of experience and skills. A range of scholars such as Bloom (2017) and Faria and Arce (2005) inform that terrorists are required by the talent spotters who analyze the visitors of mosques on the extent of commitment to the Islamist faith, their skills, and personality trait.

In addition to that, Bloom (2017) reveals that Al-Qaeda actively engages in its activities school-aged youth from such countries as Afghanistan, Pakistan, Turkey, Iraq, Iran, Palestine, North Africa, and Western Europe. Besides, it is curious to notice that the headhunters pay attention even to the nationality and the skin color of the potential candidates. As Watts (2018) puts it, “the whiter the recruit, the bigger a pain in the ass he will become for the terrorist group he joins” (p. 9). To sum up, Al-Qaeda’s recruiters choose young people with a strong commitment to faith and a range of personal qualities that make them easily manipulated.

Since Al-Qaeda regards itself as a global movement, the Internet is necessary to achieve the global audience. Indeed, this terrorist organization is one of the most active users of a global communications network (Scaife, 2014). The Internet is used not only to conduct cyberattacks. Social media facilitates Al-Qaeda to gain access to a broader audience that could be potentially recruited. Communication between the actual terrorists and people whom they would like to attract is commonly based on intimidation and disinformation (Grosu & Bubuioc, 2017). At this point, it should be noted that the decision to recruit via social media strongly relates to the fact that the organization entices mainly young people because the latter are prone to prefer online communication to the real one.

Talking about the most common method of attack, it worth saying that Al-Qaeda does not use something extraordinary and distinctive from other terrorist organizations. A range of scholars, such as Celso (2014), Bevy (2006), and Smith, Schulze, and Solomon (2020), claim that Al-Qaeda practices traditional terrorist attacks that include suicide bombing in the places of mass congestion of people. However, in recent years, Al-Qaeda also practices cyber-attacks.


As it has already been mentioned in the section dedicated to the intensions of Al-Qaeda, this terrorist organization does pose a threat to the security of the UAE. This threat is exacerbated by the ongoing civil war in Yemen. More precisely, Al-Qaeda is responsible for the conduction of suicide attacks against soldiers from the UAE who were fighting on the territory of Yemen. In addition to that, one could argue that the evidence of the claim that the group threatens the security of the Emirates lies in the fact that two of the hijackers who participated in the attacks on September 11, 2001, were the citizens of the UAE. Notwithstanding these claims, it is essential to notice that the UAE had never witnessed attacks by Al-Qaeda on its territory. What is more, it is highly unlikely that the organization would ever be able to access the country that implements active counter Islamic terrorism policies.

Thinking about the possibility of Al-Qaedas victory, it is essential to pay attention the fact that this fight occurs not between the extremist group and one single state, but between the group and the entire world community. From one point of view, there is some evidence that the number of members is continuously growing, and the organization is obtaining more sophisticated weapons. However, the US and the rest of the world, including also a wide range of international organizations, allocate a significant amount of money on the fight with terrorism. Thus, it could be suggested that in the short-term, Al-Qaeda is able to win some local conflicts or undermine the stability and security of some local troops. Nevertheless, in the long-term perspective, it is impossible to imagine that this terrorist organization would be able to defeat the entire world community.


Bevy, L. J. (2006). Al-Qaeda: An organization to be reckoned with. Nova Publishers.

Bloom, M. (2017). Constructing expertise: Terrorist recruitment and “talent spotting” in the PIRA, Al Qaeda, and ISIS. Studies in Conflict & Terrorism, 40(7), 603-623.

Byman, D. (2019). Al Qaeda, the Islamic State, and the global jihadist movement. Oxford University Press.

Celso, A. (2014). Al-Qaeda’s post-9/11 devolution: The failed jihadist struggle against the near and far enemy. Bloomsbury Publishing USA.

Faria, J. R. & Arce, G.D. (2005). Terrorist support and recruitment. Defence and Peace Economics, 16(4), 263–273.

Grosu, R., & Bubuioc, V. (2017). The role of internet and social media in recruitment in certain Islamic terrorist organizations. Cases of Al Qaeda and ISIS. Central and Eastern European e-Dem and e-Gov Days, 325, 179-188.

Haynes, J. (2005). Al Qaeda: ideology and action. Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy, 8(2), 177-191.

Hoffman, B. (2018). Council on Foreign Relations. Web.

Novenario, C. M. I. (2016). Differentiating Al Qaeda and the Islamic State through strategies publicized in Jihadist magazines. Studies in Conflict & Terrorism, 39(11), 953-967.

Scaife, L. (2014). Handbook of social media and the law. CRC Press.

Smith, T., Schulze, K., & Solomon, H. (2020). Exporting global jihad: Volume two: Critical perspectives from Asia and the Americas. In LSE SEAC Workshop-Militant Islamism in Southeast Asia: Militant Islamism in Southeast Asia. IB Tauris.

Watts, C. (2018). Messing with the enemy: Surviving in a social media world of hackers, terrorists, Russians, and fake news. Harper Business.

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