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Al-Qaeda to ISIS Terrorist Enigmas

Updated on August 19, 2016

Al-Qaeda to ISIS?

ISIS is the name that sends shivers down the spine of many of its neighbours since its formation in Syria and the invasion of parts of Iraq and its declaration of a Caliphate state. This is many years after the atrocities of 9/11 by Al Qaeda, led by founder Usama bin Laden is a name well engraved in the psyche of western peoples as an international terrorist network. Since Al Qaeda establishment in the 1980’s it was credited with financing, recruiting, transported and trained thousands of fighters from dozens of countries to be part of an Afghan resistance. Originally, the Mujahedeen movement had lofty goals of defeating the then Soviet Union. Backed by western governments, the Mujahedeen from which al Qaeda emerged was seen as a viable and capable tool to help stop the growing menace of the then USSR, preventing direct hostilities between the east and western block of nations. The west was a close ally with the Mujahedeen, armed it and provided training for its recruits, whose weapons today are aimed at their former taskmasters. How it all turned wrong, that the terrorist network come to hate the west so much is more a clash of religion and culture. Misery make strange bedfellows, the Mujahedeen sponsored by the west was a matter of convenience, as the two cultures Islam will never see eye to eye, not ever. Am I a pessimist, leaving no room for change for people to see sense? Since the destruction of the world trade centre in New York in 2001, atrocities claimed by al Qaeda, and the subsequent war which drove the Taliban from power, the “holy war” continues beyond Afghanistan. The current goal of ISIS, successor to al-Quida is to establish a Caliphate, and a Muslim ruler throughout the world working in association with radical Islamic groups to overthrow western and some middle eastern governments it considers "non-Islamic" and banish Westerners and non-Muslims from Muslim lands.


All the terrorist groups indicate a common enemy, Israel which seems to garner widespread support among militant groups. ISIS is made up of many such groups who felt the other were not militant enough. In the late 1990’s, a group released a declaration entitles "The World Islamic Front for Jihad against the Jews and Crusaders" and claim it was the duty of all Muslims to kill American citizens, whether civilian or military and their allies. The group “Al-Qaeda” is Arabic for “the base”, proceeded to merge with the Egyptian Islamic Jihad (Al-Jihad) fronted by al-Zawahiri in 2001. Both groups have been complicit in attacking America, which launched the war in Afghanistan in 2001, with aim to destroy al-Qaeda’s bases there and overthrow the Taliban. Al Qaeda plotted and used assassination, bombing, hijacking, kidnapping, suicide attacks, to achieve its terrorist goals. Intelligence seems to indicate a strong desire by the group to obtain and utilise biological, chemical and nuclear weapons. Targets would include public buildings, embassies and the US military, allies, and moderate Muslim governments. The group has targeted American and other Western interests as well as Jewish targets and Muslim governments it saw as corrupt or evil including Saudi Arabia.


Military commentators and experts on Middle Eastern affairs say it is impossible to know precisely terrorist groups numbers, due to their decentralised structure. ISIS is estimated to have millions having captured oilfields that keep the money coming in. It is estimated that Al-Qaida at its peak have several thousand members and associates, the group has trained over 5,000 militants in camps in Afghanistan since the late 1980s. Bin Laden, member of a billionaire family that owned the Bin Ladin Group construction empire, and it was reported he had inherited tens of millions of dollars which he uses to finance his group. The group maintained other moneymaking front businesses, seek donations from like-minded supporters, and illicitly draw funds from donations to Muslim charitable organisations. However America’s efforts to block similar terrorists groups funding has hindered their ability to obtain money, though ISIS is selling oil on the black market to fuel its efforts. Terror experts surmise that after the loss of its Afghanistan base, may be increasingly reliant on sympathetic affiliates to carry out its plans. After fifteen years, the anniversary of the attacks it is very clear that the threat to the US and its allies remains strong. US and Britain are often cited as targets in militant propaganda and several dozen young westerners, security sources say, travel every year to Pakistan to realise their dreams of violent jihad.


Some years ago across the Atlantic three British Pakistani nationals were convicted for the 2006, threat dubbed the "Lucozade" plot against flights to America was a sobering reminder the group have the power and means to attack if we ever lower our guards. The group has many sympathisers across the globe from which they recruit the willing, many from Kashmir or the Punjab. In the past, suicide bombings in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan often involved al-Qaida recruits, but now it is ISIS. The group’s willingness to strike western allies is strong, and the ability of ISIS central command is to commission or execute spectacular attacks more spectacular than the one before. However, some analysts believe the reality in the Pakistani tribal areas is certainly stronger than the popular image of wider capability. After many years of trying to find the leader of the group, Bin Laden was finally captured and killed in Pakistan. There is a probability not impossible to believe that those in the military or even in government were protecting him.


