UNLIKE OTHER TERRORIST GROUPS, AL-QAEDA presents an unprecedented threat to America, its allies, and to global security in general. In addition to training its own members—(4000 was the October 2001 estimate, according to the Western intelligence community)—al-Qaeda and the Taliban regime trained 70,000 members in its camps in Afghanistan. While al-Qaeda conducted one major attack every year prior to 9/11, al-Qaeda and its associated groups have conducted one attack every three months since 9/11. Although it is the most hunted terrorist group in history, the campaign of holy war unleashed by al-Qaeda is likely to outlive itself and the current generation of Islamists.
This is because al-Qaeda’s real strength lies not in its global infrastructure and membership per se but in its overarching and highly appealing ideology. In keeping with its original mandate, al-Qaeda’s principal aim today is to inspire and incite Islamist movements and the Muslim masses worldwide to attack those perceived to be the enemies of Islam. Although the majority of Muslims worldwide do no support al-Qaeda, the group is constantly seeking to reinvigorate the global jihad movement by exploiting the widespread suffering, resentment, and anger in the Muslim world and turning it against the United States and its allies. Considering the sympathy and new recruits it has gathered from Islamist groups in Asia, Africa, Middle East, and elsewhere, the ideological campaign unleashed by al-Qaeda has been a partial success.
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