Al Qaeda After The Death Of Bin Laden

Adam Fitzgerald
10 min readAug 22, 2020


“Good evening. Tonight, I can report to the American people and to the world that the United States has conducted an operation that killed Osama bin Laden, the leader of al Qaeda, and a terrorist who’s responsible for the murder of thousands of innocent men, women, and children.” (U.S President, Barack Obama address May 2,2011)

There was an eerie silence in that Abbottabad compound on the evening of May 1st 2011 after the shots rang out. The most revered U.S military special ops, the U.S Navy Seals, had assassinated the most wanted man in the world, the emir of Al Qaeda, the hero of the 1979 Afghan-Soviet War, a man who was suspected of being behind the worst terrorist attacks in U.S history on September 11th 2001. Osama Bin Laden. Vice Admiral, William MacRaven ordered the team to take the body out of the compound and fly it back to the USS Carl Vinson waiting for the team to return from their mission off the Persian Gulf. Just like that, in the dead of night, the “will of the wisp” character that escaped every intelligence agency in the world was gone. His carcass dumped into the dark recesses of the North Arabian Sea. Without the enigmatic leader, Al Qaeda seemed to lack any emphasis for future attacks…..or did it.

By 2011, there was a new terrorist organization, led by a more shrewd and insular leader. The Islamic State of Iraq had just regrouped out of Tikrit, Iraq and into Damascus, Syria…..the country was under a civil war with the Bashir Al Assad government and its Alawite regime. Abu Omar al-Baghdadi had inherited the ultra-orthdox sect from his predecessor and founder of the Islamic State, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. al-Zarqawi, from Jordan, had named it Jama’at al-Tawhid wal-Jihad…in 1999, he met with Bin Laden in Afghanistan, it was thru his previous upbringing from his family that he fermented his hatred for Jews, and more so, Shia Muslims.

On his first meeting with Bin Laden al-Zarqawi reportedly declared: “Shiites should be executed”. Bin Laden thought of al-Zarqawi as too “rigid” as well as too volatile but he had some use for this former pimp and drug dealer. al-Zarqawi had plans however of his own. To topple King Abdullah from Jordan and implement an Islamic caliphate.

Before the year’s end however, al-Zarqawi’s plot which was involved in a much bigger trans-national terrorist operation, “Millennium Plot”, where terrorist cells inside Amaan, Jordan led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and Luai Sakra, were to bomb four locations…the Radisson hotel, Mount Nebo (a Christian site), the border between Jordan and Israel, and the site near the Jordan River where it said John The Baptist baptized Jesus Christ. The plot foiled when Jordanian intelligence got wind of the plot thru a phone call from Al Qaeda operative, Aby Zubaydah, spoke with Khadr Abu Hoshar, a Palestinian immigrant.

al-Zarqawi and Sakra fled the country and were charged in absentia for their involvement. He traveled to Pakistan, where his Visa became revoked, he then traveled into Afghanistan. Where he would once again meet with Osama Bin Laden in Kabul and Kandahar. al-Zarqawi asked Bin Laden to help him fund for a training camp in Herat, located in the Western part of the country. Bin Laden saw potential, and gave him a small donation of $200,000 dollars to help start his operation. With this small donation, al-Zarqawi got in touch with his close friend and religious mentor, Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi, In the years to come….they would begin their sect of strict Islamic law, the Jama’at al-Tawhid wal-Jihad, which began terrorist operations as the U.S military invaded the capitol of Iraq, Baghdad. U.S coalition military witnessed unrelenting car bombings which was a rare occurrence before the invasion in 2003.

With the advent of the internet, al-Zarqawi began taking hostages, and filming them while being beheaded, These grotesque visuals would influence young Jihadis from the Middle East and Se Asia to begin the new Jihad of the West in Iraq, and thus al-Zarqawi’s group began to grow….The United States had become aware of this new Jihadi, whose terrorist bombing campaigns had put him under the light of the world’s military might.

al-Zarqawi targeted Shia mosques as well as civilians, U.N. representatives, Iraqi government institutions, Egypt’s ambassador, Russian diplomats and foreign civilians in Iraq and hotel visitors in Jordan. His relentless campaign if slaughter was now labeling him as “public enemy number one”, even over the more pronounced, Bin Laden. On June 7, 2006, al-Zarqawi was killed by a drone strike at a safehouse in Baqubah. The group was teetering to survive after that. And for the next 3 years, the group was now led by Omar al-Baghdadi.

