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Ten Years Later: Insights on al-Qaeda’s Past & Future Through Captured Records

Conference Proceedings

Edited by Dr. Lorry M. Fenner Dr. Mark E. Stout Ms. Jessica L. Goldings


Ten Years Later: Insights on al-Qaeda’s Past & Future through Captured Records Conference Proceedings National Defense University Fort Lesley J. McNair, Washington, D.C. 13-14 September 2011

Edited by

Dr. Lorry M. Fenner, Director, Conflict Records Research Center at the National Defense University Dr. Mark E. Stout, Professor, Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Advanced Governmental Studies Ms. Jessica L. Goldings, Research Analyst, Conflict Records Research Center at the National Defense University


The views expressed in these essays are those of the authors and do not reflect the official policies or positions of the Johns Hopkins University, the National Defense University, the Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government.

Š 2012 The Johns Hopkins University Center for Advanced Governmental Studies All rights reserved.

Printed in the United States of America.

The Johns Hopkins University Center for Advanced Governmental Studies 1717 Massachusetts Ave NW Washington, DC 20036-2001

ISBN: 978-0-692-01720-3


Contents Introduction

10

Dr. Lorry M. Fenner Keynote Address I 18 Why a Conference on 9/11?

Congressman “Mac” Thornberry

Panel Session I 26 What did Scholars and Policymakers Know about al-Qaeda and Associated Movements before 9/11?

Chair: Dr. Thomas Hegghammer

The Evolution of Intelligence Assessments of al-Qaeda to 2011

28

Dr. Mark E. Stout

Working with al-Qaeda Documents: An Analyst’s View before 9/11

41

Ms. Cynthia Storer

Blessed September: Al-Qaeda’s Grand Strategic Vision on 9/11

53

Dr. Mary R. Habeck

Keynote Address II

68

The Evolution of al-Qaeda and Associated Movements

The Honorable Michael G. Vickers

Panel Session II

74

What Have We Learned about al-Qaeda and Associated Movements since 9/11?

Chair: Mr. Peter Bergen (introduction by Dr. Mark E. Stout)

Jihads in Decline: What the Captured Records Tell Us

76

Ms. Jessica M. Huckabey

The Collapse of Religious Justifications for Globalist Radical Muslims

Dr. David B. Cook

94


Ten Years Later: Insights on al-Qaeda’s Past & Future through Captured Records   3

Re-reading the Origins of al-Qaeda through Osama bin Laden’s

100

Banquet Address A Decade Beyond the 9/11 Attacks

114

Former Audiocassette Collection

Dr. Flagg Miller

C. Michael Hurley, Esq

Panel Session III What Should be the Focus of al-Qaeda and Associated Movements Studies for the Future?

124

Chair: The Honorable Juan C. Zarate

The Counterterrorism Research Agenda Ten Years after 9/11

128

Mr. Brian Fishman The Relationship between al-Qaeda and the Taliban: Insights from Captured Documents

136

Ms. Anne Stenersen

149

169

Keynote Address III A Call for Further Research and Analysis

186

The 80% Solution: The Defeat of bin Laden’s al-Qaeda and South Asian Security

Dr. Thomas F. Lynch, III

The Development of al-Qaeda’s Media Strategy and its Role in Mobilizing Western Muslims

Mr. Alexander Meleagrou-Hitchens

Ms. Suzanne Spaulding, Esq

Conclusion

192

Dr. Mark E. Stout

Biographies

202

214

Supplemental Material


Introduction Dr. Lorry M. Fenner


10  Johns Hopkins University Center for Advanced Governmental Studies and Conflict Records Research Center

Introduction1 Dr. Lorry M. Fenner Conflict Records Research Center On 13-14 September 2011, the Conflict Records Research Center (CRRC) at the Institute for National Strategic Studies (INSS), National Defense University (NDU), and the Johns Hopkins University Center for Advanced Governmental Studies, hosted a conference to mark the tenth anniversary of the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington D.C. Nearly 250 academics, policymakers, and practitioners attended the event. Introduced by Acting President of the NDU, Ambassador Nancy E. McEldowney, and entitled, “Ten Years Later: Insights on al-Qaeda’s Past & Future through Captured Records,” the conference explored what scholars and policymakers knew about al-Qaeda and Associated Movements (AQAM) before the 9/11 attacks, as well as what they have learned since. Participants also offered thoughts about the future of AQAM as well as directions for counterterrorism research and policy. The conference featured addresses by government officials involved in counterterrorism policymaking, including Congressman “Mac” Thornberry, a senior member of the House Armed Services Committee and Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence; Michael Vickers, Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence; C. Michael Hurley of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (9/11 Commission); and, Ms. Suzanne Spaulding of Bingham Consulting Group. 2 Panels, with presentations by some of the world’s foremost scholars studying terrorism, included speakers from think tanks (Center for Strategic and International Studies, New America Foundation, Institute for Defense Analysis, Norwegian Defence Research Establishment, and Pherson Associates LLC); research centers (the Inter-University Center for Terrorism Studies, the Combating Terrorism Center, and the International Center for the Study of Radicalism); and universities (Johns Hopkins, NDU, Coastal Carolina, Rice, and the University of California at Davis). Panelists, from a wide variety of backgrounds, included former military personnel and government officials in key intelligence and counterterrorism positions; noted editors, journalists, and authors; media commentators; advisors to governments, including the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Denmark, and Norway; intelligence professionals from the Central Intelligence Agency, the National Counterterrorism Center, and the U.S. Departments of State and Defense; and teachers, analysts, and researchers focused on issues of international affairs, national security, terrorism, counterinsurgency, weapons of mass destruction, political theory, religion, anthropology, and military history. By releasing 12 records from its AQAM collection in conjunction with the conference, the CRRC provided primary source material to scholars and researchers worldwide and helped show how captured records can contribute to understanding adversaries on both the academic and policymaking levels.

1 I have liberally borrowed from several CRRC event reports including those I have worked on with Jessica Goldings, “Ten Years Later: Insights on al-Qaeda’s Past & Future through Captured Records,” Research Highlights, Office of the Vice President for Research and Applied Learning at National Defense University, Vol. 1, No. 4, October 2011, pp. 1-2, and with Joseph Simons, “Ten Years Later: Insights on al-Qaeda’s Past & Future through Captured Records: A Conference Report,” INSS Event Report, http://www.ndu. edu/inss/docUploaded/Event%20Report%209-11%20conference.pdf. I would also like to thank Ms. Erin Collins and Ms. Samantha Rose, CRRC interns, who contributed significantly to editing this volume. 2 Ms. Suzanne Spaulding is now the Deputy Under Secretary for the Department of Homeland Security’s National Protection and Programs.


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The results of this event definitely show how primary sources contribute to thinking about and developing policies to address future challenges in national and international security. The key findings that emerged from the conference and the analysis of the captured records include: 1. Even though al-Qaeda has become significantly weaker over the past ten years, it is becoming an increasingly innovative adversary demanding a more dynamic and nuanced American approach to counterterrorism; 2. Al-Qaeda affiliated “lone wolf” terrorism is on the rise; 3. Winning the war of ideas, rather than a military victory, remains the key to defeating extremists and preventing terrorist acts; 4. Government officials and scholars must continue to work together to fully understand AQAM and other threats to national security; 5. The United States must continue to adapt in order to meet challenges from terrorists in the future; and, 6. Scholars and practitioners must continue to ask hard questions in order to help policymakers develop the best strategies and approaches to deal with adversaries and to enhance national and international security. Ambassador McEldowney opened the conference by emphasizing that the 9/11 attacks were a tragedy that have transformed the United States and have shaped a generation. She posited that the quest to defeat al-Qaeda and other affiliated terrorist groups has proven to be an enormous and vexing challenge. McEldowney told participants that what they would do at the conference and their work going forward on the basis of deliberations and discussions at the conference were a crucial part of efforts to combat the threat: “your conclusions, your research, and your expertise can help us unlock the mystery not just about what happened in the past, but what we need to do to shape the future as we move forward.”3 McEldowney also encouraged those present that collaboration between academia and government is essential to helping the national security community explore new avenues for providing protection against terrorists. While al-Qaeda and its affiliates remain a significant threat to national security, scholarship is helping policymakers define the security challenges of the future. The Ambassador further highlighted the CRRC’s collection of captured records and their ability to “inform sound scholarship and smart policy.”4 She pointed out that perhaps the records’ most important feature is that “they have given us the capacity to view ourselves through the eyes of an adversary.”5 She illustrated this concept by mentioning two specific records captured in Afghanistan that were released in conjunction with the conference. The first contains a history of al-Qaeda as well as their after-action report of the 9/11 attacks.6 The second is the 1994 al-Qaeda assessment of the hijacking of an Air France commercial aircraft by terrorists intending to fly it into the Eiffel Tower. Although the attempt was foiled, this al-Qaeda assessment, six years before the 9/11 attacks, suggested that “aerial martyrdom operations” could be successful and that attacks such as this could be exploited for maximum media exposure.7 3 Ambassador Nancy McEldowney, “Introduction, Ten Years Later: Insights on al-Qaeda’s Past and Future through Captured Records,” Transcript of audio file “119013-opening-panel01-with-Vickers” 00:07:00-00:16:25, 13 September 2011, National Defense University, Washington, D.C. 4 Ibid. 5 Ibid. 6 AQ-SHPD-D-001-285, “Document contains al-Qaeda review of the 9/11 attacks on the United States one year later,” undated (circa September 2002), Conflict Records Research Center, Washington, D.C. 7 AQ-MCOP-D-001-136, “Article Regarding the 1994 Air France hijacking by Sunni Mujahideen, recommends ‘aerial martyrdom operations,’” 30 December 1994, Conflict Records Research Center, Washington, D.C


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McEldowney challenged participants to use the CRRC’s primary sources and continue their collaborations to explore “how you can help us and we can help you…keep that tactile sense of the relevance of our work, the urgency as we go forward.” She stated “we have synergy, we have that momentum…We want people who are prepared to ask hard questions and to challenge accepted wisdom.”8 Following McEldowney’s lead, the keynote speakers and three panels addressed the central questions of the conference: what scholars and policymakers knew about AQAM before 9/11, including how that knowledge may have been overlooked or misused; what they have learned since and how those insights might be put to maximum benefit; and, what directions counterterrorism research and policy should take for the future ensuring that research by both government and private individuals and entities focuses on the right subjects using the right tools.

What did Scholars and Policymakers Know about AQAM before 9/11? The first panelists and Chair, Dr. Thomas Hegghammer, highlighted that while some intelligence analysts and a few scholars had been looking at AQAM well before the 9/11 attacks, a general lack of information and research on the movement made it difficult for analysts to “connect the dots.” In addition, a lack of focus by government policymakers on the issue of terrorism meant that the right questions were often not being asked and appropriate resources were not applied to answer these questions. In this volume, Dr. Hegghammer suggests that while all of the panelists’ presentations were excellent, they focused on what the U.S. government knew; none of the papers really addresses what scholars knew about al-Qaeda before 9/11. His answer is: not a whole lot. He claims that with the exception of a few, scholars largely missed the rise of al-Qaeda, while the Intelligence Community (IC) and some journalists were way ahead of the academy. He does not take this indictment of the academy too far though. The IC was and still is vastly better funded than social sciences and the humanities research, and studying terrorist groups with open sources was much more difficult before the rise of the Internet. In addition, there were academics who studied jihadism more generally. Still, he proposes that if there were intelligence failures leading up to 9/11, there certainly were academic failures as well. Hegghammer is encouraged though that the CRRC represents a tremendous opportunity for scholars to catch up on, and eventually, inform the study of al-Qaeda.9

What Have We Learned about AQAM since 9/11? Chair Peter Bergen and presenters on the second panel emphasized that since 9/11 the struggle against al-Qaeda and other like-minded terrorist groups has been at the forefront of U.S. and other nations’ security policies. All were encouraged that resources such as the CRRC have opened up possibilities to scholars, as well as government analysts and policymakers, to better understand challenges posed by these groups. Analyses of these and other sources have shown that al-Qaeda is not a monolithic group and, like other organizations, it suffers from internal divisions. Recently it has been in decline from its former status as a once centralized, powerful organization. Indeed, three of the four papers

8 McEldowney. 9 Thomas Hegghammer, “Introduction,” “Panel 1: What did scholars and policymakers know about al-Qaeda and Associated Movements before 9/11?” in Ten Years Later: Insights on al-Qaeda’s Past & Future through Captured Records Conference Proceedings (Washington, D.C.: Johns Hopkins University Center for Advanced Governmental Studies, 2012).


Ten Years Later: Insights on al-Qaeda’s Past & Future through Captured Records   13

challenge us to see an al-Qaeda, and a global jihadist movement, which are deeply flawed and which face substantial opposition, including the erosion of their religious justification.

What Should be the Focus of AQAM Studies for the Future? The task left to the third panel and Chair Juan Zarate was to serve as a guide to future scholarship and policy. One theme of the panel was that academics and policymakers should continue to work together to best understand and defeat AQAM and other terrorist threats. Some speakers pointed out that academics, who sometimes have greater leeway to explore alternative explanations and policy prescriptions in their community outside government channels, are in a better position to ask challenging questions and “think outside the box” about solutions. They agreed that questions that should be addressed include the future of AQAM in the context of the “Arab Spring” and a rising China, the influence of bin Laden’s death on al-Qaeda’s ability to recruit radicals and secure funding, and how nations should deal with growing domestic radicalization.

Questions for Further Research: Taken together, the conference presentations ten years after the 9/11 attacks point the way for government and civilian researchers to explore many other important questions regarding AQAM and terrorism more generally in order to better understand the past, as well as to inform scholarship and policymaking in the future. These questions include: How can AQAM be better understood in both the local and global contexts? How can academics and scholars help intelligence analysts and policymakers understand groups like al-Qaeda and vice versa? How can all better employ historical perspectives on AQAM in policymaking today and tomorrow? How can strategies be developed to exploit differences between terrorist groups and their ideologies? How effective is online radicalization and what is the best way to combat it? What can countries learn from each others’ counterterrorism efforts? What is the future of al-Qaeda since the death of Osama bin Laden? How should nations counter domestic radicalization and terrorism of all kinds? The conference that this proceedings volume is based on was inspired by the newly available captured records in the CRRC’s research collection. Beyond this conference, the records will help scholars start to address the issues brought to light by the panelists and these questions for further research. Understanding the CRRC’s mission will be helpful to researchers. The CRRC’s mission is to facilitate the use of captured records to support research within both the civilian academic and governmental communities on issues such as terrorism, authoritarian regimes, nuclear proliferation, and adversarial policymaking. The Center was established in 2010 by the Department of Defense to fulfill Secretary of Defense Robert Gates’ intent to enable research into captured records with “complete openness and rigid adherence to academic freedom and integrity.” Created at the direction of the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, the CRRC is hosted at the National Defense University under the Institute for National Strategic Studies. A Senior Leadership Council, made up | of defense and intelligence officials provides a Charter and Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for the Center. This mission continues under Secretary Leon Panetta. Because unclassified, digital copies of records captured in Afghanistan and Iraq reside in a limitedaccess U.S. Government database, the CRRC is mandated by its Charter and guided by the SOPs to make a significant portion of these records available to researchers as quickly and responsibly as possible while taking into account legitimate national security concerns, the integrity of the academic process, and risks to innocents or third parties. The CRRC currently holds two collections: the AQAM collection and the Saddam Hussein collection. Included in the AQAM collection are records on al-Qaeda doctrine, theology, operations, recruiting, histories of al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and other countries, and terrorist training manuals. Researchers have access to approximately 4,200 pages of


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primary source material. The Saddam Hussein collection includes audio tapes of Saddam discussing political and military matters with his top generals and advisors, Iraqi intelligence reports, and Ba’ath Party and military and intelligence memoranda. Researchers have access to 34,000 pages and approximately 150 hours of audiotape in the Saddam Hussein collection. All records in the collection are available in their original languages (primarily Arabic) and are fully translated and searchable in English. In the near future, the records will be searchable in the original language as well. Indexes for both collections, containing the full list of available records, are available online.10 Again, while the papers in this proceedings volume only scratch the surface of needed research and analysis on AQAM, the CRRC is dedicated to assisting scholars on these issues and much more. In order to address important questions going forward, the CRRC will continue to provide primary source materials on AQAM, as well as on the Saddam Hussein regime, for academics and other researchers to employ in their historical and political studies to confront future national and international security challenges.

10 For more information on the CRRC and to view a list of its holdings, visit the CRRC website at http://www.ndu.edu/inss/index.cf m?secID=101&pageID=4&type=section.


Keynote Address I

Why a Conference on 9/11? Congressman “Mac” Thornberry


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Why a Conference on 9/11? Congressman “Mac” Thornberry On the morning of 9/11, I was one of a handful of members of Congress who had breakfast with the Secretary of Defense. The previous day, he had given a speech about transforming the Department of Defense. He wanted to build some legislative support, so there were a handful of us who were there in the Pentagon that morning. I remember his military aide bringing him a note saying that a plane had struck one of the World Trade Center towers in New York, and we decided that we needed to get out of the Secretary’s way, so he could go about his business and we could go about ours. As we were saying goodbye, somebody came back to him and said, “This looks like it’s pretty serious,” and so we left. As I was on the 14th Street Bridge going toward the Capitol in my car, I heard on the radio that another plane had hit the second tower, and then got to my office and was watching it on television and saw that the building I had left about 20 minutes before had been struck. Those of you who were here at the time remember there were also reports that there were bombs going off around town in the State Department and various places. And then the Capitol Hill police came running through the building ordering us to evacuate. I remember somebody yelling, “Get out, get out. There’s another one coming for us.” With the throngs of people, we went out to the streets where it was chaos, and we spent the next several hours in Washington gridlock trying to make contact with our wives and kids to figure out where they were, whether everybody was safe, and what we were going to do from there. Everybody who was here or in New York has a story and memories about 9/11. Much of my work life, and I am sure much of the work life of the people in this room, has been devoted to dealing with the consequences and implications of that day. But I have to confess, I feel a little overloaded by all the 9/11 coverage over the past weekend, and most of the people I have visited with feel the same way. Maybe it is because nearly all of us have an emotional reaction to the tragedy of that day, and you can only have that emotional reaction for so long. Maybe part of it is because the media, in trying to outdo one another and keep our attention, rehashes and sensationalizes, and just flat wears you out on things. And maybe it is because a lot of us think, well, we know what happened. We read the 9/11 Commission Report,1 and we’ve seen all that before. So that leads to the question that I was asked to address: Why have another conference dealing with 9/11 and its consequences? Well, I would offer three reasons that it is important for us all to be here and to share information. One is that violence from terrorists continues to be a significant threat to the country. Secondly, the al-Qaeda movement is evolving and changing, and we have got to keep up with it at least in our understanding. And third, I would suggest we have got to battle not just the individuals but the ideology, and to battle the ideology requires understanding. And so, I might offer just a few thoughts on each of those things. First, it is important that we continue to study not just that day, but also those responsible for it because violence from terrorism continues to be a significant threat to our country. It is going to be with us for a long time. Maybe it has always been that a single committed individual who is willing to sacrifice his life could make a big difference in history. Certainly, we all think of the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand in 1914 as an incident by a committed individual that had a big impact. 1 National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States, The 9/11 Commission Report: Final Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States (New York: Norton, 2004).


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But I think we are at a time where an individual or, even more so, a committed small group of individuals can make a big difference. There is a lot being written these days about the superempowered individual, partly because of new communication and connectedness, partly because of new tools that are available for good or for ill. Whatever the reason, a committed individual or group of individuals can make an even bigger difference now than in the past. Al-Qaeda certainly includes a number of individuals who are very committed. For a while, there was the rhetoric that these individuals were cowards. I do not think they are cowards. I just read the book, which some of you may have read, Triple Agent, which explains the story of this Jordanian who was responsible for the deaths of our CIA and security personnel at a base in Afghanistan. The author, Joby Warrick, may have taken some literary license by getting inside the terrorist’s head, but still, look at the course of his life, the degree of his commitment, where he went, what he did, and his nervousness about carrying out the attack. The fact is he did carry it out, and some of our very best intelligence people were killed as a result. These terrorists, at least a subset of them, are very committed, and they are not going to back off anytime soon. 2 They are also innovative. Ambassador Nancy McEldowney, Acting President of the National Defense University, mentioned that the CRRC has copies of documents that show al-Qaeda had an interest in flying planes and using them as weapons. But I believe, other than in a couple of novels, there really was not anyone in the Intelligence Community, or otherwise, who speculated about terrorists using planes as weapons before 9/11.3 As we well know, they continue to explore other ways to attack us. Some of the most recent reports involve work in planting bombs inside bodies and the challenge that threat presents to us all. A lot of my time these days is spent in the world of cyber security. There is no doubt terrorists are exploring options through the Internet on ways to have realworld effects. Cyber terrorism could be a real possibility. So they are committed, and they are innovative, and at the same time, there is no doubt that they are committed to acquiring and using, if they can get them, weapons of mass destruction. Obviously, the ultimate would be a nuclear weapon, but even a radiological, chemical, or biological weapon would have enormous consequences. Not long after the 9/11 attacks, Henry Kissinger said, “This attack is not aimed at our policies; this is aimed at our existence,” so I do not think any of us should doubt the seriousness of the threat that this movement continues to pose to the lives of individual Americans and what terrorists are attempting to achieve in the broader sense. The rest of the story is that the media brings these attacks into our living rooms and makes them very real to us, wherever they happen around the world or right here. That adds in some ways to their power or to their leverage, and all of that combined makes violence from terrorists a significant threat to the country that will continue. The second thing is that al-Qaeda is evolving. It is different today than it was on 9/11. It is different today than it was on 1 May 2011, when Osama bin Laden was killed. It will be different a year from now or two years from now. One of the reasons I think these CRRC documents, the Ambassador talked about, are so valuable is that they allow us to look at us through the terrorists’ eyes and to see

2 Joby Warrick, Triple Agent (New York: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, 2011). 3 Ambassador Nancy McEldowney, “Introduction, Ten Years Later: Insights on al-Qaeda’s Past & Future through Captured Records,” Transcript of Audio File, 13 September 2011, National Defense University, Washington D.C. and AQ-MCOP-D-001-136, “Article regarding the 1994 Air France hijacking by Sunni Mujahideen, recommends ‘aerial martyrdom operations,’” 30 December 1994, Conflict Records Research Center, Washington D.C.


