The recent arrests of al Qaeda operatives reveals more about their current organizational structure. What emerges is a highly redundant organization that reveals few weaknesses. It's important to note that this represents only bin Laden's portion of the growing number of ventures that now call themselves "al Qaeda." Here's the overview of a proposed structure:
- A core that controls broad strategic direction and financing. This core group (bin Laden and Zawahiri) are buffered by a layered courier network.
- Portfolio managers, key financiers, and communications nodes. The portfolio managers control multiple cells that conduct operations in a given region. Financiers manage cash flows and connections to funding sources. There are few connections between any two at this level (control of financing is a key attribute of bin Laden's power in the network). Most connectivity is downward to the next level. Communications nodes manage Internet connectivity for high flow information sharing (mostly for intelligence moving upward, moderate flow for operations/plans).
- Entrepreneurs, Finance admin, Intelligence, and Operations (in aggregate mid-level management). These people manage sparse cells. Entrepreneurs have a high degree of latitude. They can opt for other sources of financing to gain independence (or start their own portfolio). These cells are run in parallel, redundant, and are limited in scope (all of which aids robustness).
- Foot soldiers and administrative support. These people are drawn from a virtually bottomless pool of ad hoc members. Connections are based on personal relationships (previous face-to-face experience) with entrepreneurs and other mid-level management.
- Family and sympathetic supporters. These people are added ad-hoc based on the needs of individuals in the next layer up. Strong personal connections are key here. This pool is the source of recruitment for higher levels.