Al-Qaeda 2.0

A Critical Reader

November 2017 9781849048101 208pp


On 16 June 2011, three days before his sixtieth birthday, Ayman al-Zawahiri was declared the new leader of Al-Qaeda, replacing the fallen Osama bin Laden. The veteran Egyptian jihadist has little of his predecessor’s charisma and enjoys much less popularity, respect and celebrity. Yet, as scores of jihadi commanders from different organisations have succumbed to their enemies’ missiles, bombs and bullets, Zawahiri has soldiered on. His tenure as Al-Qaeda’s leader has been marked by some of its darkest and most challenging moments, which have threatened the viability and future of Al-Qaeda’s central leadership. The gravest such development has been the emergence of Islamic State as a separate and rival jihadist entity.

The best way to gauge Zawahiri’s response to these threats is by analysing the statements and communiqués he has released since taking the reins. This book provides the reader with professional translations of Zawahiri’s key statements during his first five years as leader of Al-Qaeda. These official communications are introduced and contextualised to provide the reader with a comprehensive sourcebook, outlining the Al-Qaeda leadership’s stance on the challenges to its existence since the death of bin Laden.


‘Comprehensive . . . an important resource for understanding the evolution of al Qaida in the al-Zawahiri era, including how it approaches its rivalry with the Islamic State.’ — Perspectives on Terrorism

‘In the rush to understand the Islamic State, al-Qaeda has been largely ignored in recent years. As Donald Holbrook’s excellent and important book shows, this is a mistake. Holbrook examines the strategic thinking of al-Qaeda under its leader Ayman al-Zawahiri with care, rigour and insight. This is a book which will enlighten and inform all students of Islamic militancy, inside and outside government, veteran or novice, the specialist and the general reader alike.’ — Jason Burke, Guardian Africa Correspondent and author of Al-Qaeda: The True Story of Radical Islam

‘Western understanding of jihadism has to overcome cultural, religious and language obstacles. Donald Holbrook’s careful editing of primary sources goes a long way in breaking through these barriers, showing us Ayman al-Zawahiri’s recent thinking, based on speeches and writings hitherto not generally available.’ — Alex P. Schmid, Director of the Terrorism Research Initiative (TRI) and Editor-in-Chief of Perspectives on Terrorism

An extremely valuable resource. Al-Qaeda 2.0 offers illuminating insights regarding an enduringly vital subject.’ — Richard English, author of Does Terrorism Work? A History


Donald Holbrook is a Lecturer in the Department of Politics, Philosophy and Religion at the University of Lancaster. He was previously a Senior Research Fellow at the Centre for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence, University of St Andrews. His publications include The Al-Qaeda Doctrine: The Framing and Evolution of the Leadership's Public Discourse (2014).

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