Do their attacks confirm a theory of Samuel Huntington's that most of our new conflicts will be clashes between cultures and cultural viewpoints (i.e. Yugoslavia, Rwanda, Sept. 11th)

Alternatively spelled al-Qaida and sometimes al-Qa'ida, is an Islamist group founded sometime between August 1988 and late 1989. It operates as a network comprising both a multinational, stateless arm and a fundamentalist Sunni movement calling for global jihad (holy war).

Al-Qaeda? has attacked civilian and military targets in various countries, most notably, the September 11 attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C. in 2001. The US government responded by launching the War on Terror.

Characteristic techniques include suicide attacks and simultaneous bombings of different targets. Activities ascribed to it may involve members of the movement, who have taken a pledge of loyalty to Osama bin Laden.

Al-Qaeda? ideologues envision a complete break from the foreign influences in Muslim countries.

Throughout the 1990s, a new force began to emerge. The origins of the Taliban (literally "students") lay in the children of Afghanistan, many of them orphaned by the war, and many of whom had been educated in the rapidly expanding network of Islamic schools (madrassas) either in Kandahar or in the refugee camps on the Afghan-Pakistani? border.

Afghanistan with previously established connections between the groups, administered with a shared militancy, and largely isolated from American political influence and military power provided a perfect location for al-Qaeda to relocate its headquarters. Al-Qaeda? enjoyed the Taliban's protection and a measure of legitimacy as part of their Ministry of Defense.

At the same time, al-Qaeda ideologues instructed the network's recruiters to look for Jihadi international, Muslims who believed that jihad must be fought on a global level. The concept of a "global Salafi jihad" had been around since at least the early 1980s. Several groups had formed for the explicit purpose of driving non-Muslims out of every Muslim land, at the same time and with maximum carnage. This was, however, a fundamentally defensive strategy.

Fatwas
In 1996, al-Qaeda announced its jihad to expel foreign troops and interests from what they considered Islamic lands. Bin Laden issued a fatwa,66 which amounted to a public declaration of war against the United States of America and any of its allies, and began to refocus al-Qaeda's resources towards large-scale, propagandist strikes. Also occurring on June 25, 1996, was the bombing of the Khobar towers, located in Khobar, Saudi Arabia.

On February 23, 1998, Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri, a leader of Egyptian Islamic Jihad, along with three other Islamist leaders, co-signed and issued a fatwa (binding religious edict) calling on Muslims to kill Americans and their allies where they can, when they can. Under the banner of the World Islamic Front for Combat Against the Jews and Crusaders they declared:

September 11 attacks
The September 11 attacks were the most devastating terrorist acts in American history, killing approximately 3,000 people. Two commercial airliners were deliberately flown into the World Trade Center towers, a third into The Pentagon, and a fourth, originally intended to target the United States Capitol, crashed in Pennsylvania.

The attacks were conducted by al-Qaeda, acting in accord with the 1998 fatwa issued against the United States and its allies by military forces under the command of bin Laden

Messages issued by bin Laden after September 11, 2001, praised the attacks, and explained their motivation while denying any involvement. Bin Laden legitimized the attacks by identifying grievances felt by both mainstream and Islamist Muslims, such as the general perception that the United States was actively oppressing Muslims.

Bin Laden asserted that America was massacring Muslims in 'Palestine, Chechnya, Kashmir and Iraq' and that Muslims should retain the 'right to attack in reprisal'. He also claimed the 9/11 attacks were not targeted at women and children, but 'America's icons of military and economic power'.

War on Terrorism
In the immediate aftermath of the attacks, the United States government decided to respond militarily, and began to prepare its armed forces to overthrow the Taliban regime it believed was harboring al-Qaeda. Before the United States attacked, it offered Taliban leader Mullah Omar a chance to surrender bin Laden and his top associates. The first forces to be inserted into Afghanistan were Paramilitary Officers from the CIA's elite Special Activities Division (SAD).

The Taliban offered to turn over bin Laden to a neutral country for trial if the United States would provide evidence of bin Laden's complicity in the attacks. U.S. President George W. Bush responded by saying: "We know he's guilty. Turn him over", and British Prime Minister Tony Blair warned the Taliban regime: "Surrender bin Laden, or surrender power".