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part of their evolution, how they have changed. And, hopefully, these records can give us insight into the trajectory they take in the future. 4 It seems pretty clear that as we have put more pressure on core al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan, we have seen the rise of affiliated groups. Two of the most prominent attacks or attempted attacks against us came from al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), and we know from AQAP public statements, as well as other information, that they are very determined to try to attack us here at home. They will continue to pursue that. We also have al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), which has not been a particularly effective terrorist organization, but they are right there with all the turmoil in Libya, with a variety of weapons that probably are getting into the wrong hands. Taking advantage of that chaos and that increased weaponry may well make AQIM a more potent threat in the future. It goes on. We are watching events in Somalia. We are watching other organizations, Lashkar e-Taiba (LeT) and the rest. So we see these affiliated groups that seem to be gaining in stature. At the same time, there is this pressure on the core. But what we have also seen, of course, is the rise of the individual, motivated, encouraged, and radicalized by the Internet. This is a gigantic challenge for our security and intelligence personnel, but the point is that the threat is changing. It is different than it was on 9/11. Just as the terrorist threat is changing, so too is the overall national security situation. In his book, War Made New, Max Boot looked at warfare from 1500 on, and one of his conclusions is that keeping up with the pace of change is getting harder than ever, and the risks of getting left behind are rising.5 Today there is no room for error. The importance of studying so that we can see the way that al-Qaeda is changing and, hopefully, be able to get ahead of that curve through conferences like this and through documents like these available in the CRRC, is becoming greater than ever. The third point I would make is that we have to battle the ideology, not just the individuals. The fact is, of course, al-Qaeda and these associated groups have an ideology. It can be both a good and a bad thing. It can be a good thing in that it enables us to use their ideology against them. Where they are inconsistent, we can decrease their credibility in the world. It gives us an opportunity to fight this ideology, when they have one, when they are not just criminals looking out for their self-interest. However, the bad side of it is that the ideology lasts beyond individuals. So we remove bin Laden, but the ideology allows the movement to continue to expand, maybe even to grow, as I mentioned, over the Internet, and through other ways. So the fact that they have an ideology is somewhat a mixed bag. Still, I am struck by the fact that we have dealt with ideologies before. It was part of the war plan when we dealt with communism. We had to battle the ideology. In their book, Winning the Long War, James Carfano and Paul Rosenzweig talk about three lessons from the Cold War, and one of them is to win a longterm war.6 The fundamentals are the same. We have to have sound security, economic growth, a strong civil society, and a willingness to engage in a public battle of ideas. We may have problems on more than one of those fronts, but that will be for another conference. The point is we have got to be willing to engage in a public battle of ideas.

4 “Al-Qaeda and Associated Movements Collection,” Conflict Records Research Center, Washington, D.C. 5 Max Boot, War Made New: Technology, Warfare and the Course of History, 1500 to Today (New York: Gotham Books, 2006). 6 James Jay Carafano and Paul Rosenzweig, Winning the Long War: Lessons from the Cold War for Defeating Terrorism and Preserving Freedom (Washington, D.C.: The Heritage Foundation, 2005).


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Carfano and Rosenzweig go on to argue that to engage in that battle, we must first understand the enemy. Second, we have to delegitimize his view of the world. Third, we have to offer a counterview of the world. And fourth, we have to demonstrate the will to prevail. This is an area where, in my opinion, we have been woefully short as a government. To me, the “a-ha” moment came shortly after 9/11, when I realized that we would never be able to kill or capture all of the terrorists that were out there, and that if we tried, we would probably end up creating more than we removed from the battle. We have to engage in this war of ideas and on many fronts. It is not just about trying to get a better broadcast out there and say how great Americans are, even though that was the approach at the beginning of U.S. efforts. It is not marketing or simplistic slogans. It starts with a much deeper understanding of the target audience, the cultures we are trying to influence, and many times it cannot possibly, of course, come directly from us. It must include an understanding of the networks of influence within these societies. I have been to Afghanistan a couple of times this year. One of the most promising developments it seems to me, and in the opinion of many, are the village stability operations that are largely being run by our special operations forces who live in the villages and work with the villagers to develop villagelevel security. They understand the networks of influence because they are living there in the villages and helping do it in their way, in a way that is consistent with the villagers’ culture. This is having tremendous impact. Now, there are going to be arguments about the extent to which this effort is scalable throughout the country, but my point is that real success starts with real understanding, not just book learning. We must understand, in the best case, the way the tribes work, their networks of influence, what their anxieties are, what means more to them, what their value structure is. Those are not things that come easily, and yet that is exactly the sort of deeper understanding that is required for us to successfully engage in a war of ideas, particularly because it must extend in a variety of places around the world. What works in one place does not necessarily work in another. I would cite for you, among other things, Ayman Zawahiri’s letter to Abu Musab Zarqawi in Iraq in 2005. “If you have any doubt,” he said, “more than half of the battle is taking place in the battlefield of the media.”7 They understand that. I am not sure that we understand it and are prepared to deal with it at that level. If we step back and look, this need for deeper understanding reemphasizes the importance of the study and understanding of terrorism, and, more generally, of national security. I agree with Colonel John Boyd of OODA Loop (Observe, Orient, Decide, Act) fame who said, “It’s people, ideas, and hardware, in that order.” I think that is true for our national security.8 I am also struck by David Ben-Gurion’s quote that, “The most dangerous enemy to Israeli security is the intellectual inertia of those who are responsible for that security.”9 If we take that perspective, that puts a lot of the responsibility back on us. I probably need to make a few comments on my own branch of government and how Congress can help or hurt in this wider effort. I think the rule for Congress on many things is, first, do no harm. I am not saying we always do that, but I think when it comes to developing national security understanding and having the tools to apply that understanding, the first rule should be do no harm. 7 “Letter from al-Zawahiri to al-Zarqawi,” 9 July 2005, GlobalSecurity.Org, http://www.globalsecurity.org/security/library/ report/2005/zawahiri-zarqawi-letter_9Jul2005.htm, last accessed 5 March 2012. 8 John Boyd, “A Discourse on Winning and Losing,” 1992, http://www.ausairpower.net/JRB/intro.pdf, last accessed 28 February 2012. 9 Eliot Cohen, Supreme Command: Soldiers, Statesmen, and Leadership in Wartime (New York: The Free Press, 2002).


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But secondly, I think Congress can and should, and hopefully is, trying to aid in that understanding. We are having a series of hearings, for example, in the Armed Services Committee, looking back at these last ten years, what we have learned and what that tells us about the future. We had the former Chairman Admiral Michael Mullen and Vice Chairman General James E. Cartwright of the Joint Chiefs of Staff last week, for example. These hearings will continue. We have another hearing next week in my Emerging Threats Subcommittee about the first 25 years of the Special Operations Command: Has it worked? Is its charter right? Do we need to recalibrate a little as we look back over the last 25 years? And, especially, the appropriate use of special operations forces over the next ten years. So Congress can help improve understanding, but also Congress can help prevent the sclerosis of our national security establishment. It seems to me that that is one of the big challenges that our country faces. When you have as big a bureaucracy, an organization, a national security establishment, as large as that of the United States of America, they tend to be like big battleships or aircraft carriers that are pretty hard to turn and are not necessarily known for their agility or flexibility. So Congress has played a role in organizational reform, whether it is the creation of the Department of Homeland Security or of the Director of National Intelligence. You may have different opinions about how well those have worked out, but the point is that sometimes a little push helped by a Commission from Congress is necessary. Of course, everybody cites the Goldwater-Nichols example,10 and a number of us think that some sort of formulation, a “Goldwater-Nichols” for the interagency, is something that should be pursued to try, as the Ambassador said, to bring all the tools of national power and influence to the table. Obviously, the key role of Congress these days is money. In incredibly tight and tighter budgets, the importance of figuring out what tools we need going forward is greater than ever. Again, that brings us back to understanding and studying. If we have to make choices on what are going to be the most effective tools in the future, we need to be sure we are investing in those, even if some other things may not be funded to the extent we would like. The bottom line is that all of us involved in national security have been given a precious charge. It includes the safety of our citizens, the freedom and opportunities that our children are going to enjoy, and the future of our Republic. Discharging our duty will require the best from each of us, and that includes the intellectual preparation of the battlefield. It is my vote that this conference can significantly contribute to that, especially in the area of terrorism.

10 Goldwater-Nichols Department of Defense Reorganization Act of 1986, http://www.ndu.edu/library/goldnich/goldnich.html. This statute is known for creating a culture of “jointness” and increasing effectiveness in joint operations in the aftermath of the disasters of Desert One during the Iranian hostage rescue attempt in 1980 and lack of interservice coordination during the U.S. invasion of Grenada to rescue American students in 1983.


Panel Session I

What did Scholars and Policymakers Know about al-Qaeda and Associated Movements before 9/11? Chair: Dr. Thomas Hegghammer


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What did Scholars and Policymakers Know about al-Qaeda and Associated Movements before 9/11? Chair: Dr. Thomas Hegghammer Norwegian Defence Research Establishment (FFI) What did we know about al-Qaeda before 9/11? This question was hotly debated in the early 2000s, as the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (9/11 Commission) and the general public sought to understand how this immense tragedy could occur. In the mid-2000s, the question faded into the background as the intelligence apparatus restructured and new threats emerged. Ten years after 9/11, it was certainly time to revisit this question. In this opening panel of the conference, we had three reasons to expect an insightful discussion. For a start, sufficient time had passed for the passions and the politics surrounding the issue to have settled somewhat. Second, the panel included an impressive lineup of contributors, including one of the very few analysts who tracked al-Qaeda closely throughout the 1990s. Third, thanks to the Conflict Records Research Center (CRRC), internal al-Qaeda documents from the 1990s were now available to researchers, allowing us to assess what could have been known about al-Qaeda in 2001. The panelists more than met these expectations. Mark Stout’s paper, “The Evolution of Intelligence Assessments of al-Qaeda to 2011,” analyzes the U.S. Intelligence Community’s (IC) evolving perceptions of the jihadi threat from the early 1990s until today. Stout, a military historian and former intelligence analyst, brilliantly dissects the bureaucratic politics of the IC, describing the 1990s as a period in which “a small group of insurgent analysts spread across the IC seized on the problem and waged a campaign to spread their apparently alarmist views.”1 The incumbent view at the time was, simply put, that terrorism was not of strategic importance, that state-sponsored terrorism was the biggest threat, and that religion was not a factor in national security. Stout’s account is echoed and fleshed out by Cynthia Storer in her paper, “Working with al-Qaeda Documents: An Analyst’s View before 9/11.” Storer, a veteran CIA analyst and former member of the Agency’s “Bin Laden Unit” in the 1990s, offers unique insights from the “insurgent side” of the 1990s battle to put al-Qaeda on the policy agenda. Although she is a part of the story, Storer makes a very convincing case for the view that the road to 9/11 was “a tale not of analytic failure but of bureaucratic resistance to change.”2 Indeed, Storer reveals how CIA analysts knew a lot more, quite a bit earlier, than previously suggested in the literature. Storer is credible, in part, because she does not linger on the past; most of her paper is about the general analytical challenges posed by Islamist terrorism and ways to overcome them. To some extent, Stout and Storer tell us more about ourselves than about al-Qaeda. We are, therefore, also fortunate to have Mary Habeck’s paper, “Blessed September: Al-Qaeda’s Grand Strategic Vision on 9/11,” which draws on CRRC documents to analyze al-­Qaeda’s ideology around 2001. While the captured unclassified al-Qaeda documents reveal some new insights, the bigger and more painful point is that, as far as ideology and intentions are concerned, internal documents differ surprisingly little from what al-Qaeda stated in the open. They basically told us in advance what they would do. 1 Mark Stout, “The Evolution of Intelligence Assessments of al-Qaeda to 2011,” in Ten Years Later: Insights on al-Qaeda’s Past & Future through Captured Records Conference Proceedings (Washington, D.C.: The Johns Hopkins University Center for Advanced Governmental Studies, 2012). 2 Cynthia Storer, “Working with al-Qaeda Documents: An Analyst’s View before 9/11,” in Ten Years Later: Insights on al-Qaeda’s Past & Future through Captured Records Conference Proceedings (Washington, D.C.: The Johns Hopkins University Center for Advanced Governmental Studies, 2012).


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None of the papers really addresses the question of what scholars knew about al-Qaeda before 9/11, so let me do it here. The short answer is: not a whole lot. With the exception of a few scholars like Gilles Kepel, the academy largely missed the rise of al-Qaeda. There is no question that the IC — at least the Cynthia Storers, Michael Sheuers, John O’Neills, and Gina Bennetts of this world — were way ahead of the academy on this score. Journalists such as Peter Bergen were also on the ball much earlier than university professors. As an illustration, I personally only began studying al-Qaeda a few months before 9/11 as a newly hired summer intern at the Norwegian Defence Research Establishment (FFI). In 2000, as a graduate student at Oxford University, I had taken a course on political Islam, the only such course offered by the University in those days. My memory may fail me, but I do not recall ever hearing the names “bin Laden” or “al-Qaeda” in the course of that semester. Of course, this indictment of the academy should not be taken too far. The IC was, and still is, vastly better funded than the social sciences and the humanities, and studying terrorist groups with open sources was much more difficult before the rise of the Internet. It must also be said that there were academics who studied jihadism, just not al-Qaeda. Overall, though, we can safely say that if there were intelligence failures before 9/11, there certainly were academic failures as well. The establishment of the Conflict Records Research Center represents a tremendous opportunity for scholars to catch up on, and eventually inform, the study of al-Qaeda.


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The Evolution of Intelligence Assessments of al-Qaeda to 2011 Dr. Mark E. Stout 1 Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Advanced Governmental Studies Over the years following the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan, the American Intelligence Community’s understanding of al-Qaeda and its allies and affiliates underwent radical transformations. At no time was there a monolithic vision of the enemy, nor did analytic disagreements break down along agency lines. Rather, during the 1990s, a handful of analysts across the Intelligence Community (IC) seized on the new problem and developed a picture of a clandestinely networked enemy and the serious harm that it could inflict America or American interests, in the process chipping away at the received wisdom about what issues were truly important. They then had to sell their ideas to the Community writ large. The development of an understanding of the enemy was a process not merely of intelligence analysis but also of persuasion and coalition building. This small band of analysts faced a major challenge in overcoming the preconceived notions of their policy consumers. Notable among these that terrorism was not a vitally important national security issue and that to the extent it was important, the primary threat came from state-sponsored terrorists notably the Iran-backed Hezbollah. Another key presumption was that religion was not a factor worthy of consideration in national security affairs. These presumptions shifted radically in the wake of the attacks of 11 September 2001. The Bush Administration and much of the IC began to portray a maximalist view of the enemy and the Administration announced a “Global War on Terrorism.” Many intelligence analyses now described a powerful al-Qaeda that was clandestinely connected to numerous hostile countries’ groups across the globe and perpetually threatening to acquire weapons of mass destruction (WMD). Moreover, post-9/11 understandings of the enemy highlighted the power of religion. Some intelligence personnel even held that al-Qaeda had a particularly pure and authentic understanding of Islam and that this explained the apparent fact that al-Qaeda was broadly attractive to Muslims around the world. Then, starting in about 2004, CIA analysts began to promulgate a view that while al-Qaeda’s political critique of the United States and globalization might have salience around the world and its theology was genuinely rooted in Islam, its overall message was not, in fact, appealing to the vast majority of Muslims. This assessment opened up opportunities for a strategy of counter-ideology and counterradicalization. The Obama Administration adopted such a strategy even as it continued the “kinetic” military efforts to kill jihadists. Those kinetic operations culminated in the May 2011 killing of Osama bin Laden, an event that led the IC to debate whether victory over al-Qaeda was finally at hand. Al-Qaeda and most of its allies are best referred to as “Salafi jihadists” or “Salafi jihadis,” terms they use themselves. Salafi jihadism is a radical minority understanding of Salafism, itself a minority community within Sunni Islam. 2 Salafis are Sunni Muslims who believe that Islam was perfect in its earliest years and that subsequent developments have introduced corrupt innovations into the faith. Salafis have grandiose visions. They seek to return the faith to its simple and pure origins and to restore the lost caliphate. Many say that the caliphate should stretch all the way from Spain to Indonesia and

1 Thanks to Shawna Cuan, Muhammad Haniff Hassan, Stephanie Kaplan, Paul Maddrell, Thomas Quiggin, and William Van Heuvelen. I would also like to thank certain veterans of the Intelligence Community who shall remain anonymous. Not all of them agreed with my conclusions, but all helped immensely. The CIA’s Publication Review Board has vetted this paper for security concerns. 2 It is true that a few of al-Qaeda affiliates, most notably the Taliban, are technically better described as Deobandis rather than Salafis. However, the differences are slight in theological or practical terms and, the occasional squabble notwithstanding, the Deobandi jihadist and Salafi jihadist communities perceive themselves as struggling together toward a common goal.


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consist of every territory that is or ever was a “Muslim land.” Most Salafis oppose al-Qaeda and its jihadist brethren over the question of means.3 Sayyid Qutb (1906-1966), a prominent member of the Muslim Brotherhood, laid down the fundamental principles of Salafi jihadism in the early 1960s. He argued that true Islam was extinct from the world, in large part due to the oppressive influence of nominally Muslim leaders who were actually promulgating non-Islamic ideas such as Arab nationalism or Marxism. Jihad was, he argued, the central component of the solution to this problem. 4 Since Qutb’s time, successive Salafi jihadist thinkers and strategists have expanded upon Qutb’s views while often disagreeing among themselves on strategy. Some have argued for focusing the jihadists’ efforts on overthrowing the “near enemy,” the regimes in their home countries. These are essentially religious nationalists.5 Others have emphasized focusing jihad in a primarily defensive way, defending Muslim lands against external attacks. The shining example of such a defense was the jihad in Afghanistan against the Soviets. The foreign jihadists who came to fight there had a global rather than a nationalist orientation, but the most thoroughly global jihadists were those of al-Qaeda who argued that attacks should be aimed primarily at the “far enemy,” the United States and, to a lesser degree, other colonial or purportedly neo-colonial countries. Though the ranks of the Salafi jihadists are thin, many of the ideas of the Salafi jihadists have deep resonance with many Muslims, particularly Arab Muslims. The jihadists sometimes couch their arguments in appealing but ambiguous religious terms. (Muslims, for instance, tend to see “jihad” and “Sharia” as positive symbols; the disagreements come in the definitions.)6 Similarly, the Salafi jihadists are on safe ground arguing for the dignity of the faith; that Islam should rightfully be in a leadership position in the world;7 that the United States and other imperialist powers are meddling in the affairs of Muslims, oppressing them, and stealing their resources;8 that Israel is an aggressive power and that the United States gives it carte blanche to brutalize Muslims;9 and, that traditional Islamic cultures are under attack by the fundamentally Western forces of globalization.10 The Salafi jihadist movement has changed radically in structure and size over time. Given that intelligence assessments are doomed always to lag behind reality, these changes have complicated intelligence analysis. During the 1980s, the movement was almost entirely an Arab phenomenon, catalyzed by the war in Afghanistan.11 During the course of the 1990s, however, it became a global multi-ethnic imagined community with al-Qaeda occupying the central spot. At the time, al-Qaeda was a hierarchical organization which linked with or penetrated most of the other Salafi jihadist groups 3 For typologies of Salafis, see Jarret M. Brachman, Global Jihadism: Theory and Practice (New York: Routledge, 2009), chapter 2; and Quintan Wiktorowicz, “Anatomy of the Salafi Movement,” Studies in Conflict and Terrorism 29:3 (May 2006), pp. 207-239. 4 See Sayyid Qutb’s Milestones, originally published in 1964 and now available in numerous editions on the Internet, in several hardcopy English editions, and excerpted in numerous anthologies. For example, see http://majalla.org/books/2005/qutb-nilestone. pdf, last accessed 5 February 2012. 5 The term belongs to Fawaz Gerges, see his The Far Enemy: Why Jihad Went Global (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005), e.g., pp. 43 and 189. 6 I am grateful to Muhammad Haniff Hassan for helping me with this point. 7 Pew Research Center, “Islamic Extremism Common Concern for Muslim and Western Publics,” PEW Global Attitudes Project, 14 July 2005, http://www.pewglobal.org/2005/07/14/islamic-extremism-common-concern-for-muslim-and-western-publics/, last accessed 28 February 2012. 8 Pew Research Center, “The Global Divide: How Westerners and Muslims View Each Other,” PEW Global Attitudes Project, 22 June 2006, http://www.pewglobal.org/2006/06/22/the-great-divide-how-westerners-and-muslims-view-each-other/, last accessed 28 February 2012. 9 Pew Research Center, “America’s Image Slips, But Allies Share U.S. Concerns Over Iran, Hamas,” PEW Global Attitudes Project, 13 June 2006, http://www.pewglobal.org/2006/06/13/americas-image-slips-but-allies-share-us-concerns-over-iran-hamas/, last accessed 28 February 2012. 10 Pew Research Center, “A Rising Tide Lifts Mod in the Developing World,” PEW Global Attitudes Project, 24 July 2007, http:// pewglobal.org/reports/display.php?ReportID=257, last accessed 28 February 2012. 11 It is important not to confuse the Afghan mujahidin with the Arab mujahidin led by Abdullah Azzam and his protégé Osama bin Laden who came to support them. The two groups were culturally and religiously distinct.


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around the world. That structure was eliminated not long after the 2001 attacks, as the United States and its partners around the world demolished the hierarchy in the course of the “Global War on Terrorism.” At the same time, al-Qaeda rocketed to global fame and Osama bin Laden became a legendary figure around the world, renowned as the man who had struck back against the United States. The result of these two developments was an al-Qaeda that was more of an idea, a brand, scarcely distinguishable from Salafi jihadism itself. What began as a small conspiratorial group became a globalized terror industry and then a violent social movement. The 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center by Ramzi Yousef and his co-conspirators who were associated with the Egyptian Islamic Group (EIG), the initial effort to topple the Twin Towers, was the first occasion in which American intelligence analysts began to focus seriously on jihadists as a threat to the United States. In the wake of this attack, a few analysts sensed that a new type of terrorism was emerging, different from that of the radical leftist and ethnic or national groups that had carried out most previous attacks.12 These analysts began to focus intently on the Sunni jihadists, mostly Arabs, who were looking for their next battlegrounds after the expulsion of the Soviets from Afghanistan. One of these analysts, Gina Bennett, who worked at the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR), wrote a prescient paper in August 1993 in which she warned of an exodus from Afghanistan as “eager Arab youths” who had flocked to jihad against the Soviets started to look for new battlefields. The paper determined that this network was “fluid enough to withstand most government crackdowns.” Among the leading lights of this loose community was Osama bin Laden whose money had “enabled hundreds of Arab veterans to return to safe havens and bases in Yemen and Sudan, where they are training new fighters.” Buoyed by their victory over the Soviets, these fighters were inspired to continue their jihad against Middle East regimes, Israel, and the United States. In this context, the paper specifically mentioned the EIG as well as groups in Yemen and Algeria. It also highlighted the wars in Bosnia, Tajikistan, and Kashmir as attractive to the jihadists and mentioned spots as far flung as the Philippines, Somalia, and New York City as other venues to which jihadists had travelled from the Afghan battlefields.13 Whatever the merits of her analysis, Bennett toiled in an obscure office in INR, a bureau which had never had much clout in the State Department or the IC. There is no evidence that this work — or parallel analyses coming from her colleagues in CIA’s Counterterrorism Center (CTC) — made much of a splash anywhere. However, Bennett started to form alliances with like-minded individuals across the IC. In July 1995, many of Bennett’s ideas found their way into a rare National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), a product of the entire IC. The estimate noted that a “new breed” of terrorist had emerged.14 It pointed to the radical Islamist network formed in the Afghan War and warned that it was increasing its abilities to operate in the United States, speculating that civil aviation, the White House, the Capitol, and “symbols of U.S. capitalism such as Wall Street” might be particularly attractive targets.15 The year 1996 saw a substantial increase in the awareness of bin Laden’s organizing activities in the IC.16 This was also the year in which the CIA identified al-Qaeda by name and determined that bin Laden 12 Joint Inquiry into Intelligence Community Before and After the Terrorist Attacks of September 11, 2001, Report of the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and U.S. House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, 107th Congress, 2nd Session, December 2002, p. 4. 13 Department of State, Bureau of Intelligence and Research, “The Wandering Mujahidin: Armed and Dangerous,” Weekend Edition, 21-22 August 1993. This analysis has been declassified in full through the Freedom of Information Act and is available at http://blogs. law.harvard.edu/mesh/files/2008/03/wandering_mujahidin.pdf, last accessed 8 March 2011. 14 Joint Inquiry, p. 4. 15 Paul R. Pillar, “Good Literature and Bad History: The 9/11 Commission’s Tale of Strategic Intelligence,” Intelligence and National Security 21:6 (2006), p. 1029. On the 1995 Estimate, see also George Tenet, At the Center of the Storm: My Years at the CIA (New York: HarperCollins, 2007), p. 104. 16 Joint Inquiry, p. 4.


