- Why did al-Qaeda attack the U.S.? Was it to drive the U.S. out of the Middle East? Or was it to strike the far enemy for the sake of destroying the near enemy (i.e. regimes in the Arab and Islamic world)?
- Regardless of the intent of al-Qaeda’s leaders, the sequence of events gives weight to the second possibility, which could also be termed the Domino Scenario.
- According to a 2007 article by George Friedman, Bin Laden saw a rare opportunity after the fall of the USSR to begin re-establishing the worldwide caliphate. But, says Friedman, armed groups can’t establish empires. They can, however, seize a state and use it to begin to establish an empire. UBL realized that Afghanistan wasn’t the ideal place for this because of its geographical position and its weakness.
- Based on Zawahiri’s pre-9/11 writings, Friedman believes that UBL wanted to topple local regimes and replace them with Islamic ones. He was looking to do this in Egypt because it leads the Islamic world.
- Friedman says the two goals of the attacks were 1) to prove to Muslims that the US could be attacked and suffer great harm, and 2) to provoke a U.S. response. Whatever the U.S. chose to do in response, Muslims would win. If the U.S. failed to respond, it would look weak. If it attacked, it would be engaged in a crusade.
- The authors of a report from Decision Supports Systems, Inc. written two months after 9/11 understood al-Qaeda’s intent. The study says that before 9/11, AQ attacked three targets without sufficiently provoking the US: civil, diplomatic, and military.
- Based on al-Qaeda’s statements before 9/11, DSSI wrote that al-Qaeda was trying to provoke the U.S. into a conflict with it. After the 9/11 strikes, the U.S. responded in the manner planned by al-Qaeda.
- According to DSSI, AQ wanted to provoke the U.S. into a large military invasion of the Middle East so AQ could destroy its military and upset the geopolitical balance of power.
- The DSSI report argues that the greatest indicator that this was AQ’s strategy is the fact that its operatives assassinated Ahmad Shah Massoud, the commander of the Northern Alliance. AQ knew that when the US retaliated for 9/11, it would work through tribal proxies because the U.S. does not like to get its hands dirty. Thus, AQ had to kill the most effective leader of those trbies.
- As the DSSI study concludes, as long as the U.S. continues to behave in predicable ways, al-Qaeda can anticipate its responses and plan accordingly.
- According to the DSSI study, there are three possibilities after 9/11. 1) The U.S. intervention in the Middle East provokes uncontrolable violence in the Middle East which will make it ungovernable in the long term. 2) The U.S. sends more troops to stabalize the situation but its presence polarizes Muslims and puts strain on its allies in the region, particularly the Gulf states and Pakistan. The government of Pakistan could become unstable and AQ or its allies could get control of its nukes by infiltrating the security apparatus or overthrowing the government. The collapse of these states will create security vaccuums that AQ or its allies will fill, giving them control of oil and nukes. 3) AQ could choose to destroy oil production in the MIddle East, forcing the U.S. to look elsewhere to meet its energy needs.
[Update: All of DSSI’s publications can be found here.]