The origin of al-Qaeda

Although the notes don’t reflect it, a vote was taken [in August 1988] to form a new organization aimed at keeping jihad alive after the Soviets were gone. It is difficult to imagine these men agreeing on anything, but only Abu Hajer voted against the new group. Abu Rida summarized the meeting by saying that a plan must be established within a suitable time frame and qualified people must be found to put the plan into effect. “Initial estimate, within 6 months of al-Qaeda, 314 brothers will be trained and ready.” For most of the men in the meeting, this was the first time that the name al-Qaeda had arisen. The members of the new group would be drawn from the most promising recruits among the Arab Afghans, but it was unclear what the organization would do or where it would go after the jihad. Perhaps bin Laden himself didn’t know.

Few people in the room realized that al-Qaeda had already been secretly created some months before by a small group of bin Laden insiders…

On Saturday morning, August 20, the same men met again to establish what they called al-Qaeda al-Askariya (the military base). “The mentioned al-Qaeda is basically an organized Islamic faction, its goal to lift the word of God, to make His religion victorious” the secretary recorded in the minutes of the meeting. The founders divided the military work, as they termed it, into two parts: “limited duration,” in which the Arabs would be trained and placed with Afghan mujahideen for the remainder of the war; and “open duration” in which “they enter a testing camp and the best brothers of them are chosen.” The graduates of this second camp would become members of the new entity, al-Qaeda.

“The meeting ended on the evening of Saturday, 8/20/1988,” the secretary noted. “Work of al-Qaeda commented on 9/10/1988, with a group of fifteen brothers.” At the bottom of the page the secretary added, “Until the date 9/20, Commandant Abu Ubaydah arrived to inform me of the existence of thirty brothers in al-Qaeda, meeting the requirements, and thank God.”

Wright, Lawrence. The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11. Vintage Books, 2007, 2011. p. 152–3

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