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was its leader. Putting together the fragments they had, analysts now realized that al-Qaeda maintained links with groups such as EIG and the Egyptian Islamic Jihad (EIJ).17 The number of analysts devoted to the problem started to grow. Among the leaders of this insurgent movement were Bennett at INR, Cynthia Storer in CTC, an analyst at NSA, and an analyst at DIA. There were also a few analysts around the Community who were starting to take another look at the Egyptian jihadist groups.18 In addition, in January 1996, CTC created a “virtual station” to track bin Laden and his associates.19 The station started with about 16 CIA officers, not all of them analysts, and eventually grew to about 40 from across the IC. 20 Its first chief was Michael Scheuer, a former analyst who became noted for his simultaneous respect and loathing for bin Laden. 21 The initial name of this station was “Terrorist Financial Links” (TFL). It then became the “Bin Laden Issue Station” before adopting the name “Alec,” after Scheuer’s son. 22 Alec Station became another organizational base for proselytizing the threat posed by bin Laden and al-Qaeda. The passion of the analysts in Alec Station made others uncomfortable; some CIA officers took to calling Scheuer and his largely female team of analysts “the Manson Family.” Indeed, other elements of the Directorate of Operations “hated” Alec Station, but inside the group people were so driven, Scheuer recalled, that “we had marriages break up, we had people who delayed operations they needed. People were working sixteen, seventeen hours a day, some of them seven days a week for years.” The ridicule merely stoked an us-versus-them mentality in the station that probably made the analysts hold all the more firmly to their views. 23 It was extremely difficult to spread the idea that the jihadists posed a serious threat. Sometimes when analysts in one agency were unable to get a new idea or finding published they would help colleagues in other agencies to publish it instead. This was a slow frustrating endeavor. 24 Three times before 9/11, Cynthia Storer came close to giving up the al-Qaeda portfolio in frustration. 25 One of the problems was that intelligence collection against this target was not an especially high priority at the time. Despite this fact, the few analysts who carved out time to follow the jihadist problem had succeeded in putting together scraps of raw intelligence to form a reasonably complete conceptual skeleton of al-Qaeda. In 1996, they saw their analyses validated. In the spring of that year, a founding member of al-Qaeda defected after embezzling money. In his head, he brought a blueprint of al-Qaeda, its worldwide operations, and its connections to other groups. For the first time, intelligence analysts could flesh out their understanding of al-Qaeda and confirm from the inside much of what was already assessed. AlQaeda, it now appeared, was a sophisticated entity with a command-and-control structure and a

17 Central Intelligence Agency, “Usama bin Laden: Islamist Extremist Financier,” 23 February 1996, Digital National Security Archive, item number TE01108. 18 Eric Schmitt and Thom Shanker, Counterstrike: The Untold Story of America’s Secret Campaign against Al Qaeda (New York: Times Books, 2011), p. 18. Interview with anonymous source, 30 June 2009. 19 Joint Inquiry, p. 4. 20 Ibid. 21 Interview with anonymous source, 30 June 2009. 22 Tenet, At the Center of the Storm, pp. 99-100. 23 9/11 Commission interview with David Cohen, 21 June 2004, http://cryptome.org/nara/cia/cia-04-0621.pdf, last accessed 28 February 2012. Philip Shenon, The Commission: The Uncensored History of the 9/11 Investigation (New York: Twelve, 2008), p. 190. 24 Interview with anonymous source, 14 September 2011. 25 Interview with former CIA analyst Cynthia Storer, International Spy Museum, “In the Counterterrorism Center on 9/11: One Analysts Story,” http://www.spymuseum.org/spycasts/counterterrorism-center-911-one-analyst%E2%80%99s-story, last accessed 28 February 2012.


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presence in some fifty countries. It even had ambitions to acquire WMD. Finally, it was at the center of a constellation of Salafi jihadist groups; al-Qaeda was not the entirety of the problem. 26 When George Tenet became the Director of Central Intelligence (DCI) on 31 July 1997, he was aware of bin Laden but initially he was not particularly concerned about him or the jihadists, being more focused on instability in Russia, the Chinese threat, and rogue states. 27 Over time, however, the issue became more and more prominent in his perceptions. He later recalled that “you simply could not sit where I did and read what passed across my desk on a daily basis and be anything other than scared to death about what it portended.”28 It was the surprise of the 7 August 1998 embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania that took bin Laden to the top of the agenda for Tenet. The CTC had written in 1997 and early 1998 that al-Qaeda was planning a major attack against American interests. These analyses had also said that al-Qaeda had a fatwa (an Islamic legal opinion) justifying suicide bombings, that it was present in Africa, that it had had a pattern of conducting multiple simultaneous attacks, and that it could conduct car bombings. Al-Qaeda had issued a statement in February warning of an attack, and the analysts’ knowledge of the group’s interpretation of the tenets of Islamic law pertaining to warnings and truces allowed them to conclude that the attack would come after May. 29 After the bombings, Tenet found himself confronted by an angry, sobbing CIA operations officer who told him “you are responsible for those deaths because you didn’t act on the information we had, when we could have gotten [bin Laden].”30 All along, the analytic community had been steadily deepening its understanding of the jihadist problem, though not without debates, for instance over the precise magnitude of the physical threat to American life and property posed by al-Qaeda. There had been a good deal of smaller-scale production and briefing going on, spreading the idea of the jihadist threat.31 After the 1998 embassy bombings, analytic production on the Salafi jihadists accelerated substantially. Analysts published papers on bin Laden’s political philosophy, the evolving goals of the jihadist movement, the operational style of al-Qaeda, and on how bin Laden exerted his command or influence over the movement. The morning publications ran literally hundreds of articles on the jihadism problem.32 Despite this flurry of productivity, the IC did not provide an authoritative depiction of the scale of the threat that the group posed to the United States. Nor did the IC assess al-Qaeda’s relationships with other governments.33 Its failure to address this question would come back to haunt the IC in 2002 and 2003 when suddenly the

26 Richard A. Clarke, Against All Enemies: Inside America’s War on Terror (New York: Free Press, 2004), p. 148. Also The 9/11 Commission Report: National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, “The Performance of the Intelligence Community,” Staff Statement No. 11, http://govinfo.library.unt.edu/911/staff_statements/staff_statement_11.pdf, last accessed 28 February 2012. 9/11 Commission, “Diplomacy,” Staff Statement No. 5, http://govinfo.unt.edu/911/staff_statements/staff_ statement_5.pdf, last accessed 28 February 2012. We do not know precisely what al-Fadl told the U.S. interrogators. However, he testified at length in court in 2001 and his testimony there is probably a reasonable outline of his debriefings. See United States District Court, Southern District of New York, “United States of America vs. Usama Bin laden, et. al,” 6 February 2001, http://fl1. findlaw.com/news.findlaw.com/hdocs/docs/binladen/binladen20601tt.pdf, last accessed 28 February 2012. 27 Steve Coll, Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001 (New York: Penguin Books, 2005), pp. 366-367. 28 George Tenet, At the Center of the Storm, p. 99. 29 Cynthia Storer, “Analytical Challenges on al-Qaeda Before 9/11,” in Ten Years Later: Insights on al-Qaeda’s Past and Future through Captured Records Conference Proceedings (Washington, D.C.: The Johns Hopkins University Center for Advanced Governmental Studies, 2012). 30 Coll, Ghost Wars, p. 405. Email from anonymous source, 11 November 2009. 31 Interview with anonymous source, 30 June 2009, 9/11 Commission, “The Performance of the Intelligence Community,” Staff Statement No. 11. 32 9/11 Commission, “The Performance of the Intelligence Community,” Staff Statement No. 11. 33 Ibid.


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importance of years of raw reporting would have to be hashed out among analysts in a matter of mere months. On the other hand, the fact that analysts did not deem it necessary to address the possibility that al-Qaeda might be linked with state sponsors was itself a sign of the erosion of the state-centric model of national security threats. As all this was taking place, Tenet joined the ranks of those below him who were viscerally dedicated to the problem. When the nature of the perpetrators of the embassy bombings became clear, DCI Tenet “declared war” on bin Laden and al-Qaeda. In a December 1998 memorandum to his senior subordinates, he wrote, “we must now enter a new phase in our effort against bin Laden...We are at War...I want no resources or people spared in this effort, either inside the CIA or the Community.”34 Tenet followed up his “declaration of war” with an unusual step. Concerned that formal analyses were not having sufficient impact, he began writing personal letters to senior Clinton Administration officials, a practice he continued into the Bush era. “My intention,” he recalled, “was not to cry wolf, and certainly not to scare the recipients out of their wits, although a careful reading of the letters would certainly have accomplished that.” He wrote the first letter on 18 December 1998. It said, in part, “I am greatly concerned by recent intelligence reporting indicating that Osama bin Laden is planning to conduct another attack against U.S. personnel or facilities soon...possibly over the next few days.” He wrote two more such letters in the remaining days of 1998 and then another one on 14 January 1999. Four more would follow later.35 Into this environment came the Millennium plots. Reporting indicated that al-Qaeda had entered the “execution phase” of perhaps five to fifteen simultaneous attacks around the world timed to coincide with the Millennium. Though CTC’s staffers were “tired and frustrated,” they coordinated a flurry of operational activity by the CIA and partner agencies, both American and foreign. Interestingly, these operations included engineering the arrest of 45 Hezbollah operatives in the Far East and running a disruption operation against the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence and Security, Hezbollah’s main backer. In the end, no attacks happened but several plots were clearly broken up, such as an attack on Los Angeles International Airport.36 The al-Qaeda analysts felt little sense of relief. It seemed to them that they had merely “dodged a bullet.”37 In the summer of 2000, the terrorist threat reporting picked up again. Then, on 12 October 2000, al-Qaeda attacked the U.S.S. Cole, a Navy destroyer on a port call in Aden, killing 17 sailors. However, information was not then available to prove that bin Laden or his senior deputies personally had control over the attack, and this fact thwarted retaliation, though al-Qaeda operatives were known to have been involved. Nevertheless, there was now a substantial degree of unanimity about al-Qaeda from the lowest echelon of analysts to the President. There might be quibbles about the precise extent of the physical threat that al-Qaeda posed, particularly by comparison with Hezbollah but no one denied that al-Qaeda was a serious threat. By the end of the Clinton Administration, the nations’ leaders were fully aware of the al-Qaeda problem and were devoting substantial energy to it. Then came the change of administrations as George W. Bush was sworn in as President on 20 January 2001. This turnover shattered the hard-won consensus that had been forged on the threat posed by the jihadists. The new Administration had to school itself on a wide variety of very complicated issues, all while lacking the nuanced image of the new terrorism that the previous Administration had taken so long to build.38 34 Quoted in Joint Inquiry, pp. 5-6. 35 Tenet, At the Center of the Storm, p. 142. 36 Ibid., pp. 124-126. Gina M. Bennet, National Security Mom: Why ‘Going Soft’ Will Make America Strong (Deadwood: WyattMacKenzie Publishing, 2008), p. 22. 37 International Spy Museum, “In the Counterterrorism Center on 9/11: One Analyst’s Story.” Bennet, National Security Mom, p. 23. 38 Tenet, At the Center of the Storm, p. 142.


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George Tenet described the new situation in the White House: It wasn’t that they didn’t care about Usama Bin Ladin or al Qaeda, or that they got rid of people who did....But at the top tier, there was a loss of urgency. Unless you have experienced terrorism on your watch — unless you have been on the receiving end of a 4:00AM phone call…it is hard to fully fathom the impact of such a loss. I know that you should be able to understand intellectually the significance of the threat, but there is nothing like being there when the bomb goes off to get your undivided attention.39 A few months later came the summer of 2001 when, in Tenet’s famous words, “the system was blinking red.”40 Intelligence poured in from every quarter, maddeningly short of details, but all seeming to suggest that in the jihadist community everyone was holding their breath waiting for something big. On 3 July, intelligence reporting indicated that bin Laden had promised his followers that an attack was near, a “Hiroshima” even, but there was no specificity. On 28 June and again on 10 July, the IC issued formal warnings that terrorist attacks could be expected to “have dramatic consequences on governments or cause major casualties” and that the “attack will occur with little or no warning.”41 This message was a difficult sell. Tenet recalled that one briefing he received from the head of CTC “literally made my hair stand on end.” He sought an immediate meeting with National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice who received the blunt warning that “there will be a significant terrorist attack in the coming weeks or months.”42 For his part, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld suspected that the flurry of signals intercepts pointing to an attack might be a hoax designed to sap America’s resources as it chased ghosts. He asked Tenet and NSA Director Michael Hayden to check the veracity of the reporting. They reported back that it was sound. 43 Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz and another Rumsfeld confidant, Steve Cambone, raised the same question with Tenet. 44 The daily Senior Executive Intelligence Brief (SEIB) that summer addressed sceptics with an article bluntly titled “Bin Ladin Threats Are Real.”45 Beyond publications in the SEIB, more than 40 articles dealing with bin Laden appeared in the President’s Daily Brief (PDB) that summer. 46 Each time an article ran, the President would ask his CIA PDB briefer what information there was suggesting that an attack might come inside the United States. This was the genesis of the famous August 6th PDB article, “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in US,” which was briefed to the President at his ranch in Crawford, Texas. 47 The piece gathered bits of evidence indicating that bin Laden and his followers had been interested for at least a few years in striking inside the United States, and might have attempted to do so in 1999 during the Millennium scare. However, ultimately, the article was speculating that such an attack might be in the offing but it provided no tangible information and little clue as to what the targets might be.

39 Ibid., p. 139. 40 National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States, The 9/11 Commission Report: Final Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States (New York: Norton, 2004), p. 259. 41 Tenet, At the Center of the Storm, pp. 149-150. 42 Ibid., p. 151. 43 Aid, Secret Sentry: The Untold Story of the National Security Agency (New York: Bloomsbury Press, 2009), pp. 213-214. 44 Tenet, At the Center of the Storm, p. 154. 45 9/11 Commission Report, p. 259. The Senior Executive Intelligence Brief went to the second tier of national security officials. The President’s Daily Brief went to the President and a small group of the most senior officials. 46 Ibid., p. 254. 47 Tenet, At the Center of the Storm, p. 158. See also Shenon, The Commission, p. 378. George W. Bush, Decision Points (New York: Crown Publishers, 2010), p. 135.


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After 11 September, the Administration made al-Qaeda a top priority in a sweeping manner. In the eyes of policymakers, al-Qaeda now became not only the foremost challenge, but it seemed linked or at least plausibly linked to numerous other adversaries, not just the other Salafi jihadist groups engaged in their own local struggles, but to rogue states and literally every inhabited continent. Al-Qaeda was present even in the United States, among American citizens. Suddenly, the Administration perceived this enemy as one of boundless bloodthirstiness and one that was actively seeking nuclear weapons and would not hesitate to use them. 48 Also after 9/11, religion was thrust front and center on the national security agenda. In tune with the Administration, Tenet put the CIA and the broader IC on a real war footing. One officer who served at this time recalls that the 9/11 attacks “fundamentally alter[ed]...how the Agency perceived its mission.”49 After the attacks, CIA analysts covering other hotspots were reassigned to the CTC and many others from all over the Directorate of Intelligence volunteered for duty in CTC.50 The new perception of mission also showed up in the surging emotions of the time. On 16 September, Tenet wrote a memo to his senior subordinates declaring “war” again.51 One analyst has commented that “people do not understand how goddamn dangerous we thought it was [after September 11]. The absence of solid information on additional threats was terrifying.”52 Intelligence collectors lowered their reporting thresholds and the CIA began publishing the “Threat Matrix,” a multipage document put together under Tenet’s personal supervision that went to the President every morning with the PDB. The matrix was more a project of intelligence compilation than intelligence analysis. It contained all the new threats that had emerged over the past day, no matter how vague. Everyone knew that most of them were probably bogus, but nobody knew which might turn out to be real.53 Exposure to the Threat Matrix made it difficult for its readers, and presumably its writers also, to view the world in the same way again.54 The very volume of reporting — largely a result of the lowering of the reporting threshold — seemed to underline the seriousness of the overall threat.55 One policymaker recalled that reading the Threat Matrix every day was “like being stuck in a room listening to loud Led Zeppelin music;” it induced “sensory overload” and “paranoia.”56 The Matrix continued going to the President until approximately 2004.57 The reading of these finished intelligence assessments and the kind of raw reports found in the Threat Matrix could have disorienting effects on policymakers. Though there had been hints before 11 September that al-Qaeda was interested in WMD, the consensus view outside of the bin Laden analysts had been that this was not a serious possibility. Now the possibility seemed all too real and the IC became exceedingly alert to the potential for attacks using WMD. The Deputy Attorney General found 48 Donald Rumsfeld, Known and Unknown: A Memoir (New York: Sentinel, 2011), pp. 355-356. “Transcript of President Bush’s Address,” 20 September 2011, http://archives.cnn.com/2001/US/09/20/gen.bush.transcript, last accessed 28 February 2012. 49 Melissa Boyle Mahle, Denial and Deception: An Insider’s View of the CIA (New York: Nation Books, 2004), p. 335. 50 Central Intelligence Agency, Office of Public Affairs, Devotion to Duty: Responding to the Terrorist Attacks of September 11, December 2010, pp. 29-30, https://www.cia.gov/libary/publications/additional-publications/devotion-to-duty/15601-pub-FINALweb.pdf, last accessed 28 February 2012. The author was in the Directorate of Intelligence at the time and witnessed this great movement of personnel. 51 DCI Tenet memo, “We’re at War,” 16 September 2001, http://foia.cia.gov, last accessed 28 February 2012. 52 Interview with anonymous source, 30 June 2009, Tenet, At the Center of the Storm, p. 342. 53 Garrett M. Graf, The Threat Matrix: The FBI at War in the Age of Global Terror (New York: Little Brown and Company, 2011), p. 344. 9/11 Commission interview with Major General Ronald Burgess, 10 November 2003, http://cryptome.org/nara/dod/dod-03-1110.pdf, last accessed 28 February 2012. 54 Graf, The Threat Matrix, p. 19. 55 Carle, The Interrogator, p. 274, pp. 294-295. Carle makes his comment in a broader context than just the Threat Matrix. 56 Jack L. Goldsmith, The Terror Presidency: Law and Judgment Inside the Bush Administration (New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 2007), p. 72. 57 Graf, The Threat Matrix, p. 426.


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that reading these documents about nuclear, biological, or chemical threats over months and years though, eventually led one to “imagine a threat so severe that it becomes an obsession.”58 As early as 14 September 2001 the CIA briefed the President about the possibility of WMD attacks in the United States.59 Soon, records captured in Afghanistan seemed to confirm that al-Qaeda had indeed been making serious efforts in this direction. In November 2001, the IC began to receive reports suggesting that al-Qaeda might be close to acquiring a nuclear or radiological weapon. This captured the President’s attention, particularly when reports started to come in that a nuclear device of some type had been smuggled into the United States and would be taken to New York City. The government publicly issued a warning of possible attacks, though without mentioning nuclear weapons. Though such threats ebbed and flowed over time, there was a constant drumbeat of them for years.60 Chemical and biological weapons in the hands of terrorists were also a major concern. A January 2003 CIA paper was open to the possibility of WMD cooperation between Iraq and al-Qaeda, stating that “the general pattern that emerges is of al-Qaeda’s enduring interest in acquiring CBW [chemical/biological weapon] expertise from Iraq.” This paper leaned heavily on information from interrogations of Ibn alShaykh al-Libi, a senior al-Qaeda operational planner who had been interrogated by a foreign intelligence service.61 The al-Libi information also made its way into a January 2003 NIE on Nontraditional Threats to the US Homeland Through 2007. However, the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) was more sceptical about the reporting and repeatedly published analyses making that clear. The DIA was eventually vindicated when al-Libi recanted, saying that he had made the story up under torture by the foreign service.62 The question of state sponsorship of al-Qaeda occasioned a great deal of controversy between the Administration and the IC. While there was general agreement that Iran, initially cooperative with American operations against the Taliban in Afghanistan, was being insufficiently helpful in detaining al-Qaeda members who had sought refuge there, the Administration’s belief in the importance of state sponsors of the Salafi jihadists found its boldest expression in the link perceived by many in the Administration between Iraq and al-Qaeda.63 Early on these suspicions seemed to be confirmed when the Czech intelligence service told the CIA that it had information that an Iraqi intelligence officer had met with Mohammed Atta, the leader of the 9/11 hijacking operation, in Prague in April 2001. However, by mid-2002, the FBI and CIA had cast grave doubt on this report, though they were never able to definitively prove that the meeting had not taken place.64 In September 2001, the CIA prepared a short paper for PDB recipients about the possible relationship between Iraq and the 11 September 2001 attacks. At the request of a senior official the Agency prepared another paper in October 2001 looking at Iraq’s relationship with terrorism writ large. Neither of these papers has been released or publicly described in detail, but in mid-2002, the CIA produced a paper called “Iraq and al-Qaeda: Interpreting a Murky Relationship” that became a cause célèbre. The paper said that

58 Goldsmith, The Terror Presidency, p. 72. 59 Bush, Decision Points, p. 144. 60 Tenet, At the Center of the Storm, pp. 259-280. Bob Woodward, Plan of Attack (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2004), pp. 46-47. George Tenet, “DCI Threat Testimony: Converging Dangers in a Post-9/11 World,” 6 February 2002, https://www.cia.gov/ news-information/speeches-testimony/2002/senate_select_hearing_03192002.html, last accessed 28 February 2012. Schmitt and Shanker, Counterstrike, p. 27. 61 Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Postwar Findings about Iraq’s WMD Programs and Links to Terrorism and How they Compare with Prewar Assessments, 109th Congress, 8 September 2006, pp. 75-76, 82. 62 Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Postwar Findings about Iraq’s WMD Programs, pp. 76-82. 63 See Rumsfeld, Known and Unknown, p. 374, with regard to Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz. 64 9/11 Commission Report, pp. 228-229.


