Threat to U.S. - Al Qaeda

Terrorist organizations are capable of carrying out an attack practically anywhere in the world. One terrorist organization that is likely to carry out an attack on the United States is Al Qaeda. The fast expansion of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), increases the likelihood of an Al Qaeda strike against the United States. Unlike the other terror organizations, Al Qaeda poses a unique threat to the United States, its allies, and global security (Gunaratna, 2005). Not only has the group expanded geographically, but also in the media and on the internet in general. Terrorist organizations have in the past conducted attacks in the U.S. but none except for Al Qaeda that has undertaken not only the largest but also the most complex attack in the U.S. Al Qaeda’s attacks in the U.S. can be linked to the terror organization’s immense capabilities. This paper discusses organization of Al Qaeda as an organization likely to carry out a major terrorist attack in the United States. It gives a description of the group, its origins, ideology, goals and objectives, leadership, funding and the capabilities.

The word Al Qaeda in English translation means “a base or a foundation.” The Al Qaeda is a worldwide terror organization of the Sunni Islamist group established by Osama bin Laden also known as Osama Mohammad al Wahad back in 1988 (Gunaratna, 2005). At the time when Soviet pulled out of Afghanistan, Osama bin Laden formed the organization to solidify the various international networks that he had created. The organization has no particular single center or headquarter, instead, it keeps cells in several countries around the world. The organizations activities are not limited to any nation and they have managed to work away from Pakistan including along the Afghanistan boarder and within the Pakistani cities (Gunaratna, 2005). The U.S. considers the Al Qaeda as a global terrorist group that poses a great threat to the state. The organization is linked to many attacks around the world including the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center, 1998 attacks of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania and many other terrorist attacks (PBS, 2014).

During the formation of the Al Qaeda organization, the key objectives were to come up with the rule of God and achieve martyrdom in God’s cause. Also, the organization wanted to purify the Islam ranks from the components of depravity, to do away with the foreign powers in the Islam nations and to do away with Israel. In February 23, 1998, Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden made of the most shocking rulings, to wipe out Americans and their allies saying that causing the death of military and civilian is a personal responsibility for each Muslim who is in a position to undertake it in any nation capable of doing it (PBS, 2014).

The terror group’s ideology is characterized by a willingness to murder and emphasis on jihad. Almost all the Islamic religious thoughts are at odds with the Al Qaeda. The group’s ideology is rooted in the works of Sayyid Qutb and Mohammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab, both of whom are modern Sunni Islamic thinkers (Gunaratna, 2005). Based on the group’s ideology and belief system, to gain propaganda, it applies tactics like suicide attacks, kidnapping, hijacking, bombing and assassination. The organization also uses the series of attacks to gain new recruits as the world looks on. Today, the terror group’s goal is to inspire and prompt Islamist movements and the Muslims at large globally to attack those seen to be against Islam (Gunaratna, 2005).

For instance, on September 11, 2001, 19 Al Qaeda members hijacked 4 commercial jet airliners and deliberately crushed two of them into the Twin Towers in New York City (PBS, 2014). The result was loss of many lives of innocent people. On the same day of the crush, two more airliners were hijacked with the pentagon in Washington D.C and the White House. as the targets. Over the years since late in 1980’s the group has trained thousands of members to join. It has trained more than 5000 militants within their camps all over Afghanistan and the key bases in Sudan (McKay, 2017). Over the years, the U.S. has always targeted these camps and cells spread in Afghanistan, however, this has not always yielded much since the groups takes advantage of the rugged mountains (McKay, 2017).

Osama bin Laden was the known leader of the Al Qaeda. However, he did not manage the organization alone, al-Zawahiri was his physician and main advisor (PBS, 2014). After Osama bin Laden’s death, al-Zawahiri, an Egyptian surgeon who became part of the Islamist movement in 1970’s took over the leadership and is believed to have aided in the planning of the 9/11 attacks (PBS, 2014). Unlike the popular thought that the death of Osama set the terror group back, the fact is that it made them even stronger both financially and in capacity under the leadership of al-Zawahiri since the various affiliates and cells merged.

Since the formation of the group in late 1980’s, it has used several ways to obtain funds and over the years, it has used fundraisers to obtain money from all over the globe. The group has donors throughout the world, however, the main donor is based in Saudi Arabia, in the Gulf region (Gomez, 2010). Even though some of the donors know well the destination of their donations, some do not know. They get some of their funding from the corrupt charitable organizations, especially in the holy month of Ramadhan (Gomez, 2010). Also, they use the internet to solicit for money to facilitate their operations apart from using it as a tool of communication (Thomas, 2015). The group raises funds through some of the propaganda videos that they air online.

Al Qaeda as a one of the most dreaded terror group in the World has proven to be interested in mass casualty attacks (PBS, 2014). The group is against the U.S. and is willing to do all things possible to carry out an attack that will bring about a huge damage in a single attack. If the group is to conduct another attack in the U.S., then they may target a social event. They are likely to attack a concert where thousands of people will have gathered to have fun. The U.S. government is keen on maintaining security and therefore conducting the attack will require careful planning since it is a complex one and will require at least five people. The five are likely to be drawn from one the affiliated cells in the U.S. The complexity of the attack will force three of terrorist to join and be part of the team maintaining security at the concert. Their role will be to allow other terrorists to go past the security into the concert and also to aid them position in advance some of the critical tools they need in executing the attack. The tools may include grenades, bombs and automatic firearms. Once the concert is on and all people are enjoying the happenings of the concert then the two terrorists will throw powerful grenades into the crowd and use the automatic guns to shoot at people. The other two who were acting as “inside men” will then join to throw more grenades at the exits to kill more people.

The U.S. might have succeeded in killing Osama bin Laden but it still faces serious threat from the Al Qaeda terror group. The group has various branches around the world and cells in various countries which still help them to recruit and plan attacks. The group still holds its ideology and belief and hence continues to apply violent tactics to achieve mass damage. By having a major damage in a single attack then the group can be sure to inspire smaller groups and lone attackers. With the help of the internet and by exploiting new possibilities, the group remains strong and a major threat to the U.S. Even as the U.S. works to ensure it is safe, it must never forget that for as long as Al Qaeda exists then it is not safe from an attack.


Gomez, J. M. (2010). A Financial Profile of the Terrorism of Al-Qaeda and its Affiliates. Retrieved from Perspective on Terrorism:

Gunaratna, R. (2005, May 19th). Al Qaeda's Ideology. Retrieved from Hudson Institute:

McKay, H. (2017, June 16). Al Qaeda in Afghanistan: How Terror Group Survives, Thrives. Retrieved from Fox News:

PBS. (2014). Background: Al Qaeda. Retrieved from Frontline:

Thomas, T. L. (2015). Al Qaeda and the Internet: The Danger of “Cyberplanning”. 112-123. Retrieved from

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