How many members does Al Qaeda have

How many members of terrorist organizations who actually want to commit acts of violence against US citizens are out there?

To clarify, I am not talking about insurgents who attack US military targets who will stop after a withdrawal (I wouldn’t consider the Viet Cong to be terrorists in this scenario since they targeted military targets and quit after we pulled out). And I’m not talking about terror organizations that attack civilians in other nations (Russia, Israel, Spain, Saudi Arabia).

I’m mostly concerned about Al Qaeda members who want to attack civilians inside the US. Obama gave a speech talking about how Al Qaeda will not lay down their arms anymore than the Nazis did.

But the Nazis had 20 million soldiers. I think Al Qaeda has about 5000.

Relatively few modern terrorist movements are membership-based organisations. There are people who co-operate with them to varying degrees and at varying times and for varying motives. But there isn’t really a membership register.

McChrystal says there are only 100 in Afghanistan. Yet we are going to kill a lot of Afghanis chasing them down. I wonder how many are in Pakistan?
The numbers are vague, but it seems there are not very many of them.

I agree with this statment whole-heartedly.

For instance, there are Nazis and then there are Nazis.

There were Nazis that agreed with the ideology, there were thugs who found being a Nazi was a convenient way to get out their anger, there were Nazis who went along because they were joiners, there were Nazis who had no other option and there were Nazis, because they failed to realize what being a Nazi meant.

Of course after the Germans lost WWII, suddenly there were no Nazis (OK there were still a few left, but most disassociated themselves ASAP :))

There were 20 million German soldiers most who weren’t Nazis at heart but Germans. Remember Stalin only was able to get his people to fight back by appealing to the fact that they were Russians. Stalin didn’t go say “Fight for Communism.” When the Germans invaded he was crying, “Fight for ‘Mother Russia’.”

This isn’t a rap on the OP, but when I first saw the thread title, I thought of the Simpsons. It would be so like that show to have a list of all the members of Al Qaeda.

We have not defined how you determine Al Qeada. Do they need a membership card and a decoder ring? Do they simply have to be pissed off at us for crossing a countries boundary ? Does it include people who fight off a foreign invader? Or, do you have to ascribe to the vague tenets of striking at America on their own turf?

Well, by this definition, perhaps Al Qaeda isn’t a terrorist organization either, since one of its main goals is to have the US withdraw from the Middle East. Perhaps it would cease its violent attacks against the US were that goal ever to be realized.

Are we talking Charter Members, Members, or Guests? Or all three together?

I wonder, if your Al Qaeda Charter Member status lapses, whether you can or cannot renew?

Just remember, when talking about acts of American barbarism, to cite your sources.

Evenso, isn’t there a ballpark estimate of how many people are cooperating to achieve the goals of Al Qaeda? If the estimate is 10,000 then that is totally different than a ballpark of 300,000.
psychonaut Al Qaeda intentionally targets civilians, so its not the same thing.
My threads are usually more along the lines of family guy than the simpsons anyway.

You call us terrorists, among my people, I am considered a hero.


ok not really, just a nice guy

This may be another thread, but when they hit the USS Cole, that was called an act of terrorism. This was before they started whacking (US) citizens. Were they terrorists then?

I honestly don’t think so, no. But the definition of terrorism is vague. However to me that is insurgency against military targets, not targeting civilians with the goal of intimidating a government.

There may well be such an estimate, but it could be of less significance than you think. Effective (as in, make a big impact) terrorist organisations are usually small. The IRA, for most of its campaign in the 1980s and 90s, was estimated to have between 100 and 150 volunteers on active service. This was all they needed to conduct their campaigns. But there was a high turnover of volunteers, so many more people than that served at one time or another. What a terrorist organisation needs is not a large active membership, but a large pool of angry, alienated, frustrated, resentful people from which they can draw the relatively small number of volunteers that they require.

You mean like we do?