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that “our [analytic] approach is purposely aggressive in seeking to draw connections, on the assumption that any indication of a relationship between these two hostile elements could carry great dangers to the United States.” The Iraq experts from the Office of Near East and South Asian Analysis (NESA) tended to believe that ideological differences would keep Saddam and bin Laden from cooperating. The terrorism analysts from CTC, however, while noting the ideological differences between Salafi jihadists and Ba’athists, tended to credit reporting that suggested that there had been some sort of relationship in the past. Both sides agreed that no conclusive answer was possible, but even after eight months of coordination, they could get no closer than that. Eventually, CTC disseminated the paper to policymakers over NESA’s objections.65 In January 2003, the CIA produced a paper assessing Iraqi support for terrorism. With regard to the Iraq-al-Qaeda relationship, the updated version said that “reporting from sources of varying reliability points to a number of contacts, incidents of training, and discussions of Iraqi safe haven for Osama bin Laden and his organization dating from the early 1990s.”66 Overall, however, the paper concluded that the relationship between Iraq and al-Qaeda most closely “resemble[d] that of two organizations trying to feel out or exploit each other.”67 In the first years after the 2001 attacks, there was an increased realization among many people in the intelligence business of the importance of religion as a factor in national security and as the animating spirit of al-Qaeda and its allies and affiliates. At this time, a current of thought surfaced within the IC that the problem was Islam itself. This perspective was particularly strong within the military and may have had a few adherents in the CTC. Analysts at NSA, State/INR and the regional offices at the CIA subscribed minimally, if at all, to the view.68 Some people made this argument from an explicitly Christian perspective. For instance, Lieutenant General William G. Boykin, the Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence, spoke for many evangelical Christians in the military in 2003 when he publicly characterized the war on terrorism as a war between the forces of Jesus and Satan.69 Others made the intellectual argument that the traditional American disinclination to consider religion in a national security context had to change as the United States faced an adversary which was fighting a religious war. One said that the United States was “disarmed in the war of ideas.”70 Another warned that “this [intellectual] journey will be profoundly uncomfortable.”71 In April 2005, the Joint Military Intelligence College published a deeply-researched monograph by Major Stephen Lambert, a former student, entitled in self-conscious emulation of George F. Kennan’s work on the Soviet Union and containment in the 1950’s, Y: The Sources of Islamic Revolutionary Conduct. Lambert tried to determine “why the religion of peace seems to perpetually produce passionate warriors for Allah.” He concluded that the answer lay in Islam itself, that the Islamic revolutionaries of al-Qaeda and 65 Tenet, At the Center of the Storm, pp. 344-345. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Report on the U.S. Intelligence Community’s Prewar Intelligence Assessments on Iraq, 108th Congress, 7 July 2004, pp. 304-307, http://www.gpoaccess.gov/ serialset/creports/pdf/s108-301/sec12.pdf, last accessed 28 February 2012. Senate Carl Levin has released a copy of the “Murky Relationship” paper, heavily redacted by the CIA, “Iraq and al-Qaeda Interpreting a Murky Relationship,” 21 June 2002, http://www. levin.senate.gov/newsroom/press/release/?id=6501a80c-6176-4714-8bb1-09bae0710c61, last accessed 28 February 2012. 66 Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Report on the U.S. Intelligence Community’s Prewar Intelligence Assessments on Iraq, pp. 313-314. 67 Department of Defense, Inspector General, Review of the Pre-Iraqi War Activities of the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, 9 February 2007, http://www.dodig.mil/fo/Foia/pre-iraqi.htm, last accessed 28 February 2012. 68 Email from anonymous source, 21 July 2011. Interview with anonymous source, 17 August 2011. Interview with anonymous source, 18 August 2011. 69 “US is ‘Battling Satan’ says General,” British Broadcasting Company 17 October 2003, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/ americas/3199212.stm, last accessed 28 February 2012. 70 Stephen C. Coughlin, “To Our Great Detriment”: Ignoring What Extremists Say about Jihad, unpublished Master’s thesis, National Defense Intelligence College, July 2007, p. 224. 71 Stephen P. Lambert, Y: The Sources of Islamic Revolutionary Conduct (Washington: Joint Military Intelligence College, April, 2005), p. xvi.


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other groups, “have not hijacked their religion…[I]nstead, they are Islamic purists, who passionately follow the example of their beloved Prophet Mohammad.”72 The most publicly prominent of these critics was Major Stephen Coughlin, an Army intelligence officer who became a controversial adviser to the Pentagon on the subject of Islamic law. He argued that the Americans responsible for prosecuting the war on terrorism must understand key Islamic ideas, particularly the idea of jihad. Urging the application of the military doctrine of “intelligence preparation of the battlefield” to the war on terrorism, he maintained that existing understandings of the enemy were intellectually and strategically untenable. He argued that the “Current Approach” assumed that Islamic-based extremism was “aberrant” and that its practitioners had “hijacked” the religion. The implication of this assumption, he warned, would be that “true” Islam would be unjustifiably “excluded from analytical processes that support threat development.”73 CIA analysts did not tend to support these views, and in about 2004, some of them started to fight back. They agreed with Coughlin and others that Islam was relevant to threat anlaysis, and they acknowledged the power and coherence of al-Qaeda’s ideas and its genuine links to the rest of Islam, but they also emphasized the marginality of the Salafi jihadists in the Muslim community. Perhaps, they suggested, al-Qaeda was not merely a “network” but also an idea, or a brand, or even a sputtering social movement. After all, the Salafi jihadists, a small minority within the Salafi community, itself a small minority within the Sunni community, wished to spread their action-oriented understanding of the faith to the other approximately 1.5 billion Muslims who in their view were practicing corrupt versions of Islam. Furthermore, in the years following the 9/11 attacks, the term “al-Qaeda” had came to refer in various contexts to various things. First was “al-Qaeda Central,” the conspiratorial group led by Osama bin Laden. Second was al-Qaeda Central plus the groups allied and affiliated with it, many of which had taken the al-Qaeda name. These included many groups of greater or lesser longevity such as al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, al-Qaeda in Iraq, the Afghan Taliban, Jemaah Islamiyah, the Caucasus Emirate, and others. Third was all of those plus the very idea of Salafi jihadism and everyone down to the disconnected cells and “lone wolves” inspired by it. DCI Tenet laid out much of this thinking in his 2004 testimony before Congress when he said that al-Qaeda’s “leadership structure” had been seriously damaged, “but as we continue the battle…we must overcome…a global movement infected by al-Qaeda’s radical agenda.” He said that for a decade bin Laden “had a vision of rousing Islamic terrorists worldwide to attack the United States” and that this vision was beginning to come to fruition as smaller groups, some international in their perspective and others only local, matured under al-Qaeda’s wing. Moreover, “beyond these groups,” were “individuals ready to fight anywhere they believe Muslim lands are under attack....They draw on broad support networks, have wide appeal, and enjoy a growing sense of support from Muslims who are not necessarily supporters of terrorism.”74 In approximately 2005, Cynthia Storer and her colleagues, including Gina Bennett, received a request to put the al-Qaeda phenomenon into a “holistic context.” The result was the “Ziggurat of Zealotry,” a graphic model of the Islamist community that situated the jihadists in a meaningful Islamic context. The “Ziggurat” paper was an instant hit with the policy community, and CIA analysts briefed it widely.75 Policymakers, uncomfortable with considering religion as a national security issue but also unable to 72 Ibid., pp. xv-xvi, 130. 73 Coughlin, To Our Great Detriment, p. 18. 74 George Tenet, “The Worldwide Threat 2004: Challenges in a Changing Global Context,” 24 February 2004, https://www.cia.gov/ news-information/speeches-testimony/2004/tenet_testimony_03092004.html, last accessed 28 February 2012. Tenet’s successor as DCI, Porter Goss, also referred to al-Qaeda and the “broader Sunni jihadi movement” in 2005. Porter Goss, “Testimony of DCI Goss before Senate Armed Services Committee,” 17 March 2005, https://www.cia.gov/news-information/speeches-testimony/2005/ Goss_testimony_03172005.html, last accessed 28 February 2012. 75 Interview with anonymous source, 30 June 2009.


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avoid the question, found in the Ziggurat a way of acknowledging the religious component of the “Global War on Terrorism” while avoiding the proposition that Islam itself was the enemy. The Ziggurat itself was a stepped pyramid on which each level portrayed a jump in radicalism. At the bottom of the Ziggurat were peaceful Muslims simply seeking to lead pious lives. One step up were Islamists who sought to affect social change through education and persuasion. A level above them were radicals who actively sought the overthrow by whatever means could be effective of what they viewed as “apostate” or otherwise illegitimate governments in their home countries. Inhabiting this step were such groups as HAMAS and some branches of the Muslim Brotherhood. Above them were those who abandoned politics and prioritized violence in their attempts to overthrow the “apostate” governments but who were content to live within the nation-state system. At the very apex of the pyramid was the small community of violent radicals such as the members of al-Qaeda who sought to destroy or at least neutralize the West and the present nation-state system and used violence around the globe to bring about this result.76 Then, in April 2006 a new NIE continued this trend toward seeing a more diffuse, ideologically-based threat characterized at least as well by the word “movement” as by the word “network.” One of its key findings was that the global jihadist movement was decentralized, had no coherent overall strategy, and was spreading itself broadly over the globe even though it remained numerically small. Indeed, it found, terrorist cells might even be “self-radicalized.” Importantly, it added that the jihadists’ desired end state was unpopular among the vast majority of Muslims around the world and that some major Muslim clerics had recently come out against the jihadists, perhaps enabling the establishment of Islamicallyinformed peaceful political activism.77 By now, the analysts had made clear the weakness of the link between the Salafi jihadists and the broader Islamic world. It became obvious to the nation’s leadership that this was a point of strategic weakness for the jihadists but this weakness could not the addressed through “kinetic” military means. Accordingly, the phrase “the War on Terrorism” became less and less satisfactory because it seemed to imply the application of only “kinetic” measures. When the Obama Administration came to power in 2009, it decided that it would increase the relative emphasis on non-kinetic measures to break the jihadists’ link to other Muslims and to widen the resulting gap. The primary goal of this “countering violent extremism” initiative was to stop the process of radicalization through noncoercive measures including social programs, counter-ideology initiatives, and the delegitimization of al-Qaeda’s narrative.78 The Obama Administration enshrined this idea in its 2011 National Strategy for Counterterrorism, which said that al-Qaeda preyed on local grievances, propagating a “self-serving historical and political account” and drawing on a “distorted interpretation of Islam.” “Countering this ideology — which has been rejected repeatedly and unequivocally by people of all faiths around the world — is,” it said, “an essential element of our strategy.”79 On 1 May 2011, a team of U.S. Navy SEALS operating under the command of CIA Director Leon Panetta killed Osama bin Laden at his home in Abbottabad, Pakistan.80 Analysts exploiting the materials 76 Jonathan Shainen, “The Ziggurat of Zealotry,” New York Times Magazine, 10 December 2006, http://www.nytimes. com/2006/12/10/magazine/10secton4.t-11.html?_r=1&ex=1166590800&en=0ef1451c0d0e9cc5&ei=5070, last accessed 28 February 2012. 77 Director of National Intelligence, “Declassified Key Judgments of the National Intelligence Estimate ‘Trends in Global Terrorism: Implications for the United States’ dated April 2006,” http://www.dni.gov/press_releases/Declassified_NIE_Key_Judgments.pdf, last accessed 28 February 2012. 78 Daniel Benjamin, Coordinator, Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism, Testimony Before the Emerging Threats and Capabilities Subcommittee of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Washington, DC, 10 March 2010, http://www.state.gov/s/ct/ rls/rm/2010/138175.htm, last accessed 28 February 2012. 79 President Barack Obama, National Strategy for Counterterrorism, June 2011, p. 3. 80 “CIA Chief Panetta: Obama Made ‘Gutsy’ Decision on Bin Laden Raid,” PBS Newshour, 3 May 2011, http://www.pbs.org/newshour/ bb/terrorism/jan-june11/panetta_05-03.html, last accessed 28 February 2012.


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captured there found that he had continued to plot attacks against the United States but that he was frustrated that al-Qaeda’s message was not catching on among Muslims and that al-Qaeda’s regional affiliates were still not in a position to make even preliminary steps toward establishing the caliphate. He and his subordinates were also concerned about the group’s financial problems and damage being done to the group particularly by American drone strikes.81 In July 2011, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, who had moved to his new job from the CIA only days before, told reporters that he believed that the “strategic defeat” of al-Qaeda was “within reach.”82 Not all intelligence personnel were so sanguine, however. Recently retired director of the National Counterrorism Center Michael Leiter and other U.S. officials warned that even if al-Qaeda Central — the clandestine organization headed by Osama bin Laden and then Ayman Zawhiri — were to be defeated, al-Qaeda’s affiliates were far from vanquished. Leiter also maintained that the threat to the American homeland was much changed from the early 2000s, having evolved from a threat of large-scale attack to one of small-scale attack. Some officials said that the death of bin Laden was important not only because he kept the network focused on the “far enemy,” the United States, but also because his charisma was inextricable from the al-Qaeda brand which had inspired the creation of affiliates across the Muslim world.83 During the 20 some years since the end of the Soviet-Afghan war in 1989, American intelligence has had many perceptions of the Salafi jihadist threat which manifested itself so dramatically on 11 September 2001. Seldom if ever has there been a single understanding of al-Qaeda and its affiliates. Early on, a small group of insurgent analysts spread across the IC seized on the problem and waged a campaign to spread their apparently alarmist views. After 11 September 2001, analysts and policymakers began to focus on and debate the ideological and religious aspects of the jihadist threat. Eventually, al-Qaeda as an idea, rather than as merely an organization took hold and this enabled the development of new American strategies. Analysts also vigorously debated the nature and extent of al-Qaeda’s links with nation states. Of course, at the same time that all of this was happening, the objective reality of the enemy was changing. Therefore, even the most insightful analysts always lagged in their understanding. However, the years of analysis interacting with real world events had led to an overthrowing of the presumptions that terrorism was not important, that state sponsorship was necessarily behind any substantial terrorist group, and that religion was a negligible factor in security affairs.

81 Greg Miller, “Bin Laden Document Trove Reveals Strain on al-Qaeda,” Washington Post, 1 July 2011. 82 Mathieu Rabechault, “Strategic Defeat of al Qaeda ‘Within Reach’: Panetta,” Jakarta Globe, 10 July 2011, http://www. thejakartaglobe.com/home/strategic-defeat-of-al-qaeda-within-reach-panetta/451895, last accessed 28 February 2012. 83 Aspen Institute, “ASF 2011 Counterterrorism: Past, Present, and Future with Michael Leiter,” http://www.aspeninstitute.org/ video/counterterrorism-past-present-future-michael-leiter, last accessed 28 February 2012.


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Working with al-Qaeda Documents: An Analyst’s View before 9/11 Ms. Cynthia Storer Coastal Carolina University Until recently, much of what had been written about general analytic performance in the U.S. Intelligence Community (IC) before the 9/11 attacks did not reflect a genuine understanding of working with the kinds of materials the Conflict Records Research Center (CRRC) makes available, under real world pressures, and in an intelligence bureaucracy. This has led to ubiquitous references in subsequent scholarly articles and speeches by public servants to analytic “failure” followed by “if only the analysts thought of things the way I do or knew what I know,” which in turn is too often followed by analysis that exhibits a failure to learn what analysts have already learned from their vast experience with primary resources on al-Qaeda. Fortunately, some individuals such as Mark Stout,1 Amy Zegart, 2 and Steve Marin3 are beginning to publish studies that offer the analysts’ perspectives. This paper offers additional insight into the analytical challenges faced by analysts before 9/11, the ways they tackled those challenges, and, from these, some lessons for the academic and intelligence communities about how to approach and work with primary documents on al-Qaeda. Some may ask why one should give credence to “lessons” coming from analysts who “failed.” This is a tale not of analytic failure, but of bureaucratic resistance to change. Even the most forward-leaning of organizations, which I count the CIA among, were hard-pressed to grapple with the world emerging from the near simultaneous collapse of the Soviet Union, revolution in Iran, and a rapidly expanding Islamic extremist movement fueled by the war in Afghanistan. Ironically, the quality and fragmented nature of the kind of documents the CRRC makes available contributed both to good strategic and operational analysis on al-Qaeda, as well as to doubts and ambiguities of the kind that scholars face today about al-Qaeda’s goals, structure, and capabilities. These uncertainties made it difficult for analysts to break through higher-level bureaucratic mindsets hardened by half a century of antiSoviet competition. In order to explore lessons from this experience that are relevant to researchers today, it is necessary to briefly review the analytic record on al-Qaeda prior to 2001. From the beginning of the AfghanSoviet war, CIA analysts and operations officers were aware of, and building a record on, the presence of individuals and organizations from throughout the world who were helping the Afghan mujahidin. While an analyst on Afghanistan in the early-to-mid 1990s, I was tasked with packing up many of the analytic files to be sent to the record center. From that exercise, and from talking with many officers in the following years, my impression was that while reporting on what came to be referred to as the “Afghan Arabs” was never a priority, the important developments were noted and appropriate concern was raised. If I recall correctly, there was even a National Intelligence Daily article in the early-to-mid 1980s that highlighted the potential threat posed by the presence of Islamic extremist organizations in Afghanistan. 4 But as so often happens in wartime, anything that might be a distraction from, or complication to, winning the war was often pushed aside to be dealt with later.

1 Mark Stout, “The Evolution of Intelligence Assessments of al-Qaeda to 2011” in Ten Years Later: Insights on al-Qaeda’s Past & Future through Captured Records Conference Proceedings (Washington, D.C.: Johns Hopkins University Center for Advanced Governmental Studies, 2012). 2 Amy Zegart, Spying Blind: The CIA, the FBI, and the Origins of 9/11 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2007). 3 Stephen Marin, “The 9/11 Terrorist Attacks: A Failure of Policy Not Strategic Intelligence Analysis,” Intelligence and National Security, May 2007. 4 The National Intelligence Daily was the CIA’s daily analytical publication for policymakers at that time.


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Shortly after the Soviet Union withdrew from Afghanistan and the attention of the Afghan analysts turned toward assessment of the post-Soviet period, some veteran CIA officers, especially Michael Scheuer, turned their focus to Arabs. At the same time, Afghan analysts found their inboxes beginning to flood with tales of what the “Arab”5 veterans of the Afghan war were doing around the world as they left Afghanistan, especially those conducting terrorist attacks in their home countries or fighting guerilla wars against Russian forces in the former Soviet republics. A small group of CIA analysts, including Scheuer, had already zeroed in on Osama bin Laden as the primary sponsor for these groups. We knew enough by 1991 to lobby hard for inclusion of the potential threat from bin Laden and his associates in assessments of the potential repercussions of war with Iraq. Despite support from some forward-thinking Saudi analysts, who were assessing the Islamic Awakening in that country, we did not succeed. This was not the last time that strategic foresight by analysts and operations officers would be disregarded or even belittled. The CIA analysts concluded early that the mujahidin training camps that had been set up during the Afghan-Soviet war were turning out individuals, and even whole units, for fights in other parts of the world. We highlighted the increased potential threat from terrorism worldwide, including to the United States, and named bin Laden as an important financer and sponsor of this activity along with Abdallah Azzam6 and Egyptian terrorist groups. A President’s Daily Brief (PDB) article based on these conclusions had been languishing with the PDB staff for about two weeks prior to the 1993 World Trade Center (WTC) bombing because “no one had requested it.” As a product of analytic initiative, it had a low priority for publication. The result of this neglect could have been anticipated. One of the analysts took a call from the PDB staff on the morning of the bombing and was asked, “Do you know anything about these Arab Afghans?” While this effort was underway, the same very small group of people at CIA — three to four on the analytic side, plus a few on the operations side — were simultaneously working on the Afghan civil war and numerous refugee crises; Afghan relations with other countries, Afghan views on the Landmine Convention, and Afghan participation in the burgeoning civil conflicts in Central Asia; establishing relations with the new intelligence services there; determining the fate of Russian prisoners of war; assessing the changing U.N. and non-governmental organizations’ presence in Afghanistan; and, a host of small issues. At the same time, information collection resources were dwindling due to Congressional desire for a post-Cold War “peace dividend” and what I think of as “Afghan fatigue syndrome.” Meanwhile, the FBI was focused on prosecuting Ramzi Yousef and other WTC ‘93 suspects. The information gathered for this criminal prosecution, including the material seized from Yousef and his associates, was for the most part sequestered from analysts at CIA for fear of jeopardizing the case. By 1995, Counterterrorism Center (CTC)7 analysts were not even permitted to meet with FBI analysts on the case.8 In 1995 the CIA set up the Terrorist Financial Links (TFL) unit under Scheuer, whose focus, though not sole “target,” was Osama bin Laden. The first order of business was, and had to be, gathering together 5 We used the word “Arab” for convenience. Most mujahidin were from the Arab world, but some were from one of dozens of countries worldwide. 6 While naming Azzam the “godfather” of the mujahidin, analysts recognized his differences with bin Laden and did not accuse him of sponsoring terrorism. 7 The Counterterrorist Center was established in 1986 with the mission of tracking down and rendering terrorists to justice. It did not become the Counterterrorism Center until after 9/11, when there was finally broad acknowledgement that the mission had changed. 8 Much of this was due to overly cautious interpretations of ambiguous legislation and policy, which the Patriot Act later clarified. This was not unique to the FBI.


