continuing my notes from Jason Burke’s “Al-Qaeda: Casting a Shadow of Terror” . . . .
Al-Qaeda’s “mature years”: 1996-2001
Bin Laden provided “a central focus for many . . . disparate elements. This was not a formation of a huge and disciplined group, but a temporary focus of many different strands within modern Islamic militancy on Afghanistan and what, in terms of resources and facilities, bin Laden and his three dozen close associates were able to provide there.” (p.12)
The resources he offered: training, expertise, money, munitions, safe haven. He was providing a safe haven and “department store” array of support for different groups who had been looking for some such “service” since the end of the Afghan war.
The 3 elements of al-Qaeda
The al-Qaeda hardcore (approx 12+100) consisted of:
- The dozen or so associates who had stayed with him since the 1980’s.
- Pre-eminent militants who had difficulties operating in their own countries came to join bin Laden for the safe haven and the resources he could offer: recruits, money, ideas, knowledge.
- Many of these were Afgan war veterans. Many had fought in Bosnia and Chechnya.
- They totalled about 100.
- Many had at some stage taken an oath of allegiance to bin Laden.
- They acted as trainers and administrators in Afghanistan.
- Occasionally they were sent overseas to seek recruits; more rarely, to carry out a terrorist operation.
- But they were not a monolithic group: among them are significant divergences of opinioin over methods, tactics, political and religious beliefs.
2nd element: a wider circle consisting of:
(to be contd.)