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This Happened

This Happened — August 11: Al-Qaeda Is Formed

Al-Qaeda was formed on this day in 1988 by Osama bin Laden, Abdullah Azzam, and other key individuals.

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What was the purpose or ideology of Al-Qaeda?

Al-Qaeda's main objective was to establish a global jihadist movement based on its extremist interpretation of Sunni Islam. It aimed to resist what it perceived as Western imperialism and influence in Muslim-majority countries, and sought to unite Muslims worldwide under a strict form of Islamic governance.

How did Al-Qaeda operate and spread its influence?

Al-Qaeda operated through a decentralized network of cells and affiliates, utilizing clandestine tactics and engaging in acts of terrorism. It sought to recruit individuals globally, disseminate its ideology, and conduct attacks against its perceived enemies. Al-Qaeda gained notoriety with its involvement in significant terrorist attacks, including the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings and the September 11 attacks in 2001.

How has Al-Qaeda evolved over time?

Al-Qaeda has undergone significant changes and transformations since its formation. Following the death of Osama bin Laden in 2011, the organization faced leadership changes and internal divisions. It also faced competition from other extremist groups, such as ISIS. While Al-Qaeda remains a threat, its prominence has somewhat diminished, and its focus has shifted to local and regional conflicts, particularly in countries like Afghanistan, Syria, and Yemen.

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Has The Time Come To Take U.S. Nuclear Weapons Out Of Turkey?

It was a wakeup call for some: pro-Palestinian demonstrators in Turkey tried to storm the U.S. base Incirlik where nuclear weapons have long been stationed. There is more discussion than ever about whether the NATO partner is still a trustworthy military ally with such potent weapons within reach.

Photo of the U.S. Incirlik Air Base in Turkey

U.S. Incirlik Air Base in Turkey

Carolina Drüten and Stefanie Bolzen


BERLIN — They came with Turkish and Palestinian flags and tried to enter the grounds of one of the most important U.S. military bases in the Middle East: On November 5, thousands of demonstrators gathered in front of the Incirlik Air Base in southern Turkey to protest Israel's offensive in Gaza. The police dispersed the crowd with tear gas and water cannons.

The American airbase is a singular symbol for the presence of both NATO and the U.S. on Turkish territory for one reason above all: U.S. nuclear weapons are stored there.

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Shortly after the demonstrators attempted to enter the site, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited Ankara, though was not received by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. These coinciding events once again raise the question of whether the U.S. can still trust Turkey, a full-fledged NATO member, as a partner — and whether the Incirlik military base and its atomic arsenal is a wise choice.

According to estimates, the number of nuclear weapons stationed there had been around 50, accounting for one-third of the total of 150 U.S. nuclear bombs thought to be in Europe. In recent years, experts believe the U.S. is said to have reduced its arsenal at Incirlik to perhaps around 20.

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