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the scattered bits of what was known, what the CIA had already said, and what means of collection were available. Scheuer’s unit also undertook a worldwide campaign to gather intelligence from other governments on what was known globally about these “Afghan Arabs.” Putting together what is already known somewhere in the system is an early and necessary step in the scientific method which also, from an intelligence perspective, saves resources and reduces risk. Why risk a human life where simply asking a question of a friendly — or even not so friendly — foreign intelligence service will suffice? This, I imagine, is why Scheuer’s analysts, hired analysts from the Directorate of Intelligence and practiced at piecing together information to make a comprehensive whole, were so successful. The CTC in 1995 was at a low point organizationally. This was yet another example of bureaucratic resistance to acknowledging the realities of a changing world. For example, there were only ten analysts present at any one time to cover the planet. Over the next three years, I slowly managed to carve out more and more of my time to work on bin Laden. It is important to note that despite this in hindsight almost incomprehensible lack of strategic preparation, the CIA was in fact one of the first organizations to set up a CTC and to focus an entire unit on bin Laden.9 By 1996, a handful of dedicated people in at least four government agencies — CIA, FBI, Bureau of Intelligence and Research at the Department of State (INR), and Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) — managed, despite tremendous odds, to put together a fairly comprehensive picture of alQaeda. This picture was considerably expanded by 1998. Analysts knew so much, in fact, that when al-Qaeda defector Jamal al-Fadl told his story that year, the agencies knew they had the “real deal” because his story confirmed what the analysts had pieced together. He added detail and context. By the spring of 1998, I had completed a paper outlining the organization: its goals, intentions, organization, capabilities, levels of association with other groups, and even the pattern of past attacks it had been associated with in some way. This draft was never published, and therefore never evaluated or taken into account by the 9/11 Commission, but it was briefed to President Clinton after the bombing of the U.S. embassies in Africa in August 1998. Analysts in INR and DIA had published shorter papers, and some analysts in the FBI had developed a good picture of al-Qaeda as well. I was prevented from meeting with my counterparts in the New York field office, by whom was never clear to me. One of these analyst, Mary Deborah Doran, claimed at the last open hearing of the 9/11 Commission that the FBI was the first, and “only” organization by 1998, to have figured out al-Qaeda.10 Imagine what intelligence agencies could have achieved if analysts had been able to meet and compare notes. It is worth noting too that some analysts knew, and warned, in 1997 and early 1998 that al-Qaeda was planning a large anti-U.S. attack, was capable of conducting car bombings, had a fatwa justifying suicide bombings, had a pattern of conducting multiple simultaneous attacks, and had an operational presence in Africa. Al-Qaeda’s statement in February gave us an inkling of the planned timing of their attack on the U.S. embassies — sometime after May 11 — and we were frantically running down leads in Africa and Europe, among other places. The intelligence agencies simply ran out of time.

9 The 9/11 Commission Report: Final Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2004). 10 Doran’s official written statement is available at http://govinfo.library.unt.edu/911/hearings/hearing12.htm, last accessed 28 February 2012. It does not contain this statement. I attended the hearings and can attest that what was said there is not what is in the official written statement. 11 The February 1998 fatwa prominently quoted from Quran 9:5 “And when the sacred months have passed, then kill the polytheists wherever you find them and capture them and besiege them and sit in wait for them at every place of ambush.” This verse refers to the Treaty of Hudaybiya, in which Muhammad gave the Meccans three months to sign a treaty or face his army. In 1998, these three months encompassed roughly the time period between mid-February and mid-May.


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Lessons Learned How analysts achieved this level of knowledge and ability to warn despite the odds, which carried through the October 2000 U.S.S. Cole bombing, the January 2000 Millennial Attacks planning, and into September of 2001 — and continues today — carries lessons for researchers working in the al-Qaeda records, or on any other terrorist entity, now. Lesson 1. Love and respect ambiguity and uncertainty: do not fear them. Terrorists are a “hard target.”  One will never have a complete picture, so constantly assessing gaps in knowledge is key.  This requires holding conflicting mental models all the time.  There is no contradiction between this and “figuring out al-Qaeda” by 1996. One useful analogy is the proverbial “box.” Analysts had the outlines of the box and some of the contents by 1996, but the borders were dashed, not solid lines, and some key contents were missing, damaged, or mixed up. Another analogy is the old joke about the blind man and the elephant. Analysts knew they had a large animal rather than a forest (legs) or a snake (trunk), but debated whether that large animal was an elephant, rhinoceros, or something else. Whatever it was, they knew it was dangerous.

So while teaching inductive and deductive reasoning is the fashion these days, analysis of the CRRC records and other research materials should be an abductive process. The focus should be on building the best possible hypotheses based on what is known, as it is for all intelligence work, rather than overstating a case to support one thesis, or “right answer.” The Butte College definition is directly applicable to intelligence analysis: “Abductive reasoning typically begins with an incomplete set of observations and proceeds to the likeliest possible explanation for the set. Abductive reasoning yields the kind of daily decision-making that does its best with the information at hand, which often is incomplete.”12 The downside of the deductive approach is that if one begins with one hypothesis, it is very easy to “cherry pick” fragmented information to “prove” it. Much is known about this in reference to the Bush Administration’s analytic shenanigans, including the Department of Defense’s 2002-2003 parallel analytical effort under Douglas Feith.13 The downside of the inductive approach is that if you begin with one “case” and assume you have all the relevant material, you will overdraw your conclusions. In my opinion, the authors of the New York Police Department (NYPD) study on “homegrown” terrorists14 and Marc Sageman,15 in his analysis of al-Qaeda, make this mistake. Sageman did a great service in publishing in the open world what we had long known about al-Qaeda’s membership. However, he had a relatively small dataset with glaring holes, and overdrew broader conclusions based on that small set. In an example of the abductive approach, CIA analysts assembled the picture of al-Qaeda in the mid1990s. We young women — myself in the Directorate of Intelligence (DI)16 component of CTC together with the women of the TFL unit, the operational component — were painstakingly piecing together bits of data collected in a variety of ways, and driving further collection by the CIA Directorate of Operations (DO) and other intelligence organizations. I, for one, had developed a database of sorts 12 “Deductive. Inductive, and Abductive Reasoning,” Butte College, http://butte.edu/departments/cas/tipsheets/thinking/ reasoning.html, undated, last accessed 28 February 2012. 13 “Report on the U.S. Intelligence Community’s Prewar Intelligence Assessments on Iraq,” 7 July 2004, Senate Committee on Intelligence, 108th Congress, http://web.mit.edu/simsong/www/iraqreport2-textunder.pdf, p. 457, last accessed 28 February 2012. 14 Mitchell D. Silber and Arvin Bhatt, “Radicalization in the West: The Homegrown Threat,” New York City Police Department, 2007, http://www.nyc.gov/html/nypd/downloads/pdf/public_information/NYPD_Report-Radicalization_in_the_West.pdf, last accessed 28 February 2012. 15 Marc Sageman, Understanding Terror Networks (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004). 16 CTC was run by the DO but included an analytic section also under the DI. TFL was in the DO section; I was in the DI section and so did not work for Scheuer.


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using Microsoft Word, Excel, and various hard copy maps. This was in the days before “I2 Analyst’s Notebook” and similar programs.17 One of our first insights was that most of these attacks had some connection to Peshawar, Pakistan. To help policymakers visualize the atmosphere in Peshawar, I used to compare it to the Star Wars (Episode 4) bar on the planet Tatooine. This helped those unfamiliar with the Afghan situation to imagine the wide variety of people present in Peshawar and therefore grasp how difficult it was to sort out who was who, much less who was connected to attacks in what way. Once we began focusing on the networks radiating from Peshawar, a few things troubled us because they defied conventional wisdom. Sunni Islamic extremists, unlike the Shia of Hezbollah, were said to be “ad hoc” “groups of guys,” in part because “everyone knew” that Arabs of different nationalities were incapable of working together. If that was true, why were we seeing information that hinted at budgets and accounting? Why were individuals from various nationalities passing what looked like orders to each other? Most important, why were all roads leading back to Peshawar? Afghan veterans were not just passing through, but there were safe houses, financial coordination, training, and acquisition. Eventually, it became clear to us that the center of this activity was a man known to be close to bin Laden — his executive officer, a position often referred to as the “Number 3” — Muhammad Atef, known as Abu Hafs al-Masri.18 That prompted us to focus on Atef and his activities, to follow the threads from him out to associated individuals and activities, and to assess the content and quality of those relationships. During this process, analysts’ ability to consider multiple ways to combine the data was essential. One day in 1996, I realized that what I had diagrammed was an organizational structure of some sort: a hierarchical organization with bin Laden at the top. Once that realization hit, other pieces started to fit into place. Shortly thereafter, we gained insights from Jamal al-Fadl. This process never ended; the adversary evolved even as our analysis and counterterrorism efforts evolved. Al-Qaeda headquarters moved from Sudan to Kandahar, cells were uncovered all over the world, individuals came and went, the United States invaded Afghanistan after the 9/11 attacks, and al-Qaeda moved again. During this time, information often arrived out of chronological order, and as noted by the WMD Commission, sometimes years could go by without certain categories of information because the reporting stream was lost.19 This process put counterterrorism (CT) analysts at odds with the “way things are done” in the intelligence and policy communities.  CT analysts need to be able to wallow in the details and put forward, and hold over time, two or three — and sometimes more — conflicting interpretations of the data, and explain where and why they diverge.  This practice conflicted with the accepted practice, which was to push for one line of analysis so as not to confuse and frustrate policymakers. CT analysts, not to mention analysts in regional and other functional offices, disagreed with each other quite strongly, and the inability to put forward multiple arguments made those disagreements ugly, divisive, and, ultimately, counterproductive.  Providing “alternative” analysis in a footnote or text box is of no use, because that is just another way of saying there is one line of analysis, with a few dissenters. There is no cure for this problem short of systematically investigating and airing all perspectives as part of a “sense-making” process, in which individuals frequently share their ideas and perspectives as they are forming. Policymakers need to be involved in this process periodically if they are to understand the issues in time to act. 17 “Analyst’s Notebook” and similar programs include a structured database with data entry cards and programs that draw on this database to create visualizations of the data, such as network diagrams. CIA DI analysts had none of these tools in the mid-1990’s. 18 Abu Hafs was killed in Afghanistan after 11 September 2001. 19 “The Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction,” 31 Mar 2005, http://www.fas.org/irp/offdocs/wmd_report.pdf, p 54, last accessed 28 February 2012.


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Another instructive case of abductive analysis concerns the training of multiple groups in Afghanistan in the winter of 2000 and 2001. Each group had individuals from one ethnic or regional background. To some analysts, these groups looked like operational cells training for missions. Others pointed out that there was no proof that these groups were any different than the hundreds that had preceded them for regular military training. Their overall camp facilitator, Abu Zubayda, was also something of an enigma. Was he al-Qaeda? In this case, the majority ruled, and the possibility that these groups were training for operations as specific groups was never published. As it turned out, all of the groups ended up conducting or attempting terrorist operations as groups — Algerians who planned to attack a Christmas market in France in 2001, Saudis who bombed the U.S.S. Limburg in 2002, Moroccans who set off bombs in Casablanca in 2003, Tunisians in Belgium and Italy, and others. 20 Lesson 2. The only way to fully investigate several possibilities is to make use of multiple disciplines

at the same time. It is dangerously misleading at worst, and hopelessly confusing at best, to try to stick to any one discipline or method in assessing the types of documents made available by the CRRC. To cover the bases, analysts use a variation of what in business is called STEEP, PEST, PESTLE, or SWOT21 — using social, linguistic, political, economic, technical, environmental, and legal factors, among others, as modes of analysis. Socially, one should focus on sub-cultures rather than the mainstream. Individuals in subcultures see the world differently, use language differently, and relate to each other in ways that are not typical of their societies. For instance, the conventional wisdom in the early to mid-1990s was that Arabs from different countries could not work together and lacked critical thinking skills. By inference then, a bunch of “rag tag” mujahidin could not possibly be capable of running a world-wide, multi-faceted organization. One of my most successful analyses for its ability to get the reader to think about a subculture was a short white paper that began with something like, “If anyone could unite Arabs from many countries into one organization, it would be Osama bin Laden.”22 Analysts already knew he had done so, but my paper was an exercise in mind-opening and myth busting. Regarding use of language, understanding the many layers of subtext is critical: classical language, dialect, multiple sub-cultures (countries and even villages of origin, the Afghan context, the Islamic Awakening, organizational culture), “talking around” issues, “coded” references, historical references, and actual codes. Translation, therefore, is almost always a matter of debate. This should be kept in mind when dealing with the CRRC records, the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point records, or in any other collection. Translators debated each other about word choice and context; analysts asked translators for the exact Arabic words used. Everyone debated whether, in any particular context, terrorists were truly talking about what they appeared to be talking about on the surface, or were

20 AQ-MCOP-D-000-923, “Three Different Letters Sent to Abu Khabal Al-Masri,” unknown date prior to July 2002, Conflict Records Research Center, Washington, D.C. 21 STEEP stands for “Social, Technological, Economic, Ethical, and Political analysis.” PEST stands for “Political, Economic, Social, and Technological analysis.” PEST describes a framework of macro-environmental factors used in the environmental scanning component of strategic management. PESTLE: Inserting legal and environmental factors expands PEST to PESTEL or PESTLE, which is popular in the United Kingdom. SWOT (alternately SLOT) stands for “Strengths, Weaknesses (or Limitations), Opportunities, and Threats analysis”. SWOT is a strategic planning method used to evaluate these elements involved in a project or in a business venture. It involves specifying the objective of the business venture or project and identifying the internal and external factors that are favorable and unfavorable to achieve that objective. The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, http://www.cipd. co.uk/, undated, accessed 16 Feb 2012. 22 This paper was a version of “What If” analysis, a technique used to get people to imagine the world differently.


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actually talking around something else. The best translators developed a wealth of knowledge about a vast array of subjects and, perhaps more importantly, a feeling for how terrorists communicated with each other. This goes far beyond translation and into true linguistics. It is for this reason, that it is better to have the services of a translator who has developed expertise on these issues, rather than rely on just formal Arabic language education. What I needed as an analyst was an understanding of the subtleties in the terrorists’ use of language, which did not require me to have facility in that language. 23 Another important socio-cultural piece of the puzzle was religion. Most Arabists understood Salafism in the 20th century to be a largely peaceful form of fundamentalism. Sunni terrorist organizations, however, were drawing on a much more narrow and militant strain of Salafism, going down a path paved by Ibn Taymiyya and Abd al-Wahhab. It took years of dialogue for the Arabists and the terrorism analysts to reach an understanding of what these terrorists actually believed — what they, and now we, call Salafi jihadism. Reaching this understanding, and then consensus, was hampered by the unofficial rule in the U.S. IC that you do not touch religious issues. 24 Politically, the key level of analysis is organizational behavior, including individual behavior within organizations. Some terrorist groups have bureaucracies, certainly al-Qaeda among them, but they are seldom stable enough to take on a life of their own and they are very small by comparison with a state. Further, groups may establish standard operating procedures, but those procedures change more rapidly than they do with states. Small group dynamics, as well as individual psychology, are therefore critically important to decision-making.   The CT focus on the group level led most mainstream analysts to question whether CT analysts were doing “real” political analysis, which had always focused on the stability and actions of states.  Most had the luxury of access to the details of government structures and processes, already compiled in neat packages. Not understanding that CT analysts lacked this kind of information on groups, they tended to see CT analysts’ abductive process as “bean counting,” in the words of one traditional analyst to whom I spoke who had supported the 9/11 Commission’s work. It was also difficult for policymakers, who were used to focusing on states, to grasp. Economically, one’s focus should be on the unofficial economy. Generally, the unofficial economy had been something of a backwater for analysis except where leaders in that economy, such as the Russian mafia or the Central American drug cartels, threatened the stability of states. Terrorism was not generally considered a threat to most states, or even U.S. national security, until after 9/11, despite the continuous drumbeat of warnings and explanations from the CT minority. That said, and even more perplexing for most people, al-Qaeda had, on some occasions, facilitated states’ dealings with each other when skirting international non-proliferation agreements. 25 This is part of what made it so difficult for analysts to assess exactly what al-Qaeda’s relationship was with Sudan, Iraq, and Iran when al-Qaeda was headquartered in Sudan, much less in later years, when collection on Iraq became more difficult.

23 Facility in the language can be helpful to an analyst, but only if they have time to learn all of the subtexts. Usually, this is too much for most busy analysts, who have a more than full time job as it is. In fact, prior fluency is often a hindrance to understanding, since people tend to rely on their hard-won expertise, in this case, in one method of interpretation, rather than consider alternatives. 24 Michael Scheuer, Imperial Hubris: Why the West is Losing the War on Terror (Dulles: Brassey’s Inc., 2004), p. 116. 25 The 9/11 Commission Report: Final Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2004), pp. 47-70.


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One cannot expect to piece together an understanding of, much less accurately assess, a technical program such as development of a chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear (CBRN)26 capability or a threat such as flying planes into buildings without the help of technical experts. Those experts, unfortunately, were not always available or willing in the pre-9/11 years. Many CT experts did not know much about architecture, engineering, chemistry, or biology, nor did they have time to gain the requisite expertise in those areas. There were a handful of experts in those areas working on terrorism, and they deserve a great deal of credit for what they were able to accomplish, but CT analysts could have benefited from the availability of many more technical experts in numerous fields. Environmental issues were not a big factor. However, to stretch the term a bit, some forms of agriculture were key to some of al­- Qaeda’s operations. For instance, analysts spent a good deal of time figuring out the less obvious significance of various agricultural products and processes oft cited in terrorist communications. On legal issues, religion was also key. Al-Qaeda justifies everything it does in some way based on the Quran, Hadiths, or Sunnah. Without fail, they also sought rulings from clerics to support their interpretations. Anyone studying al-Qaeda today must be aware of the fact that the Salafi jihadis have developed their own ‘aqida (doctrine) and do not consider any of the traditional schools of thought to be unquestioned authorities. To illustrate the multidisciplinary method of analysis one can look at the events leading up to the 1998 East Africa embassy bombings. At the time, analysts in the CIA regional offices and in CTC had debated just when al-Qaeda had established a presence in eastern Africa and what the group was doing there. Analysts were not, at the time, privy to one of the documents now available at the CRRC, which shows that at least three of al-Qaeda’s most senior leaders established a presence in Somalia in 1993. Instead analysts had to piece together information from a variety of sources. 27 By 1997, however, there was no disagreement that what we now know as al-Qaeda had a presence in several countries, including Somalia, Kenya, Ethiopia, and Tanzania. Further, as has been noted elsewhere, the CTC had indications that at least some of these cells might be “going operational.” Using the PESTLE method, we can look at the analytical problems at that time: Politically, al-Qaeda had spent years building up relationships with local groups that it was slowly radicalizing. As we found out later, even al-Qaeda members were concerned that conducting an attack would disrupt what had taken them years to build. Economically, al-Qaeda still had lucrative businesses, camps, and smuggling operations in Africa and elsewhere. Some analysts, though not the al-Qaeda experts, believed that al-Qaeda would not “foul its own nest” by conducting an attack in one of these areas. Socially, “war names” (truly, noms de guerre) and related naming conventions played havoc with analysis. Al-Qaeda members’ habit of using a kunya (honorific) made it difficult to track down individuals and monitor their activities. For example, no one knows how many Abu Muhammads there are, and bin Laden was sometimes referred to as Abu Abdallah, after the name of his first-born son. Most al-Qaeda members also used a hisba (a geographic reference) that accurately identified the place they were from, but some — especially those who had gone “operational” — used multiple

26 The term CBRN is preferred in intelligence circles to the term WMD (weapons of mass destruction) when the threat from the chemical, biological, or radiological materials does not rise to the level of mass casualties. The common practice of mixing means and ends when using the term “WMD” for all levels of destruction is unhelpful for analysts and policymakers trying to understand the extent of any particular threat. 27 AQ-TRED-D-000-974, “Report of Trip by Al-Qaeda Leadership to Somalia to Establish Training Camps,” 1994, Conflict Records Research Center, Washington, D.C.


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kunya and deceptive hisba, as well as other naming conventions to create aliases. It is no wonder that analysts were sometimes confused when al-Qaeda members even confused each other. Technically, it was difficult for analysts to reach agreement on which previous attacks were linked to al-Qaeda, and this made it difficult to reach broad agreement on modus operandi. Thankfully, the CTC was blessed with technical experts on CBRN and explosives, so analysts did have some idea of al-Qaeda’s experiments and capabilities. Legally, analysts knew al-Qaeda needed a specific fatwa that could warn their adversary that an attack was coming and invite the adversary to convert to Islam. There was some disagreement as to whether al-Qaeda’s 1996 “Declaration of War” was sufficient for this purpose. Al-Qaeda resolved the debate in February 1998 by issuing a fatwa along with its announcement of the creation of the “World Islamic Front Against the Jews and Crusaders.”28 As noted earlier, this gave a better sense of the timing, but no location, for an attack. Environmentally, as noted earlier, analysts were wrestling with whether certain agricultural terms were also related to explosives shipments, and were working to gain insights from experts in those forms of agriculture and transport. Lesson 3. A CT analyst also needs to make use of multiple analytical methods at the same time. Creativity is a requirement; analysis of these kinds of issues requires an array of methods and tools beyond those usually used by analysts assessing states. It also requires experimenting with applying methods used for other issues to the problem of terrorism analysis, as many academics have done since 9/11. An important caveat here is to remember that these methods cannot be adopted as is, but must be adapted to the terrorist problem.

Chronologies. Because the information is so fragmented, and keeps arriving in unpredictable chunks and bits, it is critical to keep it all in date order. This is the only reliable way to (a) spot events and trends one is not anticipating — the “unknown unknowns”, (b) identify gaps one did not realize were important, (c) store data that does not seem to fit anywhere, (d) analyze cause and effect, and (e) spot changes. Here the difference between a traditional country analyst and a CT analyst is that the data going into the chronology is often at the smallest unit of analysis, rather than being at the operational or strategic level. There is no choice when one is looking at multiple clandestine actors involved in multiple activities. For example, al-Qaeda did not even acknowledge its existence to the rest of the mujahidin community until 1996, much less publish their organizational directory, membership list, and mission statement. On the individual level, it could take ten or more separate pieces of information arriving over the course of months or years to positively identify one individual. Network analysis. A CT analyst’s bread and butter is making and analyzing network charts. Again, this is not something one generally spends a lot of time on, if any, when studying a traditional bureaucracy, though it would be useful even there. A Russian military analyst, for instance, already knows the organization of the Russian Army and Defense Ministry. Network analysis, as done by CT analysts, does not assume any particular type of organization or structure, or lack thereof. Nor is it limited to a discreet set of activities or people. Rather, it is the best tool for putting all of the data that may be related in a form that can be easily manipulated to literally see structures and processes involving multiple people, places, and things over time and space. One really never knows what will turn out to connect to what in some important way. This is one of the techniques I used to “figure out” that al-Qaeda existed. Now, of course, many scientists have developed and are experimenting with sophisticated algorithms to get more meaning out of network charts.

28 Osama bin Laden, “World Islamic Front Against the Jews and Crusaders,” 23 February 1998, http://www.fas.org/irp/world/para/ docs/980223-fatwa.htm, last accessed at 28 February 2012.


