Al-Qaeda has pervaded international headlines for years, but how much do you really know about the Islamist militant group? In this episode, we explore how the group is organized, how it is decentralized across many countries, and  how it is funded.


Al-Qaeda has become somewhat decentralized over the years. It is not a monolithic organization with unified interests; it has many faces across and within countries. There are affiliates (Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, Al Shabaab) which take direction directly from Al-Qaeda. There are also associates (Taliban, Haqqani Network, Boko Haram) which often ally with Al-Qaeda but do not take direction from them. Listen to the episode for more details on the organization’s structure and hierarchy.


Al-Qaeda’s activities are as diverse as they are expensive. Besides militant activities, Al-Qaeda has to fund expenses such as cost of living, travel, propaganda, recruitment efforts, and even charities.

To move their money, Al-Qaeda hides it in the complex web of international trade. They raise money in a variety of ways, including petty crime, drug trafficking, kidnapping and ransom, and individual donations. Listen to the episode for more details on how Al-Qaeda funds its operations. You can also listen to past episodes to hear about how organized crime groups have funded their operations by trafficking drugs, humansoil, and even commodities like sand and wildlife.

About the Author
John is a graduate student in International Affairs at The George Washington University and serves as the Director of Public Relations for Matters of State. Originally from Central Texas, John earned a B.A. in linguistics from the University of Texas at Austin. He lived in South Korea for nearly three years, teaching English on Jeju Island before studying Korean in Seoul. John’s academic and professional interests are international security and East Asian affairs.