With the Syrian conflict, al-Baghdadi saw promise for a resurgence. With the Syrian jails allowing prisoners, mostly Salafi Jihadi’s imprisoned by the al-Assad government, the Islamic State in Iraq was now recruiting them to fight against the cursed Shia-Alawite regime. The group would once again rename itself in 2011, into the Islamic State and the Levant (ISIL). It was here in 2011–2012 that would witness their true potential and exponential growth and into a trans-national threat. Countries such as Iraq, Sudan, Philippines, Indonesia, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Egypt. al-Baghdadi took full advantage of the Arab Spring, so did the U.S Department of State. In 2011, a covert operation titled, Timber Sycamore, saw the potential of the Islamic State and began utilizing the CIA to covertly train and fund the organization to help topple the Assad government.

Other Jihadi groups began to spring up in Syria, such as Jabhat al-Nusra, Abdullah Azzam Brigades, Ansar al-Sham, Liwa Aqab al-Islami, Fatah al-Islam and Ansar al-Sharia. Many of these Jihadis were foreign fighters from countries mentioned above, as native Syrians caught in the middle were either slaughtered or forced to support these Wahhabi-Saudi funded groups. This would begin to witness some of the most violent acts of morbidity ever seen in the world before. Mass executions, daily beheading at city squares and shootings over land, possessions and other religious differences. By 2012, with the death of Bin Laden, these groups had started to take their violence toward the Shia minorities left behind in places such as Syria, Iraq and Libya. Where even a terrorist organization such as Al Qaeda had to dissociate themselves from Islamic State.

In 2014, a video statement from leader Abu Mohammad al-Golani of the Jabhat al-Nusra, announced it is severing ties with al Qaeda and changing its name to Jabhat Fateh Al-Sham. Al Qaeda and Egyptian operative Ahmad Hasan Abu al Khayr al-Masri gave this blessing in a response video days later. Meanwhile as the Islamic State began to camp in Syria, against the orders of Ayman al-Zawahiri and the slaughter of Shiites, al-Zawahiri cut ties with the organization. In an audio message, al-Zawahiri, accused ISIS top leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi of “sedition” and insisted the Iraqi terrorist recluse was not the leader of all Muslims.

“We preferred to respond with as little as possible, out of our concern to extinguish the fire of sedition, but Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and his brothers did not leave us a choice, for they have demanded that all the mujahideen reject their confirmed pledges of allegiance, and to pledge allegiance to them for what they claim of a caliphate.”

The United States coalition partners saw this an advantage for breaking up the two groups further by bombing key points, while also using false flag attacks in Syrian cities and blaming them on the Assad regime. U.S intelligence reports from CIA stations in the Middle East were reporting the weakening if Al Qaeda. The death of Bin Laden, Mohammed Atef, and the capture of top leaders such as Abu Zubaydah (later said not to be Al Qaeda), Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (Guantanamo Bay), Mustafa al-Hawsawi (Guantanamo Bay) and Sulemain Abu Gaith (U.S Prison) led the group to lose its financial backing, its structure and trans-national threat.

However, it still remained a threat to the Arabian Peninsula and to an extent, the Indian Peninsula. Ayman al-Zawahiri, was its new emir, and his background is far more extensive than anyone in the terrorist underworld. Saudi Arabia continues to be the primary importer of Wahhabi-Salafi backed terrorism, as its main religious branch of Islam is partly what created it in the first place, Wahhabi, named after its founder, Mohammad Ibn Abdul al-Wahab.

Continued funding from the United States and Great Britain of the Saudi Kingdom also perpetuates the expansionism if the tumultuous ideology. U.S intelligence and policy analysts however continually ignore this anomaly and denounce Al Qaeda as nothing more than a “fringe” element hardly worth noting. Former CIA Director John Brennan:

“The core al Qaeda — the group that is now led by Ayman al-Zawahiri — is not what it used to be. But it did take quite a bit of patience and time and a deliberate and focused years-long effort for us to be able to say that we really have taken off of the battlefield much of al Qaeda’s capabilities.” (ABC News May 16,2016)

But nothing can be further from the truth in regards to Al Qaeda’s capabilities. Even thou Jabhat al-Nusra had temporarily dissociated from Al Qaeda in 2014, Abu Mohammad al-Julani, swore loyalty to Ayman al-Zawahiri. The group re-branded itself into Jabhat Fateh Al-Sham, which suddenly began receiving funding from Saudi Arabia and Turkey in the fall of 2014–15. Making them a formidable adversary in Syria. As car bombings and terrorist assassinations began taking hold of key spots such as Deir -ez-Zor and Damascus (The capitol).