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Process models. Flow charts and Gantt charts are essential to figuring out whether the data one is collecting fits within a known process, such as weapons fabrication or radicalization. Again, it is critical to be aware that what a terrorist groups does will not exactly match what any other actor does. Other models. Analysis of leadership, psychology, organizational dynamics, insurgency, and many other disciplines and approaches have all been brought to bear on the al-Qaeda problem over time, long before, as well as after, 9/11. Lesson 4. We need creative approaches to evaluating all kinds of sources. Terrorists lie, even to

themselves and each other. But they also tell the truth, often at the same time as they lie. This is not a comfortable dichotomy to hold in one’s head. To make some sense of it, sophisticated approaches to source evaluation and context are key. Motive, access, and credibility are key to sorting out the more true from the less true, even in a document. Who wrote it, when, and why? Even if tasked to write the document by their leaders, is the author competing for position, influence, or resources? For example, the writings of Abu Musab al-Suri, the author of the Management of Savagery, 29 are brilliant strategic pieces, but how seriously are they taken by al-Qaeda leaders? Were other authors putting forward competing views? Did they have access to al-Qaeda’s senior leadership at the time or were they writing from exile? Even if they had access, were they out of favor, or were they ahead of their time? Similarly, governments often lie, even to themselves. Sometimes governments tell wholesale lies deliberately, but more often their conflicting and sometimes self-serving statements, as well as outright errors, are the unfortunate result of competing analysis, priorities, and belief systems. Policymakers should want to know which analysts hold what views and why, not just which organization is putting forward which analytical line. I have been in many coordination sessions where what goes forward as the majority — and therefore primary — assessment represents the opinion of no more than 60% of the analytical community. That is not a sound basis for serious decisions. These source evaluation issues have an impact on data management. To the extent possible it is better not to pre-filter the data. Even the apparently “crazy” can have nuggets of truth that are absolutely critical and cannot be found anywhere else. This is where a lot of the debates occur in the IC. For example, a source who provided some warning before the 1998 East Africa bombings appeared to be unstable and was looking for money for his information. One should not discount such information just because it is from what appears to be a “bad source,” but should also exercise caution in using it. Finally, a note on Wikipedia and individuals’ websites. My sense is that, today, some experts on al-Qaeda find limited outlets for publication because they do not have PhDs. This problem getting published was not necessarily the case just immediately following the 9/11 attacks, but also as the field of terrorism studies has gained more prominence, it has also become more academic. I find that some experts publish on Wikipedia or create their own websites, instead. Therefore, I tell students that there will be some occasions where an article on Wikipedia or one of these websites will be more authoritative than other sources. So a corollary of the “creative source evaluation” rule is that there is no room for intellectual snobbery in wartime. Analysts have to grab whatever they can from wherever they can. The only litmus test is the degree to which the analysis reflects ground truth. Lesson 5. Be careful not to confuse intent and capability. It is true that “just because you can do something, does not mean that you will,” and, conversely, “just because you want to do something, does not mean that you can.” I often heard analysts disregarding information because they assumed that a lack of one meant a lack of both. This might be acceptable if one had perfect information, but of 29 Abu Bakr Naji, The Management of Savagery: The Most Critical Stage through which the Umma will Pass, trans. William McCants, 23 May 2006, http://www.wcfia.harvard.edu/olin/images/Management%20of%20Savagery%20-%2005-23-2006.pdf, last accessed 28 February 2012.


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course in the intelligence world one does not. Rather, analysts should ask themselves: “Why am I seeing intent but no capability, or capability but no intent?” and “How might this situation change and how will I know if it does?” Lesson 6. All work on al-Qaeda and affiliated movements potentially has real world consequences for as long as we are at war with them. It is important, therefore, to evaluate theories using real data first or at least to acknowledge that theories need to be tested with real data. Analysts and scholars should also be careful not to rely on past experience, but to compare that experience with the events of today. For example, prior to the 9/11 attacks most terrorism experts, who were outside of government for the most part, had little time or inclination to study al-Qaeda. Instead they relied on their knowledge of previous terrorist groups to make assumptions about what al-Qaeda might or might not be or do. Since the views of outside experts tended to be valued more than those inside, this made it even more difficult for analysts inside government who had access to the kind of raw data that academics really want to make their case on al-Qaeda.30 So, despite the fact that analysts did reach out to outside experts, in many cases (though not all) reaching out hurt us more than helped us.

This is one reason why the records, now available at the CRRC are so important. The more those outside of government have access to the data available to those inside, the more the two communities will be able to help each other, and check each other appropriately.

Lessons the IC Can Take from Academia The following lessons are not necessarily original. Though I cannot now name or even recall all of the positive influences on my own thinking, I would like to single out CIA’s Global Futures Partnership,31 the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) and several academics associated with that program,32 as well as Randy and Kathy Pherson of Pherson Associates,33 whose tireless efforts to improve analytical thinking have had profound effects on me and untold numbers of other analysts. In general, there are standard academic practices that reinforce the scientific method, which would be of great benefit to the intelligence process. These methods would help short-cut or overcome unhealthy bureaucratic tendencies that impede analytical performance, especially on new or difficult topics such as al-Qaeda was before the 9/11 attacks. Academic Lesson 1. There is no substitute for broadly sharing analysis at every stage of the analytical process, especially on emerging topics. Like scientific inquiry, solving a hard intelligence problem requires many minds, often with unexpected perspectives on the problem.

The “many minds” lesson is also true for convincing policymakers of the importance of the issue in time to do something about it. First, it is important to convince not just one or two layers of government, but to get acceptance throughout the system. To achieve this can take ten years because it takes that long for the various layers to develop new mindsets, procedures, and resources. When information and analysis is not shared all along and the crisis hits, policymakers are unable to assimilate the information fast enough to make wise decisions quickly. 30 This is based on personal experience. One can look at statements made to the 9/11 Commission by senior managers, however, to get a sense of this. For example, managers emphasized that CTC analysts had an average of only three years’ experience; they neglected to say that some analysts had ten or more years experience on the mujahidin in general and al-Qaeda specifically, Islam in Africa and the Middle East, terrorism in Europe, and state sponsors of terrorism. 31 Central Intelligence Agency, “The Global Futures Partnership,” 19 Jul 2011, https://www.cia.gov/offices-of-cia/intelligenceanalysis/organization-1/gfp.html, last accessed 28 February 2012. 32 National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism, University of Maryland http://www.start.umd. edu/start/, last accessed 28 February 2012. 33 Pherson Associates, LLC, http://www.pherson.org/, last accessed 28 February 2012.


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Academic Lesson 2 . Transparency is key to acceptance of new analysis; assessments should include analytical methodologies and assumptions. It is unreasonable to expect someone unfamiliar with an issue to separate fair from good from excellent analysis if they cannot see the thinking process. Unlike in academia, often intelligence analysts cannot share all of the data, so the need for transparency in the analysts’ thinking process is all the more important. Academic Lesson 3. Analysts should borrow the practice of conducting literature reviews. New analysts on a topic need to first learn what is already known and said on that topic. Because of the press of business, analysts often begin with the most recent information and then take a scatter-shot approach towards learning the rest. This can lead them to rely solely on that information which is most easily accessed — usually gathered over the previous two years — and ignore context, therefore, they make false assumptions about patterns of activity. In academia, doctoral candidates are required to produce a literature review to make sure that they know the history of the topic and what has been said about it before.  In the IC, having analysts do the equivalent of literature reviews of classified and open source publications would ensure that they are sufficiently grounded before making vital judgments about current events. It would also help their office by providing a fresh set of eyes on a body of work and line of analysis. Academic Lesson 4. The IC should replace the practice of “coordination” with “peer review.” The IC’s

practice of “coordination” involves making sure that everyone with any stake in the analysis agrees with every word on the page. This puts the focus on consensus and assures that the majority rules, or that only the lowest common denominator goes forward. This practice stifles analysis that bucks conventional wisdom, including, by definition, all analysis on an emerging issue. The practice is used for NIEs, for example, where each Agency gets one vote no matter how divided their analysts might be. Science is not democratic; voting is not a reliable way to reach ground truth. There have been many attempts to address this problem by encouraging “alternative analysis,” but they never stick. The problem is stubborn because it has to do with mindsets and engrained bureaucratic practice. The intelligence agencies want all praise and blame to be corporate, so they prefer issuing just one viewpoint. Therefore, an adjustment in overall mindset from “coordination” to “peer review” is needed to help ensure quality while allowing varying viewpoints to be fully expressed and published.

Working with al-Qaeda and Associated Movements Documents This narrative was intended to demonstrate that rigor, creativity, and inquisitiveness are necessary when assessing the kinds of records available at the CRRC. A wide variety of disciplines should be brought to bear on most of the documents because of challenges that stem from translation, subcultures, fragmentary information, information that appears out of its original context, technical topics, and other issues. Analysts should establish procedures to manage ambiguities in information and interpretation and to identify gaps bringing to bear methods ranging from chronologies to sophisticated models. Equally as important, analysts inside and outside of government should avoid over-drawing conclusions. The terrorists are apt to prove them wrong.


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Blessed September: Al-Qaeda’s Grand Strategic Vision on 9/11 Dr. Mary R. Habeck Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies Introduction In August 1996 the leader of al-Qaeda declared jihad on the United States. Unfortunately for later events, the lengthy statement by Osama bin Laden received little attention at the time except from terrorism experts and in jihadist circles, perhaps because it was written in Arabic and referred extensively to obscure incidents from Islamic history. Any outsider reading the statement would, in fact, be hard-pressed to understand the point of the document, which seemed to meander incoherently from current grievances to ancient history without a framework beyond conspiracy theories and hatred. Yet this statement is seminal for understanding the later attacks on the United States and lays out the bare bones of al-Qaeda’s grand strategy before the 9/11 attacks; the reasons for war with Jews, Christians, and the Saudis; al-Qaeda’s understanding of the enemy; and, ultimate objectives for the war. It also provides the first public justification for why al-Qaeda chose to attack the United States, rather than Israel or Saudi Arabia, in order to end the oppression and weakness of the Muslim world.1 Al-Qaeda’s grand strategic vision is based on a world in conflict. An alliance of Jews and Christians, for its own nefarious reasons, was killing and oppressing Muslims around the globe, using the rulers who controlled every Muslim-majority country to carry out their bloody deeds whenever they were unable to slaughter the believers directly. The alliance at last declared a crusade in 1990, invaded and occupied the most holy of Muslim lands, and tried to spread into Yemen and Somalia. Its goal was the annihilation of Muslims and corruption of their religion, the occupation of the Muslim community’s lands, and the exploitation of its wealth. Any of the believers who tried to resist them peacefully were persecuted and jailed by the local rulers if not by the infidels themselves. The prime example of this effort was the alliance’s Saudi agents in the Arabian Peninsula, who had rejected God’s Sharia, opened up the land to the occupiers, and emprisoned the true ulema who attempted to point out and correct their wrongdoing. 2 Around the world similar tyrants carried out the bidding of infidels and ruled their countries with man-made laws, not the sacred law. The miserable state of the Muslim community demanded action. The most immediate need was an end to the occuption of the holy places in the Arabian Peninsula, but beyond that were other, longer-term, goals: the overthrow of the apostate rulers and the replacement of their infidel laws with God’s laws; the creation of a state that would enforce and spread Sharia; and, ultimately advancement of God’s laws until every human on earth obeyed them. These grand strategic objectives could be accomplished through many ways and means, but the 1996 declaration argued that two in particular were nonnegotiable and had to play a part in any strategy: fighting jihad and attacking the United States. Jihad, the document argued, was commanded by God in these circumstances and had become a duty as incumbant on Muslims as the daily prayer. The choice of the United States as the target for attacks was more difficult to justify, but the statement attempted to show that behind every apostate ruler, behind every assault on Muslims, and behind all the catastrophes suffered by the Muslim community, was the United States: the great global, infidel power.

1 The following discussion is taken from Osama bin Muhammad bin Laden, “Declaration of War against the Americans Occupying the Land of the Two Holy Places,” August 1996, http://www.pbs.org/newshour/terrorism/international/fatwa_1996.html, last accessed 28 February 2012. 2 Ibid.


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Opposing the Jewish-Crusader alliance was an unnamed group of Muslims, called only “your mujahidin brothers and sons,” who had attempted to end the injustice inflicted on the Muslim community, but had been persecuted and pursued from Pakistan to Sudan to Afghanistan.3 Then the organization found a qaeda (safe base) in Khurasan (an ancient name for a land in Central Asia), the same place where another infidel power had been defeated by mujahidin committed to fighting in God’s name. The group called on all Muslims, especially those who had fought against the unbelievers in Afghanstan, to jihad against the Jews and Christians until they had “exalt[ed] the word of God to the heights, [and humbled] the unbelievers’ word to the depths.”4 Over the next five years, bin Laden and other al-Qaeda members would take the broad concepts described in the declaration and fashion a precisely defined grand strategy. A close examination of this coherent set of doctrines as they evolved throughout the late 1990s shows that they were more than just aspirational rhetoric, but rather created the basic principles for operational plans that would guide the organization’s action both before and after the attacks of 11 September 2001.

Ideological Foundations Bin Laden’s grand strategy took as its starting point the religious/legal principles that formed the basis for his worldview and for his life’s work. When a specific military action was planned, bin Laden conferred with his legal committee or with trusted members of outside clergy to legitimate it, and his public speeches and private correspondence show the care taken to demonstrate that his group was acting in accordance with Sharia rulings.5 This is not to suggest that there was no flexibility within al-Qaeda over religious issues, or that bin Laden did not change his mind about specific points of law. The merger with Ayman Zawahiri’s jihadist group, the decision to swear an oath of allegiance to Mullah Muhammad ‘Umar, and the arguments of influential members of his own group would significantly influence bin Laden and the religious/ideological direction that al-Qaeda would take. It is also true that the interplay between ideology and pragmatism, and between theory and praxis, helps to explain the evolution of al-Qaeda’s strategies. Yet despite these nuances, certain core principles that profoundly influenced the actions of al-Qaeda remained untouched by events and the arguments of other jihadists throughout the 1990s. Most important of all was tawhid, the belief that there is only one God and only he should be worshipped. This concept, the core tenet of Islam itself, was reinterpreted during the 20th century by key jihadist scholars, including Sayyid Qutb and Isam Muhammad Tahir al-Barqawi (better known as Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi) to assert that anyone who failed to obey any of God’s commands, ruled by laws other than God’s, or did not fully enforce Sharia, was violating tawhid and had become an infidel. In this view, democracy became a foreign religion and voting made one an unbeliever.6 A critical letter from bin Laden to King Fahd of Saudi Arabia shows that from at least 1995 on, the head of al-Qaeda accepted this reinterpretation of tawhid, and made it the centerpiece of his group’s worldview.7

3 Ibid. 4 Ibid. 5 For examples see the fatwas issued by Mamduh Mahmud Salim (Abu Hajir al-Iraqi) in 1992 to justify attacks against Americans in Yemen and Somalia. Day Two, Trial Transcript, United States of America v. Usama bin Ladin, et al., S (7) 98 Cr. 1023, 6 February 2001, pp. 266ff. Al-Qaeda also sought outside legal opinions to legitimate the decision to kill civilians as well as military personnel. Alan Cullison, “Inside Al-Qaeda’s Hard Drive,” Atlantic Monthly, September 2004. 6 Sayyid Qutb, Milestones (CreateSpace, 2005), pp. 50-57; Abu Muhammad Aasim al-Magdisi, “Democracy — a Religion!” [al-Dimuqratiyya Dīn] Revised by Abu Sayf Muwahhid, http://www.scribd.com/doc/18993155/Democracy-a-Religion-Abu-Muhammad-alMaqdisi, last accessed 28 February 2012. 7 Osama bin Muhammad bin Laden, “Manifesto #17: An Open Letter to King Fahd On the Occasion of the Recent Cabinet Reshuffle,” Board of Advice and Reformation, 11 July 1995, AFGP-2002-000103-HT-NVTC (full translation). A similar letter, sent just the year before, discussed these issues but did not make the connection between tawhid and the failings of the Saudi government. See “Committee for Advice and Reform, ‘Statement No. 2,’” 12 April 1994, AFGP-2002-003345.


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Among the implications for action of this concept was a declaration that the Saudi rulers, because of their abandonment of Sharia, had left the religion of Islam and become apostates and infidels. 8 The entire Saudi regime was thus illegitimate and it was the moral duty of Muslims to overthrow it. The new definition of tawhid implied as well the absolute necessity for bin Laden and his followers to impose God’s laws on Muslims. Operationalizing the enforcement of Sharia, a concept known as al-amr bi’l-ma’ruf wa’l-nahy ’an al­munkar (enjoining right and forbidding wrong), became a key objective of the organization.9 In pursuit of this goal, al-Qaeda made Islamic legal studies the first requirement of cadre training and a substantial component of the boot camps for mujahidin that they set up in Afghanistan. An unconditional loyalty to following God’s laws was also compulsory for anyone who wished to hold command positions in the organization.10 Their training and devotion to Sharia ensured that al-Qaeda’s cadres would have the knowledge and requisite dedication to enforce God’s commands wherever they went. The commitment to tawhid, and thus Sharia, explains al-Qaeda’s need to follow to the letter themselves all the commands given by God. This expressed itself in an obsession by bin Laden and other members of al-Qaeda throughout the 1990s with specific Sharia precepts that affected the conduct of their war. The tenet of qisas (equivalent retaliation), for instance, would push bin Laden and his group to target American civilians as well as military personnel, arguing that “retaliation and punishment should be carried out following the principle of reciprocity [qisas], especially when women and children are involved. Through history, America has not been known to differentiate between the military and the civilians or between men and women or adults and children.” Therefore, all Americans could — and should — be targeted and killed.11 When pressed, bin Laden admitted that Sharia forbade the purposeful killing of women and children, but he continually returned to qisas to explain why, in this particular case, civilians had to be targeted.12 A related issue was the accidental killing of innocents during strikes against infidels elsewhere in the world. As early as 1992, bin Laden asked for a legal ruling on collateral damage in Somalia and was granted permission to carry out operations that would unintentionally kill women, children, and Muslims with a fatwa that cited Ibn Taymiyya’s analogous ruling when fighting the Mongols.13 After the 1998 East African operation, some members of al-Qaeda balked at the high casualties among innocent Africans, but were refuted by fatwas that cited the permissibility of attacking an enemy who used tatarrus (human shields) to protect himself.14 Members of al-Qaeda pointed out that they had done all they could to protect true Muslims — the only innocents they recognized — by carrying out the attacks at noon on a Friday. All devout Muslims should have been attending mosque services and thus were unlikely to be victims of the bombings.15 After 9/11, al-Qaeda would use the fatwas issued in 1992 and 1998 to legally justify the killing of thousands of civilians in the World Trade Center. 8 Bin Ladin, “Declaration of War.” 9 Ahmad Musa, “We Choose our Cadres From Within Military, Civilian Establishments in the Country,” Nahdat Misr, 12 September 2004, p. 3. 10 A discussion of training for al-Qaeda members begins with Sharia studies and only then turns to military and security studies. See “Qualifying Sessions to Prepare Al Qaeda Staff,” [No Date], AFGP-2002-000112. For the requirement that al-Qaeda commanders have Sharia knowledge and a commitment to God’s laws, see “Al-Qaeda: Internal Organization,” [No Date], AFGP-2002-000080 and “Al-Qaeda: Internal Organization,” [No Date], AFGP-2002-000078, [Continuation of AFGP-2002-000080]. 11 “Questions posed to Osama bin Laden by his followers, and Interview with ABC reporter John Miller,” May 1998, NPR Frontline, http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/binladen/who/interview.html, last accessed 28 February 2012. 12 Jamal Isma’il, “Interview with Osama bin Laden,” al-Jazeera TV, December 1998; John Miller, “Interview with Osama bin Laden from 1998,” World News Now, ABC News, 18 September 2001; “Wrath of God: Usama Bin Ladin lashes out against the West,” Time Magazine, 11 January 1999, p. 16. 13 Day Two, Trial Transcript, United States of America v. Usama bin Ladin, et al., pp. 268-270. See also “Wrath of God,” p. 16. 14 Abu al-Walid al-Masri, “The Story of the Arab Afghans from the Time of Arrival in Afghanistan until their Departure with the Taliban, Part Four,” al-Sharq al-Awsat, 11 December 2004, p. 13. 15 Day Fourteen, Trial Transcript, United States of America v. Usama bin Ladin, et al., S (7) 98 Cr. 1023, 7 March 2001, p. 2020.


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The concept of tawhid was twinned with the need for jihad, a word with a complex history within Islam.16 For al-Qaeda’s leaders, however, the word was very simple: it meant fighting in God’s name and on His path, to achieve His objectives. As a slave of God, bin Laden said in an interview, he had to obey his master’s orders and one of them was combat to support the word of God.17 The command to carry out jihad was more urgent, in fact compulsory, when land was occupied by infidels, as it was then by the Jews, Christians, and “their stooges.”18 Zawahiri agreed, arguing that there was “no solution without jihad,” and that those groups like the Islamic Salvation Front in Algeria, which thought that they could achieve their objectives without jihad, had ignored “the tenets of the creed.”19 In a more lengthy discussion, bin Laden challenged those who said that jihad was commanded by God, but not under current circumstances. He quoted from select passages of the Quran and scholars of the religion to prove that jihad was a duty here and now and that, in fact, only mujahidin such as his group could make the determination when jihad had to be fought. 20 His focus on jihad as fighting meant that al-Qaeda as an organization would make warfare the only method for change: negotiations, elections, or social evolution were discounted as illegal and illegitimate compromises of God’s clear command. A final piece of the ideological make-up of al-Qaeda came from the thought of certain Saudi scholars, who reinterpreted verses in the Quran to argue that Muslims had to hold allegiance to the true believers alone, while renouncing infidels and “so-called Muslims” who helped the infidels. This concept, called wala’ wa’l-bara’a (allegiance and disavowal), was first described by Muhammad Sa‘id al-Qahtani in 1981 and became an integral part of jihadist rhetoric and strategies. 21 Bin Laden’s second charge against the Saudi regime, after their abandonment of true tawhid and Sharia, was their “allegiance to the infidels and hostility towards Muslims,” that is, their rejection and inversion of wala’ wa’l-bara’a. This failing was expressed in the Saudi decision to allow the Americans to defile the sacred land with their presence, and in their allowing policies to be dictated to them “from abroad by the Christian western nations.”22 The commitment to wala’ wa’l-bara’a put al-Qaeda on a pathway dangerously close to that of the takfiris, since it made declaring Muslims to be infidels far easier than traditional Islamic legal precedent. It also made it far easier for al-Qaeda to envision the world divided clearly between good and evil, the righteous and those deserving of death. In practical terms, the principle led al-Qaeda to carry out operations that would kill Muslims as easily as the infidel enemy. Despite an absolute commitment to their ideology, al-Qaeda’s leaders were not blind to real world considerations and could be quite pragmatic when considering their situation. Thus after asserting that fighting was an essential part of the religion, bin Laden noted that there were also practical reasons for choosing armed resistance: the Palestinians had attempted peaceful bargaining and failed to achieve their objectives. 23 When asked in an interview about how the price of oil would be affected if his movement took over the Saudi kingdom, bin Laden first asserted that Islam was the complete methodology for determining the rules for all of life, but added that oil was a commodity, and its price

16 David Cook’s Understanding Jihad (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005) is the best explication of the complicated history of jihad. 17 “Questions posed to Osama bin Laden by his followers,” NPR Frontline. See also “Wrath of God,” Time Magazine. 18 “Bin Laadin Speaks On Hijrah; And The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan,” al-Jihaad Newsletter, #4, Supporters of Shariah, 22 June 2000. 19 Ayman al-Zawahiri, “Knights Under the Prophet’s Banner [Extracts],” al-Sharq al-Awsat, 2 December 2001, www.fas.org. 20 Isma’il, “Interview.” 21 Shaykh Muhammad Saeed al-Qahtani, al-Wala’ wa’l-Bara’ According to the Aqeedah of the Salaf (Kashf ul-Shubuhat Publications, 1993). 22 Osama bin Muhammad bin Laden, “Manifesto #17.” 23 “Wrath of God,” Time Magazine.


