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Today's al-Qaeda

Jeff d. Patterson
Middle East Specialist

Today's al-Qaeda cannot be viewed as a single, tight-knit band of violent, fanatical terrorists.



Benghazi, al-Qaeda, and hope for the elusive world peace.

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Benghazi, al-Qaeda, and hope for the elusive world peace.

Jeff d. Patterson
Middle East Specialist

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[Comments] The question and debate as to whether or not al-Qaeda was behind the 9/11/2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya that took the lives of three Americans ' U.S. Ambassador to Libya John Christopher Stevens, and ex-Navy SEALs Tyrone S. Woods and Glen A. Doherty, both of whom were working as security and intelligence contractors ' continues on within the mainstream news outlets and across the partisan divide we see in Washington these days. In all likelihood, the mainstream news outlets will continue their coverage of the story as long as ongoing interest from their regular viewers remains, and the childish, partisan debate in Washington will probably not cease. And although the self-serving reasons driving the debate unsettle me to a certain extent, they aren't a surprise. The absurdity of the question, however, is beyond me, as the answer is so clear. Clear in a grey-ish sort of way'

Of course al-Qaeda was behind the attacks. While at the same time, they were not.
Unfortunately, those who want to make the case so black-and-white as to simply say in definitive terms that al-Qaeda was or was not behind the Benghazi terrorist attack will never be able to do so. They can't do so because the al-Qaeda the world is dealing with today ' more than a decade after the worst attack on American soil since Pearl Harbor ' is in some aspects exactly identical to, while at the same time, entirely different from the al-Qaeda most of us first learned about.

The ideology which drove the al-Qaeda that attacked the United States on 9/11/2001 is nearly indistinguishable ' if not exactly the same ' as the ideology that drove the terrorists who attacked the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya on 9/11/2012. Yet at the same time ' and this is a difference which must be understood and accepted ' the al-Qaeda of today is not a single, tight-knit band of violent, fanatical terrorists that can be viewed as one coherent unit and team.

Don't get me wrong; al-Qaeda is still very much alive, and undoubtedly remains a growing and continued threat to world peace and stability today. However, unlike the unit and team that planned and implemented the horrific 9/11 terrorist attack that brought down the Twin Towers and killed nearly 3,000 innocent people, the al-Qaeda of today is much more active in spirit and ideology than it is an organized unit and team led by one head coach. Today, al-Qaeda is primarily alive in the rapidly growing Salafist movement we see spreading across the Arab World. And it is this ideology ' that al-Qaeda ' which attacked the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, taking the lives of three American men who were seeking to serve their country, and to make the world a better place for all.

With that having been said, who and what is the Salafist movement of today? And more importantly, with regards to the decision-makers in Washington who do have the ability to make the world a safer and more secure place for all, what can and should be done?

Unfortunately, because the Salafist movement is much more of an ideology encompassing an ultra-strict interpretation of Islam with very violent aspects than it is a sports team who all wear the same uniforms and are easily identifiable as one unified group, the answer requires something that Washington ' and those who decide how we face-off with these threats ' may or may not be up for. This is because the answer requires having an intimate knowledge ' which will never be acquired from the outside, but only from within ' of a plethora of different and separate groups, who may be ideologically united under the same Salafist banner but are very much their own individual units and teams when it comes to their actual agendas. In other words, if we only look at the two cities of Benghazi, Libya and Cairo, Egypt, we will likely find there to be upwards of several hundred different groups. Each of these is individually planning their own attacks on innocent targets, and all of them must individually be carefully monitored and watched. The difficulty is that to do this ' to learn about and understand these different teams ' requires having an inside presence within each of the individual groups.

Can this be done? Is this possible? Or is the task simply too great and overwhelming? I don't know. But what I do know is that without at the very least trying, the attacks will not cease, and advances towards a greater world peace will continue to be threatened and deteriorate (as we are currently seeing). Both on American soil and abroad more innocent lives will be lost if the Salafist movement ' or more accurately said, the ideology that drives this movement ' continues to spread.


World Trade Center

A man holds a handkerchief to his mouth amidst the debris, immediately after the attacks of September 11, 2001. | Photo: Archives | World Trade Center, 9-11, Terrorist,

They ' the Salafis ' have what we must have in order to combat this very real threat: a firm, resolved commitment, which will involve taking risks, and ultimately mean some losing their lives while doing so, all for 'The Cause'. The ultimate goal of the Salafist movement is simple: to bring about the re-establishment of the Caliphate, and to institute their hard-line ultra-conservative theological interpretation of Islam as the basis for all aspects of life on a worldwide level.

The question I ask us is this: do we have the same firm, resolved commitment they do when it comes to fulfilling what should be our ultimate goal as well? The goal of seeing the world become a safer, more secure and peaceful place in which people of different cultures, different ethnicities, different religions and beliefs, can ultimately coexist. I hope and pray we do. And I hope and pray those who have the power to help bring this about do as well.

Regardless of whether others do or do not, we each can individually choose to strive and pray for that which the daily headlines of nearly all news outlets say is an impossibility: that the world in which we live will be a better, more peaceful place tomorrow than she is today.

May it be so.


Jeff d. Patterson

Jeff d. Patterson, Middle East Specialist: While the ashes were beginning to settle in New York City with the setting of the sun on 9/11, Jeff D. Patterson was unpacking his bags far, far away from American shores; far, far away from his family and friends; far, far away from his homeland. He was starting a new phase of life in a region of the world he would call ‘home’ for most of the next decade. Jeff was taking his first breaths of Middle Eastern air, thinking of the world becoming a better place… In contrast to most... (more...)