On Monday 22nd November, Quilliam held a roundtable entitled ‘Al-Qaeda: past, present and future’ with guest speaker Camille Tawil. Tawil is widely recognised in the Arabic-speaking world as one of the leading authorities on al-Qaeda and global jihadist movements. Educated in Lebanon, he has been a journalist at al-Hayat newspaper since 1991 where he has specialised in covering militant Islamist groups. He is the author of two important books in Arabic: ‘The Armed Islamic Movement in Algeria – from the FIS to the GIA’ and ‘Al-Qaeda and its Sisters: the Story of the Arab Jihadists’. His new book, ‘Brothers in Arms – the Story of al-Qaeda and the Arab jihadists’, has just been published in English by Saqi books. He recently authored a ground-breaking series of six articles recently published in Arabic by Al-Hayat newspaper entitled ‘The Other Face of Al Qaeda’, which were translated into English by Quilliam.
At this event, Tawil discussed three main subject areas: the structure and organizational capability of al-Qaeda in the period around 2001, ‘al-Qaeda central’ and its relationship with its franchises (particularly al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and al-Qaeda in Iraq), and the current day leadership of al-Qaeda in Waziristan. There was a lengthy Q&A in which Tawil answered questions on related issues including al-Qaeda’s current relationship with the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban and with al-Shabaab in Somalia, how much the Taliban leadership knew prior to the 9/11 attacks, and Western governmental policy towards tackling the threat of al-Qaeda.