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would be determined by the market and supply and demand. 24 From internal documents captured after the fall of the Taliban, it is clear, however, that the organization made a distinction between issues that could be compromised upon and those that had to be upheld regardless of the cost. On matters related to the basics of the creed there could be no concessions: “it is either paradise or the fire [of hell].” Though this meant that they could not support in any way the tyrants and puppets that controlled Muslim lands, it “does not mean that [the group] should not coordinate with others [including obvious heretics like the Shi’a] when the need arises.”25

Knowing the Enemy Fundamentally, then, the ideology provided red-lines that could not be crossed, but it did not dictate every element of al-Qaeda’s grand strategy. Generally grand strategies start with knowing the enemy, that is, defining who the enemy is and assessing his strengths and weaknesses. At first glance bin Laden’s stance seems, as with so much else about the man, stark and uncompromising: the world described by the 1996 declaration was full of forces and nations who wanted to kill Muslims, corrupt their religion, and steal their land. Yet the determination of which enemy was the main threat evolved over time, as pragmatism interacted with ideological principle. As many scholars have pointed out, bin Laden’s war (and thus that of his group) evolved from a clash with the Saudis over the 1991 Gulf War. In the early 1990s, this deepened into deadly animosity over the decision to station American troops in the Peninsula, the persecution of righteous ulema and others (like bin Laden) who dared to criticize the rulers, and the abandonment of tawhid and Sharia. Bin Laden’s earliest writings and statements focus on the crimes of the Saudis — and other apostates in the region — and the need to convince them, through words and action, to reform or be thrown out of power. 26 This orientation changed in 1994 with a charge by bin Laden that the Saudis were working for the infidels in their war against Islam and its scholars, and from 1996 on, bin Laden turned his hatred from these “slaves” to the real masters of evil: the United States and the Jews. 27 The 1996 declaration of jihad made it clear that it was the Jewish-Crusaders who were “the main cause of all aspects of our plight,” “the main enemy,” and the “great unbelief.” Meanwhile the Saudis faded into the background as mere agents of the “greater of two evils.”28 The shift in focus from the Saudis to the Americans was, however, predicated on a view that defeating the great unbelief was but the means to an end, and the first step in a larger war to control the fate of the entire Muslim world. And what was this new “chief enemy” like? The image of the United States that emerges from the statements of bin Laden and other al-Qaeda leaders is of an immoral, preening paper tiger, which used the media to create a false image as a superpower while running away in ignomy from real battles. 29 American soldiers were cowards, who were easily defeated in clashes like in Mogadishu and frightened into fleeing by two bombs in Aden. Compared to the Russian soldiers that bin Laden fought in Afghanistan, the Americans were like “little mice.”30 The missile strikes on al-Qaeda’s camps after 24 “Transcript of Osama bin Ladin interview by Peter Arnett,” March 1997, http://www.anusha.com/osamaint.htm, last accessed 28 February 2012. 25 Musa, “We Choose our Cadres.” 26 Isma’il, “Interview.” 27 Committee for Advice and Reform, ‘Statement No. 6,” 12 September 1994, AFGP-2002-003345. 28 Bin Laden, “Declaration of War.” 29 The following discussion is taken from Bin Ladin, “Declaration of War;” “Mujahid Usamah Bin Ladin Talks Exclusively to “NIDA’UL ISLAM” About The New Powder Keg in The Middle East,” Nida’ul Islam, October-November 1996; ‘Abd-al-Bari ‘Atwan, “Interview with Saudi oppositionist Usama Bin Ladin,” al-Quds al-‘Arabi, 27 November 1996, p. 5; Hamid Mir, “Interview with Usama Bin Ladin,” Pakistan, 18 March 1997; “Transcript of Osama Bin Ladin interview by Peter Arnett,” March 1997; “Questions posed to Osama bin Laden by his followers,” NPR Frontline;” Isma’il, “Interview;” Ahmad Muwaffaq Zaydan, Usama bin Laden Without Mask: Interviews Banned by the Taliban (Beirut: World Book Publishing Company, 2003). 30 Mir, “Interview.”


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the 1998 East African bombings only demonstrated the cowardice of the U.S. military, which was incapable of facing its foe directly or fighting a lengthy ground war.31 The American government was just as weak, convinced to abandon its plans in Lebanon after one bombing in Beirut and in Somalia after a minor skirmish. Its principle foreign policy, at least since the early 19th century, had been to kill Muslims, steal their land and resources, and corrupt the one true religion. This understanding of their main enemy, more than any other single element of their grand strategy, led al-Qaeda’s leaders to believe that they could defeat the United States with a few strikes and then turn to more important matters. The Americans were just one half of the Jewish-Crusader alliance, and not even the most important partner. As the 1990s progressed, bin Laden and other al-Qaeda leaders became convinced that the United States was controlled by Jews and Israel — through Jewish manipulation of the media and global finances — and carried out many of its policies against the Muslim world in support of Jewish interests.32 “The present U.S. government is under the influence of Jews,” bin Laden would say about the Clinton Administration, proving his point here and elsewhere by noting that not only were the Secretaries of Defense and State both Jewish, but so was President Clinton.33 The occupation of the Arabian Peninsula, the main causus belli, was to help the Jews, who wanted to create a “greater Israel” from the Peninsula.34 The Jews had even bigger plans for the Muslim world: dividing it “once again,” enslaving the Muslims, and looting the rest of their wealth.35

Strategic Objectives Given the enemies that confronted them and the strategic situation his group faced, bin Laden formulated a series of policy objectives for al-Qaeda. Two were first publicly expressed in the 1996 declaration: to liberate the Arabian Peninsula from Jewish-Crusader occupation and to see that Sharia was applied in Saudi Arabia. These relatively limited objectives were just first steps, however, and bin Laden and other leaders of al-Qaeda were soon articulating ever more grandiose goals for the group. By 1998, bin Laden’s fatwa permitting the killing of all Americans expanded the first objective to include the liberation of “the al-Aqsa Mosque and the holy mosque from their grip, and [jihad] in order for their armies to move out of all the lands of Islam, defeated and unable to threaten any Muslim.”36 Even this was not enough. In a later khutba (sermon) bin Laden argued that it was necessary to “liberate our lands from Jews and Christians and their allies; their helpers and their stooges.”37 The liberation of all the Muslim lands was also just a start: as with the Peninsula, the rest of the ummah had to follow the true laws of God. In an interview in 1998, bin Laden affirmed that the main goal of the group after liberating the land of Islam from infidelity was “to apply God’s Sharia.”38 This in turn would lead naturally to the creation of a state — the Caliphate — that would incorporate every Muslim and their territory. Bin Laden’s views of this Caliphate were more than just a vague fantasy, and included a vision for how the state would be run, its economic policies, defense policy, and who its leader would be. In a 1997 interview he stated that the “pious caliphate” would unite all Muslims 31 Kamil al-Tawil, “Part 1: Al-Qaeda Sought WMDs To Prevent a Strike Against Afghanistan. Bin-Ladin Wagered on the ‘Cowardice’ of the Americans,” al-Hayah, 25 September 2010; Miller, “Interview.” 32 “Transcript of Osama Bin Ladin interview by Peter Arnett;” Muhammad Salah, “World Islamic Front Backs ‘Intifadah of Palestine’s Sons’,” al-Hayah, 19 May 1998, p. 4; Muhammad al-Shafi’i, “Arab Afghans’ Theorist Writes in Book Found by US Forces After Taliban’s Fall: Part One,” al-Sharq al-Awsat, 24 October 2006. 33 Mir, “Interview;” “Report,” Pakistan, 2 May 2000, pp. 6, 8; Isma’il, “Interview.” 34 “Questions posed to Osama bin Laden by his followers,” NPR Frontline. 35 “Wrath of God,” Time Magazine. 36 “Text of World Islamic Front’s Statement Urging Jihad Against Jews and Crusaders,” al-Quds al-‘Arabi, 23 February 1998, p. 3. 37 “Bin Laadin Speaks On Hijrah,” al-Jihaad Newsletter, #4. 38 Isma’il, “Interview.”


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and would begin from Afghanistan.39 This was true not only because Afghanistan alone implemented a form of Sharia that he acknowledged as correct, but because, as both bin Laden and Zawahiri stated multiple times, they had recognized Mullah Muhammad ‘Umar, the leader of the Taliban, as the legitimate Caliph, and sworn an oath of bay’a (fealty) to him as the Amir al-Mu’minin (Commander of the Faithful), a title reserved for the Caliph. 40 As Afghanistan under the Taliban showed, the coming Caliphate would have an economic system that rejected communism as well as capitalism (which bin Laden equated with the accumulation of wealth in a few hands) and would ban interest on loans in all its forms. In a detailed discussion of economic policies, bin Laden noted that the price of oil should be around $150 a barrel, that the United States owed the Muslim community reparations for underpaying for oil for the past thirty years, and that the money from both oil and the reparations should be distributed directly and proportionately to ordinary Muslims. 41 A private paper written by an al-Qaeda member and captured in Afghanistan after the fall of the Taliban, gave the precise details for how much money would be distributed annually to every Muslim family and individual worldwide. 42 The political system of the new state would not have anything to do with Western democracy (which, as we have seen, contradicted tawhid), and there could be no parliament, but it would embrace the concept of shura (nonbinding consultation). Military training would be compulsory for every Muslim man as well. 43 Bin Laden described the Caliphate, or as he called it in one place the “Global Islamic State,” as ultimately moving its capital to Mecca, embracing every country with Muslim inhabitants (whether it had been part of an older Caliphate or not), with one currency, and with the Quran as its constitution. 44 The refounding of the Caliphate, even one that included every Muslim-majority country, was not the final aim of al-Qaeda, just an intermediate goal on the way to achieving the group’s ultimate objective: making God’s word the highest. This Quranic phrase, used often by bin Laden when asked to describe what he wanted to accomplish, has a set meaning within traditional Islam: that Islam will somehow be exalted above other religions. For men like bin Laden, who believed that tawhid required obedience to God’s laws, “making God’s word the highest” meant that everyone on earth, whether Muslim or people of the book, would eventually have their lives controlled by his version of Sharia and by God’s governance, that is the Caliphate. 45

Strategic Plans Al-Qaeda now needed a plan to guide the group as it sought to achieve its policy goals. The evidence suggests that in the early 1990s, bin Laden and his followers agreed with the vast majority of jihadist groups: the best way forward was a direct attack on the apostates — in his case, the Saudi regime. 46 As we have seen, however, bin Laden became convinced that the apostate rulers of Muslim lands were nothing but pawns of the United States and the Jews. Assessing the situation pragmatically, bin Laden determined that it made no sense to dethrone the puppets while leaving the puppet-masters in place 39 Mir, “Interview.” 40 “Bin Laadin Speaks On Hijrah,” al-Jihaad Newsletter #4; Behroz Khan, “Taliban lift curbs on Osama,” The News, 11 October 2001; Alan Cullison, “Inside Al-Qaeda’s Hard Drive,” Atlantic Monthly, September 2004; Zaydan, “Chapter Three,” in Usama bin Laden without Mask. 41 Mir, “Interview.” 42 “The Share of Each Muslim of Oil,” [September 2000], AFGP-2002-801138, p. 48. 43 Mir, “Interview.” 44 Ikramullah, “Report,” Nawa-i-Waqt, 7 January 2001, pp. 1, 11; see also Committee for Advice and Reform, ‘Statement No. 11,” 29 December 1994, AFGP-2002-003345 for bin Laden’s earliest description of how large the Caliphate would be. 45 “Questions posed to Osama bin Ladin by his followers,” NPR Frontline; Isma’il, “Interview.” 46 In 1994, for instance, bin Laden stated that he was ready to “declare war” on the Saudis for their persecution of the righteous ulema and support for the Americans. Committee for Advice and Reform, ‘Statement No. 6,” 12 September 1994, AFGP-2002-003345. Zawahiri agreed with this position as well. See Ayman al-Zawahiri, “A response to the serious accusations against Sheikh Albani concerning [his] silence about the apostate leaders,” [No Date], AFGP-2002-601041.


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to install new rulers amenable to their will. The best target for a first strike was the United States, but the basic concept behind this determination was not that the United States was the ultimate enemy of the Muslim community: just the main enemy at this point in time. Bin Laden in fact repeatedly argued that attacking the United States was the best possible way to get at the infidel rulers, extirpate them, and set up the Caliphate. To provide the necessary religious/ideological support for his change of focus, bin Laden used the interpretive work of a 13th century scholar, Ibn Taymiyya, to make a complex argument that the Americans, like the Mongols who earlier threatened the destruction of the entire Muslim world, were a “great unbelief” that hid behind and used another evil (the Saudi regime) for its own wicked ends. 47 He reasoned too that the distant enemy — the United States — had become the close enemy by occupying Muslim territory, which allowed him to use Quranic evidence to support his view. 48 The experience of fighting the Soviets had some influence as well in convincing him to attack the Americans first since, as he would argue, “Russia was the head of the communist bloc. With the disintegration of Russia, communism withered away in the Eastern Europe. Similarly if the United States is beheaded, the Arab kingdoms will wither away.”49 The shift in emphasis from the apostates to the Jews and Christians did not win universal favor from the leading members of al-Qaeda, some of whom thought that it was madness to attempt to fight the United States. They argued against the 9/11 attacks and would feel vindicated after the debacle for the group that ensued.50 Perhaps one of the most egregious flaws of the strategy was the failure to anticipate what came afterward, which led al-Qaeda’s leaders to prepare a series of second strikes, but fail to have a contingency in place to deal with the American invasion of Afghanistan that followed the attacks. The plan that al-Qaeda adopted seems to have made two assumptions: first, that the United States would carry out missile strikes as it had in 1998, perhaps with the support of ground attacks by the Northern Alliance, but would soon begin to pull out of the Muslim world (as it had earlier from Beirut, Aden, and Somalia), and second, that there was a vast wellspring of jihadist fervor in the Muslim community waiting to be awakened and set into motion by an audacious raid on the hated Americans.51 It was this wave that would take down the apostate rulers as the United States, through fear and cowardice, withdrew its support from them.

Strategic Means A look at the forces that al-Qaeda assembled before 9/11 supports this view of bin Laden’s grand strategic plan. During the 1990s, the organization incited jihad throughout the ummah, created a global jihadist cadre at its camps, sought to unify the jihadist groups that existed so that they would be more capable of effective action, and bound itself to a state ally for consistent support and a safe base from which to carry out its work. These policies put into place the means necessary for both stages of its plan, while showing how bin Laden’s thinking evolved over time. Thoughout the 1990s, bin Laden consistently stated that his purpose was to incite the Muslim community to take up jihad, 47 Bin Laden, “Declaration of War.” 48 Zaydan, “The First Interview,” in Usama bin Laden without Mask. 49 Mir, “Interview.” Zawahiri was arriving at a similar conclusion, but from a reading of the close relationship between the Egyptian apostates and the Jewish-Crusaders. By the end of the 1990s, he would conclude with bin Laden that the best way to dethrone the infidels ruling Muslim countries was to strike at the master rather than the agent, and fully supported a strategic plan to attack America. al-Zawahiri, “Knights Under the Prophet’s Banner [Extracts]: Parts Two, Three, Eight, and Eleven.” 50 See e.g., Abu al-Walid al-Masri, “The Story of the Arab Afghans from the Time of Arrival in Afghanistan until their Departure with the Taliban, Part Seven: Divorce and Then Reconciliation Between Al-Qa’ida and the Egyptian Jihad,” al-Sharq al-Awsat, 14 December 2004, p. 11; al-Tawil, “Part 1: Al-Qaeda Sought WMDs.” 51 Abu al-Walid al-Masri, “The Story of the Arab Afghans From the Time of Arrival in Afghanistan Until Their Departure With the Taliban. Part Two: Al-Qa’ida’s Hawks Sought Weapons of Mass Destruction Through Fighter Khattab in Chechnya,” al-Sharq al-Awsat, 9 December 2004.


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and he began by urging attacks on the Saudis and the American occupiers in the Peninsula.52 When the policy focus changed after 1995, his inciting of jihad also turned its attention to the Jews and Christians worldwide.53 At the same time, al-Qaeda’s camps trained three sorts of mujahidin: first, a relatively large jihadist vanguard that spread throughout the Muslim world; second, a group of regular soldiers that would be the backbone of an eventual Caliphate army; and third, a small number of highly trained “special operation” cells that would carry out attacks against the Jewish-Crusaders. This triple track laid the foundation for executing a daring raid that would energize the entire Muslim community and convince it to rise up against the enemy, while providing it with an ideologically committed and militarily trained leadership to point the violence in the “right” direction. Bin Laden intended as well to bring together existing jihadist movements to carry out attacks on the occupiers and to overthrow the apostates. Unifying the jihad, as this was consistently called, did not require that every fighter recognize him as commander and follow orders to the letter. It was, rather, an attempt — through rhetoric and organization — to pull jihadist groups and mujahidin into a more cohesive alliance, united by common ideological principles and common goals. For bin Laden, the absolute minimum for working with others was agreement on tawhid, jihad, and driving the Jewish-Crusaders out of Muslim lands as the first step in the war.54 He repeatedly stated in media appearances that he wanted to avoid bickering over petty problems in order to cooperate with other mujahidin and unite all jihadist forces.55 In pusuit of this objective, he created an organization with other jihadist groups — the Global Islamic Front for Jihad Against the United States and Israel — to express al-Qaeda’s vision and his desire for further unification in the future.56 A description by Sayf al-‘Adl, the head of al-Qaeda’s intelligence committee, of negotiations with Abu Mus’ab Zarqawi over cooperation showed the lengths that the group was willing to go in overlooking side issues so that they could work with other jihadists. Sayf al-‘Adl noted that there were serious differences in understandings of wala’ wa’l-bara’a, takfir, and military strategies that divided Zarqawi and his group from al-Qaeda, but believed that it was wrong both in terms of principle and pragmatism “to abandon every brother or group with whom we might have minor disagreements.” He was able to win over Zarqawi when he made the argument that al-Qaeda was not seeking full allegiance, but rather coordination and cooperation to achieve joint objectives. But partial integration would not ultimately satisfy al-Qaeda, which did have greater ambitions for unifying the jihad. As Sayf al-‘Adl put it, the organization wanted to create the preconditions for coordination with other jihadists at the “current stage” and “full agreement in the near future.”57 A desire to cooperate did not mean that al-Qaeda was always able to achieve its ends, as interactions with the leader of the Chechen jihad showed. Zawahiri spoke approvingly of the limited territory controlled by the mujahidin in Chechnya during the 1990s, describing it as the equivalent to the Taliban state.58 Attempts to win over Samir Salih ‘Abdallah al-Suwaylim (known as Ibn al-Khattab), the Saudi-born leader of the jihad, failed, however, and for reasons that would be instructive for later events. Both Ibn al-Khattab and bin Laden had reasons for believing that they should lead the jihadist movement in Chechnya: bin Laden because he had been a major commander in the successful 52 The instigation of fighting was a religious duty for jihadists like bin Laden, who believed in three types of participation in jihad: by hand (fighting itself), by finances, and by mouth (that is, inciting others to fight). All three were equally valued and rewarded by God with paradise if intentions were correct. 53 “Questions posed to Osama bin Laden by his followers,” NPR Frontline; “Wrath of God,” Time Magazine; Isma’il, “Interview;” Zaydan, “The First Interview,” in Usama bin Laden without Mask. 54 Bin Laden, “Declaration of War.” 55 “Mujahid Usamah Bin Ladin Talks Exclusively to ‘NIDA’UL ISLAM;’” “Questions posed to Osama bin Laden by his followers,” NPR Frontline. 56 Zaydan, “The First Interview,” in Usama bin Laden without Mask; Isma’il, “Interview.” 57 Sayf al-‘Adl, “Jihadist Biography of the Slaughtering Leader Abu Mus’ab al-Zarqawi,” GIMF, 2005. 58 Al-Zawahiri, “Knights Under the Prophet’s Banner [Extracts]: Part Seven.”


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jihad against the Soviets (while Ibn al-Khattab had been a lesser mujahid) and had a strategic vision that saw the regional goals of the Chechens as just one part of a greater global — and Shariacompliant — vision; Ibn al-Khattab because he had excellent financing streams from the Gulf, his own media operations, and a plan for expanding the jihad into the region. After lengthy negotiations, Ibn al-Khattab rejected bin Laden’s strategic concept of attacking the United States and prepared to push his fight into Dagestan and Central Asia.59 The combination of strong personalities, differing strategic visions, and position on the ground versus location in a distant safe haven, would return to delay or thwart entirely cooperation with other jihadists after 9/11. In contrast, the merger between al-Qaeda and Zawahiri’s group, Egyptian Islamic Jihad (EIJ), exemplified how a successful unification process would develop. Zawahiri and bin Laden worked together closely throughout the 1990s, pooling their resources and training cadres jointly in the camps. Egyptian members of EIJ had the professional military training and experience that al-Qaeda members lacked and provided the foundation for that organization’s military professionalization throughout the decade, while al-Qaeda had a sophisticated religious/ideological program that justified jihad and globalized the fight. Despite this close cooperation, the merger took years of negotiations and was only finalized in the spring of 2001. Zawahiri’s original vision for Afghanistan was to use it as a platform for launching jihad in Egypt, not as a forum for global war, and his version of Sharia did not precisely match that of bin Laden.60 It took many years for Zawahiri to be convinced by bin Laden to modify his views of jihad and for bin Laden’s stricter followers of Sharia to accept the Egyptians as “true Muslims.” Even after this agreement, Zawahiri had to make certain that the leaders in his own group were on board with the merger. The objections that they raised show the deep divisions that existed within the jihadist movement at that time. Zawahiri’s argument in favor of unification was that the situation in Egypt was unfavorable for jihadist activity, that international forces were hunting down the group, and that the mujahidin were dispersed and in conflict over trivial matters. In Afghanistan, however, the Taliban provided a secure base to reorganize and train, while the gathering of mujahidin from around the world opened up immense possibilities for cooperation with other groups. Union with al-Qaeda would allow EIJ to fight the international forces persecuting them, publicize their jihad widely, cooperate to carry out attacks in Egypt, unify the jihad there and elsewhere, and finally globalize the fight.61 A member of the group retorted that so far the move toward al-Qaeda had split the group, decimated the membership and cells, and led to nothing but failure when it came to actual attacks.62 Despite these objections, union between al-Qaeda and at least some faction of the EIJ group went forward just before the 9/11 attacks. Although Zawahiri understood well the importance of inciting63 and unifying the jihad, his lengthy discussion of the need to encourage Muslims to jihad acknowledged an important problem for the movement: an inability to break the “media siege” that prevented their message from reaching intended audiences.64 Bin Laden’s conception of the media had, however, two sides: on the one hand, he believed that international news sources, controlled by the Jews, distorted the truth about the jihadist movement and defamed him and his own group, while magnifying the strength of the United States. It was, in fact, the media that had created the entire idea of the United States as a superpower, a false image that prevented Muslims from even considering taking on the paper tiger and chasing it

59 Al-Masri, “The Story of the Arab Afghans From the Time of Arrival in Afghanistan Until Their Departure With the Taliban. Part Two.” 60 Al-Zawahiri, “Knights Under the Prophet’s Banner [Extracts]: Part Two.” Zawahiri’s version of Sharia was derived from Sayyid Qutb’s interpretation of the Muslim Brotherhood’s ideology. 61 Email from Ayman al-Zawahiri to Unknown, 3 May 2001, in Cullison, “Inside Al-Qaeda’s Hard Drive.” 62 Email from Unknown to Ayman al-Zawahiri, Summar 2001, in Cullison, “Inside Al-Qaeda’s Hard Drive.” 63 Although he tended to call it tajyyish (mobilizing) the ummah. 64 Al-Zawahiri, “Knights Under the Prophet’s Banner [Extracts]: Part Eleven.”