Terrorist groups whom Al Qaeda had influenced began also taking more prominent roles. Groups such as Abu Sayyaf in Philippines, Al-Shabaab in East Africa and al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb in Algeria. Groups whom Al Qaeda had major influence during the late 1990’s and backed by Saudi donors where certain financing come from United States Islamic charities and the Muslim World League. These Wahhabi led groups are in defiance of their governments whom they deem either “kafir” (non-believer) or “munafiq” (apostates). The ideological ultra-conservative Wahhabis began taking the fight to the “near enemy” as it was declared many years ago by Ayman al-Zawahiri, who wrote “Knights Under The Prophets Banner” where he described Arab secular governments as the “near enemy” with the United States and Israel the “far-enemy”.

With Libya also falling, with the death of its antagonist leader, Muammar Ghaddafi, the country is currently still under a civil war waged by nationalist groups and Islamic Jihadis fighting over meters of land. Al Qaeda’s influence is currently being felt, in places such as Tripoli (the capitol). Less than a month after the death of Gaddafi, the al-Qaeda flag was seen flying off the roof of a courthouse in Benghazi’s city center. It was later reported from sporadic foreign intelligence cables that the CIA had some dealings with the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) led by Abdelhakim Belhaj, who had long been in conflict with the Gaddafi government since 1998. After the September 11th attacks in the United States, it was Gaddafi who led the aggressive denouncements of the LIFG, whom according to Belhaji, had Al Qaeda members in the group. As of 2018, they were taken off the terrorist watch listing.

In 2012, Mukhtar Abu al-Zubair “Godane”emir of As-Sahaab in East Africa had publicly announced their alliance with Al Qaeda. In a audio recording taken on February 9th 2012….

“On behalf of the soldiers and the commanders in al-Shabaab, we pledge allegiance to you. So lead us to the path of jihad and martyrdom that was drawn by our imam, the martyr Osama.”

The Somalian group was warmly greeted by Ayman al-Zawahiri, who began sending arrangements to help against their fight verses the Federal Government of Somalia. Al Qaeda has had a previous history in Somalia, it was where the Battle of Mogadishu took place, where militants headed under Mohammad Farah Aidid and trained by Mohammed Atef and Al Qaeda back in 1991–92. Bin Laden had sought refuge in Khartoum welcomed by the popular National Islamic Front leader, Hassan al-Turabi when Bin Laden was ostracized by the Saudi government.

In September 2014, a U.S drone strike carried out as part of the broader mission called, Operation Indian Ocean, killed al-Shabaab leader Ahmed Abdi Godane. The group however remained unaffected and even carried our terrorist bombings such as the September 2013 Westgate shopping mall attack, 14 October 2017 Mogadishu bombings and December 2019 Mogadishu bombing.

September 11th 2019, Ayman al-Zawahiri made an audio message calling for the attacks of U.S, European, Israeli and Russian military targets. In a 33 minute audio he exclaimed:

“If you want jihad to be focused solely on military targets, the American military has presence all over the world from the east to the west. Your countries are littered with American bases with all the infidels therein and the corruption they spread.”

The audio was released on the As Sahab web site, they are Al Qaeda’s media arm. The Islamic State continue to remain somewhat “relevant”, but their transnational threat to the public may not be what they used to be. However. the internet is the best influence of many of the Wahhabi organizations, and they realize the potential it possesses. The Islamic State still, periodically, publishes propaganda videos, which are received by the poor, disenfranchised who reside in Europe and the United States, as they are being manipulated by these Salafi theatrical entrepreneurs who take advantage of these maligned youth.

The countries who house these young men who are being manipulated by groups such as the Islamic State and Al Qaeda, are under a constant threat due to the volatile nature of these groups and their ultimate intentions. Which is to overthrow the Crusader-Jewish world and replace it with an Islamic caliphate, which has no compromise.

Meanwhile as the United States coalition continue to bomb Arab countries in the Middle East, based solely on military expansionism and influence from the Saudi-Israeli Lobbys, we will create new terrorists to replace the dead ones, as we kill more Arabs and Muslims with our demented view of spreading Democracy and conducting a War on Terrorism. The irony of conducting such a war, is we continually support the main producer of Wahhabi brand terrorism in Saudi Arabia which has given us the enemy we are fighting.



Adam Fitzgerald

Geo-political scientist/researcher into the events of September 11th 2001.