Soon thereafter the United States and its allies invaded Afghanistan, and together with the Afghan Northern Alliance removed the Taliban government in the war in Afghanistan.
U.S. troops in Afghanistan

As a result of the United States using its special forces and providing air support for the Northern Alliance ground forces, both Taliban and al-Qaeda training camps were destroyed, and much of the operating structure of al-Qaeda is believed to have been disrupted.

The Taliban
The Taliban, alternative spelling Taleban, (meaning "students") is a hanafi Islamist political group that governed Afghanistan from 1996 until it was overthrown in late 2001. It has regrouped since 2004 and revived as a strong insurgency movement governing mainly local Pashtun areas, and fighting a guerrilla war against the governments of Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). The Taliban movement is a tribal confederacy. It operates in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

While in power, the Taliban enforced one of the strictest interpretations of Sharia law ever seen in the Muslim world, and became notorious internationally for their treatment of women. Women were forced to wear the burqa in public. They were allowed neither to work nor to be educated after the age of eight, and until then were permitted only to study the Qur'an. They were not allowed to be treated by male doctors unless accompanied by a male chaperon, which led to illnesses remaining untreated. They faced public flogging in the street, and public execution for violations of the Taliban's laws.

The Taliban's view of Islam is extremely strict and anti-modern ideology.

Under the Taliban regime, Sharia law was interpreted to forbid a wide variety of previously lawful activities in Afghanistan. One Taliban list of prohibitions included:
pork, pig, pig oil, anything made from human hair, satellite dishes, cinematography, and equipment that produces the joy of music, pool tables, chess, masks, alcohol, tapes, computers, VCRs, television, anything that propagates sex and is full of music, wine, lobster, nail polish, firecrackers, statues, sewing catalogs, pictures, Christmas cards.

They also prohibited employment, education, and sports for women, dancing, clapping during sports events, kite flying, and depictions of living things, whether drawings, paintings, photographs, stuffed animals, or dolls. Men were required to have a beard longer than a fist placed at the base of the chin. Conversely, they had to wear their head hair short. Men were also required to wear a head covering.

Many of these activities were hitherto lawful in Afghanistan. Critics complained that most Afghans followed a different, less strict, and less intrusive interpretation of Islam. The Taliban did not eschew all traditional popular practices. For example, they did not destroy the graves of Sufi pirs (holy men), and emphasized dreams as a means of revelation.

Punishment was severe. Theft was punished by the amputation of a hand, rape and murder by public execution, and married adulterers were stoned to death. In Kabul, punishments including executions were carried out in front of crowds in the city's soccer stadium. Rules were issued by the Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and Suppression of Vice (PVSV), and enforced by its "religious police", importing that Wahhabi concept.

Bamyan Buddhas
Destruction of Bamyan Buddha statues by the Taliban

In 1999, Omar issued a decree protecting the Buddha statues at Bamyan, two 6th century monumental statues of standing buddhas carved into the side of a cliff in the Bamyan valley in the Hazarajat region of central Afghanistan, because Afghanistan had no Buddhists, implying idolatry would not be a problem. But in March 2001 the statues were destroyed by the Taliban following a decree stating, "all the statues around Afghanistan must be destroyed."


Summary
-al-Qaeda represents religious extremism
-today, they are a loose organization with cells (small groups) throughout the world.
-their attacks confirm a theory of Samuel Huntington's that most of our new conflicts will be clashes between cultures and cultural viewpoints (i.e. Yugoslavia, Rwanda, Sept. 11th)
-it is believed that the leadership of al-Qaeda is hiding out in Pakistan which is an LDC with a rural area that the government lacks control over. Pakistan is very tribal like Afghanistan and Iraq and is very divided along tribal lines making it difficult to run for their leadership.
-Iraq was invaded after Afghanistan with the fear being that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) and connections to al-Qaeda. Neither accusations were proved to any degree.
-today, Iran is on its way to gaining nuclear weapons and (being Shiite Muslims support their Shiite allies in Iraq and are also believed to have supported terrorist organizations against Israel. The US and Iran have a history of antagonism going back to the 1970s when the US attempted to overthrow Iran's leadership.