Al Qaeda's grand strategem

The Asia Times has an interesting article on Al Qaeda's unfinished work, arguing that what the organization is really after is drawing the US into a battle that would cause a worldwide Muslim backlash, beginning with the toppling of US-friendly regimes in Muslim countries. At the center of this strategy is what they call "the Egyptian camp", led by Ayman Zawahri and other top Al Qaeda commandants:

By the time the Taliban had emerged as a force in Afghanistan in the mid-1990s, the Egyptian camp had settled on its strategies, the most important being:


  • To speak out against corrupt and despotic Muslim governments and make them targets, as this would destroy their image in the eyes of the common people, who interrelate state, rulers and nation.

  • Focus on the US role, which is to support Israel and tyrant Middle Eastern countries, and make everyone understand this.



  • The 1998 attacks on the US embassies in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania and Nairobi, Kenya, were the start of al-Qaeda's - as it was now known - offensive against US interests. In retaliation, though, the US launched cruise missiles on Kandahar and Khost in Afghanistan. Consequent to this, al-Qaeda formed a special task force to plan for the September 11 attacks.


    It took three years for the plan to reach fruition, but discussions continued after September 11 among members of the Egyptian camp - who were now senior members of al-Qaeda - over broader plans to bring the world's superpower to its knees.


  • Before October 7, 2001, when the US invaded Afghanistan in retaliation for September 11, most of al-Qaeda's top minds had already left the country. Their mission involved several targets:

  • To ideologically cultivate new faces from strategic communities, such as among armed forces and intelligence circles.

  • Get these new recruits to establish cells.

  • Each cell would be assigned to raise its own resources to chalk out a plan. However, only one of them would implement a plan, the others would serve as decoys to "misdirect" intelligence agencies.


  • An interesting theory, and one that seems to be working so far.
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    Issandr El Amrani

    Issandr El Amrani is a Cairo-based writer and consultant. His reporting and commentary on the Middle East and North Africa has appeared in The Economist, London Review of Books, Financial Times, The National, The Guardian, Time and other publications. He also publishes one of the longest-running blog in the region, www.arabist.net.