Kildare (JamesFaheyIRE) When one thinks of the reasons for the American war in Afghanistan in 2001, more often than not, one name comes to mind. While his ten year anniversary is almost upon us it can be argued Osama Bin Laden has been most the influencing figure in shaping American foreign policy toward the Middle East and Central Asia for the last twenty years. His rhetoric was extremely radical. His vision was ambitious. But who was the world most famous terrorist and did he complete his objectives?

Early Life

Born in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia between 1957 and 1958, Osama had a father who wanted a better life for himself and his family. Mohammed Bin Laden had migrated from Yemen in 1931 where he had a tough life struggling in the malnourished valleys. It was in Saudi Arabia where Mohammed developed his construction company to a point where he was making multibillion dollar contracts with the Royal Family. He fostered a strong and friendly relationship with King Faisal. Understandably, the King was shocked saddened when in 1967, Mohammed was involved in a plane crash and later died.  

Eleven years later Osama continued his college education at King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah which was renowned for its islamic influence and lecturers. The university was cut off from connecting with other institutions and organisations globally. In Jedda Bin Laden’s focused on Islam, where he was involved in both “interpreting the Quran and jihad” and charitable work. 

Osama was a gently spoken articulate individual. He was a tall man – 195cm with a long black beard with few streams of grey. His dark eyes and Turban allowed him to seamlessly integrate throughout the Sudan and Afghanistan where he spent time throughout the 1980s and 1990s. Osama started to develop links to Afghan rebels in Mecca when they arrived for the annual hajj.  

It was common for him to be seen walking with a support stick in hand as he strolled the mountainous regions of Afghanistan in the 1980s surrounded by his al Qaeda recruits and Taliban acquaintances. He was a typical anti-soviet mujaheddin seeking the expulsion of communist forces from the Muslim world. His severe religiosity and ideology was certainly influenced from his time in college where he developed important contacts for the future. 

It is believed that once he completed his studies Osama was much more intent on pursuing his religious ideology. Notably one professor caught the attention of Osama. His name was Abdullah Azzam. Later Azzam would found the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood – also known as Hamas.

Key Allies

Bin Laden found a loyal ally in Ayman Al Zawahiri, the Egyptian doctor who signed his support for the International Islamic front for Jihad against jews and crusaders. Al Zawahiri’s faction in Sudan known as the Egyptian islamic Jihad had been given assistance from Bin Laden which was a  merciless organisation. 

Together they plotted terror attacks against American soldiers and Egyptian officials in an attempt to oust what they believed to be the enemy of their ideology. In 1996 when Bin Laden entered Afghanistan he was joined by his new ally two years alter when the new vision became published early that year. Of course, Al Zawahiri would go on to become one of most dominant Al Qaeda figureheads calling for increased attacks against western people and institutions. 

Additionally Bin Laden enjoyed a good relationship with the Taliban once he got to Afghanistan in 1996. He was to be expelled by the Saudi Royal family and it was here where he began to train terrorists from as far as north Africa to Pakistan. Bin laden built a new compound for Mullah Omar the Talibans leader in Kandahar southern Afghanistan as their relations became more developed.  The had similar views on Islam and should be central to life in the Muslim world. The U.S did call upon the Taliban to turn him over after the September 11th attacks but only if evidence was provided would the Taliban do so. 

Bin Laden with Mullah Omar (Reuters)

Royal Family Relations

The Saudi Royal family viewed Bin Laden as a threat. He was starting to tire of the lazy and un-islamic behaviour of the family which had become the norm in his eyes. Moreover he started to  denounce them as subservient to U.S interests. He was supported by the ‘awakening sheiks’ of Saudi Arabia which went further to say that “if Iraq has occupied Kuwait, then America has occupied Saudi Arabia.” 

A letter was submitted to Kind Fahd who at the time was the leader of the Kingdom. Known as the ‘letter of demands’ it called for religious control of media, more donations to islamic institutions and equal funding for of public wealth. Bin Laden fully supported the demands. Bin Laden was disgusted at the royal family for essentially asking the United States to intervene in Kuwait where Saddam Hussein had invaded. 

Why had the Royal family looked for non muslims forces to expel the Iraqi army from Kuwait? This was fundamental in Bin Laden’s global jihad against the United States who had occupied Islam Arabian Peninsula which would not do. 

However, when in Afghanistan the Kingdom were extremely slow to push for Bin Laden to be extradited back to Saudi Arabia when the U.S realised his capabilities as they feared the attention could enhance any potential uprising against their rule. Best to leave it as an American or Afghan problem. In doing so this angered the U.S. and they questioned how much they could rely on Saudi Arabia as a partner in tackling terrorism in East Africa and the Middle East. 


Bin Laden became the figurehead terrorist of the most feared organisation in the world after the attacks in New York and Washington in 2001. He was possibly the worlds most wanted man at the turn of the century. His wealth made him attractive to his allies and gave him options to pursue his globalist agenda. U.S forces eventually killed Bin Laden on May 2nd 2011 on Abbottabad, Pakistan in a firefight during the early hours of the morning. Later his body was buried at sea. His death was viewed as a great victory in the battle against global terror.


It could be argued that Bin Laden, a wealth Saudi Sheikh with strong anti-western views had completed what he set out to do – “bleed (America)-until-bankruptcy.” In 2021 there are still troops in Afghanistan, although under Trump numbers reduced dramatically – approximately 2,500 troops today while at its peak in 2011, there were still over 110,000 troops stationed in Afghanistan; 420 weeks after the invasion. 

The US Department of Defence has calculated that the total spend in Afghanistan between October 2001 until September 2019 was $778 billion. Over 2,300 American soldiers lost their lives and over 20,000 soldiers were injured. According to the New York Times conflict since 2001 has “been funded with borrowed money…. to finance war spending, the United States borrowed heavily and will pay more than $600 billion in interest on those loans through 2023. The rest of the debt will take years to repay.”

In other words America is severely financially stretched after years of conflict in Afghanistan and Iraq with no real progress being made on peace effort in Kabul.

Bin Laden announced this goal to the world in 2004 – seventeen years later it seems as if its mission accomplished. 

Photo credit Sky News

While you are here….

Why not read – Ahmed Shah Massoud: Who was the fearsome “Lion of the Panshir” during the Afghan-Soviet war?

Roadside bomb claims the lives of at least nine civilians in Ghanzi City.

According to US Intelligence Russia seeks to dismantle Taliban-US peace deal with covert assassination support.

How India, Pakistan and Afghanistan sought peace, power and influence in the region via the US; 2001-2010.

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