How Did Osama Bin Laden Get Power?

did-osama-bin-laden-power Credit: AFP/AFP/Getty Images

The origins of Osama bin Laden's power are chiefly financial. Heir to a substantial fortune, bin Laden used his vast resources to help fund the Afghan war against the Soviets. Bin Laden became an outspoken supporter of Islamic jihad and the fight against perceived Western aggression in the Islamic world. Subsequent attacks on the World Trade Center and the U.S.S. Cole enhanced his leadership prestige.

Bin Laden was born to a poor farming family in 1957. Although the family was impoverished at first, bin Laden's father went on to found an enormously successful construction company that ultimately netted a fortune of over a billion dollars. Inheriting close to 300 million himself upon his father's death in 1968, bin Laden became a chief financier of the Afghan jihadist resistance against the Soviets during the 1980s. His organization, al-Qeada (meaning "the base" in Arabic), was conceived initially as an information resource during the war, informing families when loved ones died in battle. However, with the departure of the Soviets, and following the United States-led coalition against Iraq during the First Gulf War, bin Laden became convinced that American military presence in Islamic holy lands was an intolerable act of tyranny and aggression, and he resolved to fight it. Throughout the 1990s bin Laden's prestige amongst radical Islamists increased, particularly through highly visible attacks on U.S. targets, including but not limited to the first World Trade Center bombing and the assault on the U.S.S. Cole. In 1996, bin Laden moved to Afghanistan, where he achieved close ties with the ruling Taliban. This intimacy with Taliban leadership allowed bin Laden to create a viable base of operations in Afghanistan from which he ultimately orchestrated the 9/11 attacks of 2001.