However, many analysts believe ISIS is under pressure, and has lost some of its potency and territory. They point to the rarity of statements from al-Quida, but "opportunistic" claims of responsibility for events that has nothing to do with them. The remembrance of 9/11, and the atrocities is forever etched in America’s heart, but is now history for many younger potential recruits. Threats from al-Quida, and now ISIS once considered credible and real, are being weakened and downgraded quite quickly in Britain though mainland Europe is paying a high price. There is no doubt it has become much harder for ISIS central command to plan or organise operations against western targets, when all communication is being keenly watched by western intelligence. Yet deadly attacks still take place, in Syria and Iraq and other cities outside of Pakistan. Recently there have been attacks against Iraq security forces, with many dead. Also a British hostage, Edwin Dyer, was killed by the group in Mali after the English authorities refused to free the imprisoned Abu Qatada, a Jordanian cleric dubbed as the groups’ European representative.


The continuing war in Syria and Iraqi have shown that ISIS has replaced al-Qaida who still has capability and is active, despite being seen as a shadow of its former self since Bin Laden's death. The group has been unable to reorganise in Saudi Arabia, where they never had popular support despite being the homeland of Bin Laden's. The authorities there, with the help of the United States, have run successful programmes to fundamentally change the political views of the young.

Intelligence agencies say the radical Algerian Libyan ISIS al-Qaida connection has reached across the Mediterranean through support among European Muslims of North African descent. In Morocco, as it also done in Saudi Arabia and Egypt, senior clerics have spoken out to condemn terrorism as a distortion of sharia law. Since the formation of the so-called Caliphate, some affiliated groups around the world have blended a combination of the global ideology of ISIS but with local focus and connections with al-Qaida are often vague. For instance it was reported that recently in Egypt, Jordan, and Libya, militant thinkers, usually behind bars, have changed their views and rejected former comrades who are still fighting a global jihad. So that western intelligence analysts are likely to look for ISIS connection in terrible atrocities when there is a probable local plan.


ISIS ideology, although rejected across the Islamic world, poses a real threat to the west if left undefeated. It doesn’t take more than one person to create havoc in a crowed room, bus or train. Many are recruited after talking to members on one of the many radical Islamist websites, which are becoming more sophisticated despite western intelligence effort to disrupt them. European intelligence has become aware of recruits travelling to Pakistani training camps then prepared to fight alongside other Islamic militias. The problem seems more problematic in the UK, with British-Pakistanis nationals travelling to east Africa to join forces with the Jihadist of the Caliphate. Every terrorist or insurgent movement, simply surviving represents a victory for ISIS, for they live to fight another day, a well known concept. Therefore jihadist culture will remain a source of worry for western intelligence as there is a level of helplessness in a young Islamic population. The underlying causes of radicalism are intact as many gave the Palestinian Jewish conflict, and American support for Israel a just cause. Then western forces in Iraq and Afghanistan “occupiers of Arab lands” are also seen as motivating factors of extremism. Obama replacing Bush in the white house, is important as it is logical for change in the Middle East and in the minds of Jihadist. Improvement is seen in steps taken to bring about lasting peace between Israel and its neighbours, and between Iran and the west. One really bad ISIS Jihadist or Al-Qaida's affiliate attack on Israel or western interests fuel call for Obama to take action against militancy in Syrian and Iraq, and will increase Jihadist resentment and recruitment and fuel the pressure pot of war.


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  • Kenny MG profile image

    Kenny MG 8 years ago from A Child of the Universe

    Thanks, readytoescape, your comments encouraged me to continue on the path to reveal and educate

  • readytoescape profile image

    readytoescape 8 years ago from Central Florida

    Great Hub, very well written and researched.

  • Kenny MG profile image

    Kenny MG 8 years ago from A Child of the Universe

    Thanks Ralph,

    Understanding the mentality of a terrorist is hard. A hard hardened by hate and indoctrination can only change by an opposite approach, through dedoctrination. Few wars are won by more war, only through participating in and ecouraging dialogue can threats be reduced, not totally lifted. There will never be a time without this hanging over our heads, but helping in educationg those who are being brainwashed will reduce the levels we presently see. Terrorist groups will have less volnerable souls to influence.

  • Ralph Deeds profile image

    Ralph Deeds 8 years ago from Birmingham, Michigan

    Well written piece. Thanks.

    What do you think we should be doing about the threat?