That was done in WW2, but I seriously doubt we intentionally target civilians anymore. Besides, targeting civilians just makes things worse since it empowers extremist movements, turns support against the war and alienates people who could be giving you advice, information and protection. The US has nothing to gain and a lot to lose by intentionally targeting civilians.

This is getting out of GQ territory, due to the somewhat fuzzy nature of terms like “intentional” and “target”. If military forces deliberately target an enemy area where they are aware of the presence of civilians and do not take adequate measures to protect the civilians, are they intentionally targeting the civilians? (And now we have to find precise definitions of “deliberately”, “adequate”, and “protect”.)

However, I think you’re right to the extent that “intentionally target civilians” is interpreted to mean “adopt as the primary goal of a particular attack the infliction of harm on civilians, especially in preference to inflicting harm on military personnel or materiel”. This 2007 human rights report notes:

Following along with the above post, I also seriously doubt we intentionally target civilians.

However, it is perfectly legal to intentionally target a valid military objective knowing civilians will be killed/injured in the attack as long as it’s in proportion to the military advantage gained. A higher military advantage can result in more (proportionate) civilian casualties.

It’s illegal to intentionally target civilians. It’s illegal to not discriminate against valid military objectives and civilians. It’s illegal to not choose a lesser alternative that results in less unnecessary suffering, ect.

So, can’t aim the bomb with the intention of killing a civilian, can aim the bomb at a military target knowing civilians will die.

These are just some principles that reflect what people can do, not what they should do.

There are those who are core people to the Al Qaeda organization itself. These are organizers who recruit and oversee local agencies. Maybe about 100 to 600 people at the most.

Then, there are the thousands of fighters who are recruited.

Then, there are the local Al Qaeda affiliates. Some of them were originally created by Al Qaeda, others were local insurgencies who see taking the Al Qaeda name as an advantage. They operate more or less independently from the core organization and would include at least three groups that operate out of Pakistan. This could run into the tens of thousands.

Then, there are local people who agree with the aims of Al Qaeda and may take different amount of activities. Some might take up arms. Others might not want to take up arms, but will provide information for attacks. Others will provide financial support. Some simply will cheer Al Qaeda on. If you include these people, you could run into millions.

Then, there are the people who will work with Al Qaeda if they see it in their benefit, but will switch sides if they’re unhappy with them. This is what happened in Iraq where the Sunnis first supported Al Qaeda because they provided training in attacking the Americans, but later turned away from them when Al Qaeda started attacking them.

So, you can say Al Qaeda has anywhere between 500 to 5,000,000 members depending who you count.

By the way, about 5 years ago, we did find Al Qaeda employee forms, and employee information. This information even included what the employee benefit package includes (vacation, medical coverage, life insurance, etc.) Of course, this probably covers less than a 1000 people. Al Qaeda does also carefully track their funding and who gets it. After all, it is a fairly sophisticated organization at its core.

In Afghanistan, there are probably about 500 to 1000 core Al Qaeda based in Afghanistan, but the Taliban which works very closely with Al Qaeda and the Pakistani security and military agencies may run into 100,000 or more. Plus, you have the Al Qaeda controlled areas in Pakistan which are filled with Pashtun tribes who have family connections with the other Pashtun tribes throughout Afghanistan.

We are in the midst of a civil war in Afghanistan and really shouldn’t be there except that if the Taliban wins, they’ll provide a base for Al Qaeda to operate out of, and they’ll plan attacks on America once again. If the Taliban could be convinced to keep Al Qaeda out of Afghanistan, we’d leave tomorrow morning. We do not want to support a corrupt government that has little support from the population. But, we’re worried about the Taliban allowing Al Qaeda to operate freely in Afghanistan.

Depending on how we cut hairs, either everyone is a terrorist or nobody is. The obvious problem with playing these little word games in this thread is that everyone knows that Al Qaeda is a terrorist organization: The word would have to be redefined into a fine paste to exclude them. So can we focus more on Al Qaeda’s organizational structure and less on who deserves to be called what?