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The development of Al-Qaeda in general can be divided into four main sub-periods: A. Establishment and Consolidation – 1988-2001 (until the September 11 terrorist attacks); B. Strategic Defense – 2001-2011; C. Revival – 2011-2014; D. Internal and External Struggle – 2014 and on. Developments during these periods took place along four axes that complemented one another synergistically, and allowed the global jihad leadership maximum flexibility in formulating policy and putting it into practice: the organizational axis; the ideological axis; the strategic axis; and the operative axis.
Al-Qaeda was established as a heirarchal organization. Its founding idea, which was shaped over time into a strategic master plan ("the seven steps"), was to re-establish the Islamic caliphate, apply shari’a, and predicate the supremacy of Islam in the world.