A chronological, historical walk-through of successive waves of al-Qaeda terrorism from 1998 to the present.
What has caused the three surges in terrorist activity over the past decade-plus, and can the next one be predicted? RAND analyst Jones (In the Graveyard of Empires: America's War in Afghanistan, 2009, etc.) fashions a complete tutorial in the rise of violent jihadism, which emerged from the struggle against the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in the late 1980s. The organization’s early leaders had competing visions about its mission that created enormous tension. Chief Egyptian idealogue Sayyid Imam al-Sharif, author of the seminal Primer in Preparing for Jihad, warned against taking the violent campaign against the Egyptian government and asserted that the terrorist tactics “grossly misinterpreted Islam.” His deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri became increasingly militant, joining with other groups and turning the struggle outward to the corrupting influence of the West on Islam. In 1998, al-Zawahiri, Osama bin Laden and others published a fatwa to kill Americans, yet it wasn’t until the simultaneous attacks on U.S. embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam that the U.S. finally took full notice. Jones tracks the American response—e.g., by CIA officials Henry Crumpton and Philip Mudd, as the first wave of violence crested with 9/11. The author ably organizes all the pieces of the puzzle regarding successive terrorist attacks, fleshing out the numerous personalities involved, tracking the U.S. and British response and decade-long hunt for bin Laden and establishing excellent perspective on the amorphous nature of the enemy and the dissention from within. In preventing a next wave of terrorism, Jones propounds exploiting al-Qaeda's tendency to kill civilians as a way of eliciting backlash against the group.
From a knowledgeable guide, a thoughtful study of the pattern of violence and response.