Since the attacks of September 11th 2001 and up to and beyond Osama bin Ladin's death, al-Qaeda has come to embody the new enigmatic face of terrorism, dominating discussions of national and international security.
Yet in spite of the attention it receives, conflicting assumptions about the group abound.
Is al-Qaeda a rigidly structured organization, a global network of semi-independent cells, a franchise, or simply an idea whose time has come?
What is meant by talk of the `global Salafi jihad' that is confronting the West?
What are the implications of bin Ladin's death? Christina Hellmich offers a critical examination of the widely-held notions regarding the origins and manifestations of al-Qaeda and the sources on which they rely, mapping the organisation's alleged transition from what began as a regional struggle against the Soviets in Afghanistan to the increasingly leaderless jihad of the post-9/11 world.
Rather than just providing yet another biography of al-Qaeda, Hellmich forensically examines discrepancies between the most common explanations and to the limits of what can realistically be known. Drawing on a wide variety of sources, 'al-Qaeda: From Global Network to Local Franchise' offers a penetrating insight into an organization which, for all its notoriety, is one of the least-understood of our time.