Al-Qa'Ida and the United States 1979-2001: Lessons Learned


Alex A. Hight

Date of Graduation

Spring 2006


Master of Science in Defense and Strategic Studies


Defense and Strategic Studies

Committee Chair

C. Walton


This study explores the relationship between al-Qa’ida and the United States from 1979-2001. This analysis will strive to provide a basic understanding of how and why al-Qa’ida was able to continually strike U.S. targets and espouse anti-American propaganda with little retaliation by the United States prior to 11 September 2001. It is this author’s contention that through this examination of al-Qa’ida, tools for generating future strategies against contemporary terrorist organizations will become evident. This thesis provides an account of Osama bin Laden’s life, those of his closest and most influential advisors, the early development of the organization that would precede al-Qa’ida, an overview of the evolution of al-Qa’ida as a terrorist organization, and the numerous interactions between the United States and the al-Qa’ida group from 1979 to the bombings of 11 September 2001. This analysis will conclude by presenting five lessons that United States should learn from its experiences with al-Qa’ida in order to prevent similar mistakes from recurring in the future.


Al-Qaida, Osama bin Laden, Middle East, radical Islam, terrorism

Subject Categories

Defense and Security Studies


© Alex A. Hight