chapter  5
14 Pages

‘There is no conscious decision’

The events of 11 September 2001 instantly and forever burned the name Al Qaeda into the public’s consciousness. Reference to Al Qaeda is now immediately associated with its worldwide modus operandi – well-planned, highly coordinated, synchronised terrorist bombings guaranteed to kill dozens and seriously maim hundreds more. Al Qaeda continues to shock and surprise, attacking a variety of hard and soft targets worldwide in pursuit of its short-and long-term objectives. Still, and despite a seemingly unending flow of research reports and detailed analysis of this global Sunni Islamist movement, there are substantial gaps in our knowledge and understanding of Al Qaeda. The movement continues to defy easy definition or categorisation. In truth, the movement comprises elements both of a centralised command and control structure, and at the same time reveals qualities characteristic of a regionally decentralised franchise, managed locally by entrepreneurs whose principal task is to attract and groom ever more recruits to the movement. In fact, in the years following 9/11, Al Qaeda has become much more than a terrorist network. It is also, in the words of Sageman,1 a global social movement. In the years that followed 9/11, the War on Terror may well have disrupted the potential for large-scale attacks by Al Qaeda. But it is certain that it has not eliminated them completely. Coordinated attacks, albeit on a smaller scale than 9/11, will continue to frustrate counter-terrorism efforts and will contribute to the longevity of the threat posed by Al Qaeda and its offshoots.