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from their lands.65 On the other hand, he understood the importance of media operations and needed for the sake of his strategic planning to engage in a war of ideas that would convince the Muslim community to carry out its duty of jihad against both the apostates and the Jewish-Crusaders. In a letter to Mullah ‘Umar on the need to give interviews with international television and newspapers, he argued in fact that the media war was 90% of the preparation for battle.66 Throughout the 1990s bin Laden insisted on giving numerous interviews despite the threat to his personal safety, and issued as well inciting statements and fatwas that would project the message of al-Qaeda and jihad beyond the borders of Afghanistan and the media blockade.

Allies Every facet of al-Qaeda’s grand strategy, including its media campaigns, depended on its main ally, the Taliban, to provide a secure base for organizing, training, planning, and carrying out its plans. Al-Qaeda was but one of many groups that found refuge in the new Islamic Emirate, since even before he had co-opted or destroyed other contenders for power in Afghanistan, Mullah Muhammad ‘Umar allowed multiple jihadist organizations to train for war on his territory. The relationship between the Taliban and al-Qaeda throughout the 1990s was complex and at times difficult, but there were ties that bound the two groups: a generally shared version of Islam, a commitment to jihad, and al-Qaeda’s view that the Taliban had created the world’s only true Islamic state.67 By the end of the decade the Taliban and al-Qaeda became the “ansar” and “muhajirun,” terms from Islam’s past that suggested a close connection, or even union between the two.68 This was affirmed when bin Laden and Zawahiri personally swore bay’a to Mullah ‘Umar. The oath obliged them, and therefore all al-Qaeda members, to “hear and obey” every command from Mullah ‘Umar, recognized his claim to be the Caliph, and, according to some accounts, made them part of the Taliban.69 To convey their close relationship to the Taliban movement, and their support for the Taliban version of Sharia, al-Qaeda members began wearing Afghan clothing and Taliban-style turbans.70 High officials in al-Qaeda, including Abu Musab al-Suri, were members of Taliban government institutions (in his case, the Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of Information), and bin Laden himself would be tasked by Mullah ‘Umar in August 2001 to take over the Taliban fight against the Northern Alliance, giving him a free hand to assassinate Ahmad Shah Mas’ud just before 9/11.71 Despite the ties, serious disagreements between the two groups remained, touching everything from creed to policy objectives to strategies. Documents written by al-Qaeda members accused the Taliban of being infidels and apostates, of a mentality “based on fabrications, wrongdoing, beating around the bush and running away from reality,” and worried that pledging bay’a to Mullah ‘Umar meant

65 Bin Laden, “Declaration of War;” “Transcript of Osama bin Laden interview by Peter Arnett,” March 1997; Zaydan, “The First Interview,” Usama bin Laden without Mask. 66 Letter from Osama bin Laden to Mullah Muhammad ‘Umar, date unknown, AFGP-2002-600321. 67 “Osama urges Muslims to help Afghans, wage jihad,” NNI, The Nation, 10 April 2001; Letter from Usama Bin Ladin to the Deobandi scholars in Peshawar, date unknown, AFGP-2002-901188. 68 ‘Atwan, “Interview.” 69 The obligation to obey was affirmed by Bin Ladin in an interview: “…we are not working here independently. We are in a state with an Amir of the Faithful. We are legally bound to obey him in whatever does not violate God’s words. We are committed to this state and call on people to support it.” Isma’il, “Interview.” For the assertion that swearing bay’a made bin Laden part of the Taliban, see Mahmud Abdal-Salam, “Bin Laden’s Allegiance to Taleban’s Leader Has Made Him One of Them,” al-Majallah, 29 April 2001, p. 13. The text of al-Qaeda’s version of bay’a can be found in “Al-Qaeda: Constitutional Charter, Rules and Regulations,” no date, AFGP-2002-600175. 70 Zaydan, “The First Interview,” in Usama bin Laden without Mask. 71 “Statement issued by the office of Shaykh Abu-Mus’ab al-Suri in response to US State Department announcement,” December 2004; Shamim Shahid, “Rift surfaces in Taliban over internal issue,” The Nation, 4 September 2001, p. 12. Some news sources reported that bin Laden had been named Defense Minister of Afghanistan, but this seems rather unlikely. See “Report,” Voice of the Islamic Republic of Iran Radio 1, 29 August 2001.


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giving up the fight with the Jewish-Crusader alliance.72 The Taliban version of Sharia (based on the Hanafi school of law), while close to that of al-Qaeda (a Hanbali version of law), included significant variations that were seen by some al-Qaeda members as irreconcilable with “true” Islam. The Taliban, for instance, had not destroyed all the bid’a (innovations in religion) in the country, allowed tombs of saints to remain, and had attempted to join an infidel organization, the United Nations.73 Mullah ‘Umar also did not share al-Qaeda’s views of suicide bombing — a key part of the group’s tactical doctrine and one that would become tied to its creed. The policy objectives of the two groups were at odds as well: Mullah ‘Umar was committed to perfecting Islam in his country and perhaps spreading it into the immediate region, which contrasted with al-Qaeda’s greater commitment to jihad on a global scale.74 It is clear too from the writing of dissidents that the Taliban did not want to provoke the United States into an attack on their country, although it remains uncertain whether bin Laden defied Mullah ‘Umar when he approved the 9/11 attacks.75 Bin Laden did not allow these internal disputes to surface in public fora. In his speeches and statements, he was careful to support the Taliban, arguing that in Afghanistan the Muslim community saw the “establishment of an Islamic nation that will follow the Sharia of God, and will hold the banner of tawhid,” and that the “Commander of the Faithful” and his state deserved financial and military aid from all true Muslims.76 But there was private dissatisfaction with the religious stances of the Taliban. Arab ulema who supported al-Qaeda’s version of Sharia quietly intervened with the Taliban and their clerics to argue that such reprehensible actions as tolerating Sufism and not destroying the tombs of saints had to be reformed. The response of Mullah ‘Umar in general was deference to the Arab clerics and movement toward al-Qaeda’s version of Islam.77 Some members of the Taliban had just as much difficulty with their Arab “guests,” and believed that bin Laden in particular was too much trouble to tolerate.78 A leader of the opposition to al-Qaeda was Mullah Muhammad Hasan, a member of the Taliban Shura Council and sometime foreign minister, who became convinced that bin Laden had to be expelled because of religious differences, repeated disobedience to Mullah ‘Umar, and bin Laden’s reputed support for Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, the sworn enemy of the Taliban.79 In 2000, discomfort with their Arab “guests” led the Taliban to shut down several of al-Qaeda’s training camps and place all jihadist groups in Afghanistan under the authority of Jum’a Namangani, the military commander of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, and no friend of al-Qaeda. By at least one report, the disagreement with al-Qaeda reached the point where Taliban officials informed the U.S. government one week before 9/11 that al-Qaeda planned to carry out an attack, although the tip lacked information about timing or intended targets. 80 Notwithstanding the misgivings of men who worked with him, Mullah ‘Umar himself refused to consider handing al-

72 Letter from Abd al-Hamid to Abu al-Qayim, date unknown, AFGP-2002-601402-HT-NVTC; al-Sahal al-Mumtan, “Political Speculation,” date unknown, AGFP-2002-602181; “A Multitude of Advice Bequeath Suspicion,” [September 2000?], AFGP-2002801138, pp. 213-214. 73 See “Taliban and the State of Things in Afghanistan,” date unknown, AFGP-2002-003472-Trans-Meta; “Letter from Abu Mus’ab to Abu Muhammad,” date unknown, AFGP-2002-601693; “Questions on the speech given by Abu Al-Fidaa’,” 29 August 2000, AFGP2002-801138, p. 126; al-Sahal al-Mumtan, “Political Speculation,” [No Date], AGFP-2002-602181. 74 For his support for jihad in neighboring countries, see Letter from Osama bin Laden to Mullah Muhammad ‘Umar,” date unknown, AFGP-2002-600321. 75 Al-Tawil, “Part 1: Al-Qaeda Sought WMDs.” 76 Letter from Osama bin Laden to the Deobandi scholars in Peshawar, date unknown, AFGP-2002-901188. 77 “Are the Taliban from Ahl as-Sunnah?” [Based on work by Abu Mus’ab al-Suri and Yusuf al-‘Uyayri] At-Tibyan Publications, http:// www.tibyan.co.cc/2009/08/are-taliban-from-ahl-as-sunnah.html, last accessed 28 February 2012. 78 Cullison, “Inside Al-Qaeda’s Hard Drive.” 79 Abu al-Walid al-Masri, “The Story of the Arab Afghans from the Time of Arrival in Afghanistan until their Departure with the Taliban, Part Three: Taliban-Bin Ladin Tense Relations in 1996,” al-Sharq al-Awsat, 10 December 2004, p. 14. 80 Al-Tawil, “Part 1: Al-Qaeda Sought WMDs.”


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Qaeda and the other Arab mujahidin over to the Americans and steadfastly supported his “guests” up to the moment his regime was destroyed.81

Lessons Learned There is one final characteristic of al-Qaeda that is necessary for understanding where the group was just before the 9/11 attacks: al-Qaeda is a learning organization. Throughout the nineties, alQaeda members studied, analyzed, and attempted to learn from jihadist experiences of the past, hoping to avoid the mistakes and failures that had doomed every other local jihad. Two of the most comprehensive of these studies were prepared by Abu Musab al-Suri and Zawahiri, who wrote lengthy analyses of the jihads in Syria and Egypt respectively.82 Some of the conclusions that they drew from their research was the need for a comprehensive strategy for the jihad; the necessity to unify all jihadist groups; that the group should avoid financing from states, since this bound the mujahidin to apostate countries that did not share their principles or objectives; the importance of media and a well-thought out plan to clarify the ideological/religious principles and objectives of the group; the need for a clear and pure religious banner for the jihad, one not mixed with nationalism or other “infidel” concepts; and the need to involve the entire Muslim community in the fight, not just a small jihadist vanguard. Bin Laden added another important lesson from his experience in the Afghan jihad: that the group had to think through carefully what to do once victory was achieved in any particular battlefield, since the failure of the mujahidin to do so when the Soviets left resulted in chaos, internecine fighting, and near defeat after a clear victory. 83 In everything that would follow, the adjustments that al-Qaeda made to previous experiences would allow them to react in a flexible way to the challenges that they faced.

Conclusion By 11 September 2001, bin Laden and other leaders of al-Qaeda had created a fully articulated grand strategy that would direct the conduct of their war. Beginning with a vision of a world in conflict, they decided on religious-ideological principles to mark red-lines for action, determined the nature of their enemies, set the objectives they would achieve, and chose the means — including their allies — that they would use to win the war. The creation of specific plans of action for each part of their war: military, political, intelligence, and media strategies in particular, would also take up much of their attention during the 1990s, but decisions about each of these were directed and controlled by this grand strategic vision. As the United States struggles to win its war with al-Qaeda, it is important to emphasize just how far American policymaking is from this unified and coordinated vision of warfare. Despite the intensive effort of numerous experts and scholars, there is, as yet, no universally agreed-upon definition of the enemy, set of objectives, and means to fight the war. Perhaps it will take another ten years — or another shock to the system like 9/11 — to force all parties to engage these questions more seriously, and for the United States to develop a sophisticated and unified grand strategy to match that of its enemy.

81 Al-Masri, “The Story of the Arab Afghans from the Time of Arrival in Afghanistan until their Departure with the Taliban, Part Three.” 82 The following discussion is based on [Abu Mus’ab al-Suri], “Lessons Learned from the Jihad Ordeal in Syria,” AFGP-2002-600080 and Ayman al-Zawahiri, “Knights Under the Prophet’s Banner [Extracts]: Part Eleven.” 83 Abu Shiraz, “Interview with Bin Ladin,” Pakistan, 20 February 1999, p. 10; Isma’il, “Interview.”


Keynote Address II

The Evolution of al-Qaeda and Associated Movements The Honorable Michael G. Vickers


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Completing the Destruction of al Qa’ida Michael G. Vickers Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence Thank you, COL Bell, for that very kind introduction, and good afternoon ladies and gentlemen. It is a pleasure to be with you today. Thank you as well to the National Defense University and its Conflict Records Research Center, and to Johns Hopkins University and its Center for Advanced Governmental Studies for sponsoring this important conference on insights into al Qa’ida’s past and future. We are doing our utmost to ensure that al Qa’ida does not have a future. It is vital that we mine all sources for insights that will lead to the destruction of al Qa’ida, and this, of course, includes captured records. The ceremonies this past weekend in New York, at the Pentagon, and at Shanksville, Pennsylvania, on the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks were a powerful reminder of the incredible courage and resilience of Americans. As I sat at the Pentagon on Sunday and watched plane after plane soar into the sky from Reagan National Airport, I thought of the poignancy of reclaiming our skies and our freedom to travel. What I would like to talk to you about today is where I think we are at the ten year point of our war with al Qa’ida, and how we plan to avenge our loved ones and heroes by completing the destruction of al Qa’ida. My perspective is, as you know, tthat of a practitioner —  one engaged in policy, operations and intelligence. I’d like to talk briefly about the state of al Qa’ida today and how it’s evolved since the 9/11 attacks, and our strategy for ensuring its demise.

Al Qa’ida Today Al Qa’ida remains a very dangerous threat to the American homeland and the vanguard of the global jihadist movement. That said, the group is under far more pressure, and is in a far more precarious position than it has been at any time since it was ejected from its Afghanistan safe haven in 2001. Al Qa’ida’s senior leaders and rank and file feel besieged by U.S. counterterrorism operations. Its senior leaders are being eliminated at a rate far faster than al Qa’ida can replace them, and the leadership replacements the group is able to field are much less experienced and credible. It is not enough, of course, to focus entirely on the senior leadership. Operationally dismantling al Qa’ida — rendering it incapable of planning and conducting operations — means that the organization itself must be broken and the relationship with those who provide it safe haven must be severed as well. Accordingly, in addition to attriting much of al Qa’ida’s senior leadership, we have also substantially attrited AQ’s mid-level operatives, trainers and facilitators, its recent recruits, including several westerners, and the senior leaders and operatives of its safe haven providers. Al Qa’ida was able to recover from the loss of its Afghanistan safe haven and the loss of key leaders as it initially sought sanctuary in Pakistan’s settled areas by 2003 by establishing a new safe haven in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas, or FATA. Within just two years, the group was able to carry out the “7/7” attacks in London, and a year later, nearly pull off its large- scale trans-Atlantic airliner plot — an attack which would have rivaled the 9/11 attack in lives lost. As is well known, al Qa’ida sought to exploit the Iraq War to its advantage, but under the leadership of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, it overplayed its hand. As a result of this and our relentless CT campaign, al Qa’ida in Iraq is a remnant of its former self, with its strength down 90 percent since 2007.


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In the summer of 2008, the gloves really came off in the war with al Qa’ida. Three years of intense counterterrorism pressure have taken an enormous toll on the group’s leadership, its rank and file operatives, and those who provide it sanctuary. It is not too much to say that the accelerated CT campaign that is bringing about al Qa’ida’s destruction is the most precise campaign in the history of warfare. The group’s losses in 2011 have been particularly devastating: most notably, of course, the group’s founder and leader, Usama Bin Ladin, but also its General Manager and #2, Atiyah `Abd al-Rahman, and two of its key external operations leaders, Ilyas Kashmiri and Younis al Mauritani. This year alone, core al Qa’ida has lost 8 of its “Top 20” leaders. Of the top nine leaders al Qa’ida had on September 11, 2001, only Ayman al-Zawahiri has thus far managed to escape death or detention. To be sure, al Qa’ida has proven to be a resilient organization. It maintains a worldwide strength numbering in the low thousands, it has broadened its reach through affiliate organizations — al Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula, East African al Qa’ida/al Shabaab, al Qa’ida in Iraq, and al Qa’ida in the Islamic Maghreb — and adherents, and it has established deep relationships with groups that provide it safe haven and conduct joint operations with it. One of these affiliates, al Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula, which attempted to bring down an airliner over Detroit on Christmas Day 2009, and in 2010, attempted to put explosives on cargo planes bound for the United States, currently poses as great a threat to the American homeland as does core al Qa’ida. One of core al Qa’ida’s safe haven providers and operational allies, Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, also in 2010 tried to blow up an SUV in Times Square, and we have evidence that the TTP remains interested in attacking the United States. We also have increasing evidence that another of al Qa’ida’s safe haven providers in the FATA — the Haqqani Network — has adopted al Qai’da’s aim of attacking the American homeland. The credible and specific, though unconfirmed threat to New York and Washington, DC, that hung over the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks is a reminder that al Qa’ida remains a dangerous threat that must be eliminated, and much work remains to be done. But the strategic defeat of al Qa’ida is now for the first time within our reach. The unrest in the Middle East and North Africa is currently providing and could continue to provide al Qa’ida with increased operating space. But over the longer term, the opportunity of Islamist groups to participate in the political process could prove to be a strategic setback for al Qa’ida. Assuming sustained CT operations against the group, within 18 to 24 months, core al Qa’ida’s cohesion and operational capabilities could be degraded to the point that the group could fragment and exist mostly as a propaganda arm, and power could devolve to regional affiliates. The operational dismantlement of core al Qa’ida, to be sure, is only another step, albeit a huge one, toward the group’s eventual strategic defeat. We likewise may not be done with the operational dismantlement of all of the group’s regional affiliates within the next two years. But the operational dismantlement of core al Qa’ida will markedly reduce the threat to the American homeland, and it will put us much closer to al Qa’ida’s eventual defeat as the vanguard of global jihadist movement.

Completing al Qa’ida’s Destruction Let me now talk for a few moments about the strategy we have developed to bring about al Qa’ida’s destruction. Our recently released national counterterrorism strategy is focused very tightly on the network that poses the most direct and significant threat to the United States — al Qa’ida, its affiliates, and its


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adherents. It is not a war on terror, but rather a war with al Qa’ida. Our goal, as President Obama has stated, is to disrupt, dismantle and defeat al Qa’ida, and prevent the group’s return. We seek nothing less than the utter destruction of this evil that calls itself al Qa’ida. Our strategy is shaped by an increasingly deep understanding of al Qa’ida’s goals, strategy, and tactics. Al Qa’ida, for example, seeks to portray America as an enemy of the world’s Muslims. But President Obama, and President Bush before him, has made it clear that the United States is not, and never will be, at war with Islam. Al Qa’ida seeks to bleed us financially by drawing us into long, costly wars that also inflame anti-American sentiment. We are working to responsibly end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan while keeping unrelenting pressure on al Qa’ida until it is defeated. Al Qa’ida seeks to portray itself as a religious movement defending the rights of Muslims. But there is nothing Islamic or holy about slaughtering innocent men, women, and children. It is no wonder that the overwhelming majority of the world’s Muslims have rejected al Qa’ida and why its ranks of supporters continue to decline. To destroy al Qa’ida, we are pursuing specific and focused counterterrorism objectives. We are: »»Protecting our homeland by constantly reducing our vulnerabilities and adapting and updating our defenses; »»Taking the fight to wherever the cancer of al Qa’ida manifests itself, degrading its capabilities and disrupting its operations; »»Degrading the ability of al Qa’ida’s senior leadership to inspire, communicate with, and direct the operations of its affiliates and adherents around the world; »»Denying al Qa’ida any safe haven  — the physical sanctuary it needs to train, plot, and launch attacks against us; »»Aggressively confronting al Qa’ida’s ideology, which attempts to exploit local and often legitimate grievances in an attempt to justify violence; »»Depriving al Qa’ida of its enabling means, including the illicit financing, logistical support, and online communications that sustain its network; and »»Preventing al Qa’ida from acquiring or developing weapons of mass destruction. Our strategy is pragmatic, based on what has been proven to work. It builds upon policies and practices that have been instituted and refined over the past decade, in partnership with Congress. It reflects an evolution of our understanding of the threat, the tools and technologies at our disposal, and the capacity and alignment of interests of our partners. We recognize that different al Qa’ida threats in different regions demand different approaches and tools. We are doing everything in our power to prevent another terrorist attack on our soil, but we also are mindful that no counterterrorism strategy can prevent every single threat from every single individual who wishes to do us harm. Al Qa’ida seeks to terrorize us; we must not give in to fear, and must remain true to who we are. With our international partners, we continue to deepen our Global Counterterrorism Network. We continue to strengthen and increase our intelligence and special operations capabilities, which form the core of our operational approach. We also continue to make strikes in furthering the integration of Title 10 and Title 50 operations. We have increased our efforts to build the capacity of our international counterterrorism partners so they can take the fight to al Qa’ida in their own countries. We continue to reinforce our multi-layered approach to homeland security, by strengthening, for example, watchlist procedures and sharing information in real-time.


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Strategies must set priorities, or areas of primary focus, and ours has as its top priorities the elimination of al Qa’ida and its safe havens in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia. Protecting the American homeland is “Job One” of our counterterrorism strategy. The Pakistan border region remains, as both President Obama and a Pakistani author recently put it, “the most dangerous place in the world.” Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas remain the epicenter — the “Star Wars Bar,” if you will — of the world’s worst of global jihad. The continued presence of groups, such as the TTP, the Haqqani Network, and the Commander Nazir Group, who provide al Qa’ida with safe haven and make common cause with it ensures that the FATA will almost certainly remain a principal area of U.S. counterterrorism focus well after core al Qa’ida is dismantled and ejected from the region. Al Qa’ida is a parasite that cannot survive without its host, and, as we have seen, the parasite also infects its host. In recent months, we have been reminded that our relationship with Pakistan is notwithout tension or frustration. We are working with our Pakistani partners to overcome differences and continue our efforts against our common enemies. It is imperative that we do so. Pakistan has been critical to many of our most significant successes against al Qa’ida, and tens of thousands of Pakistanis — military and civilian — have given their lives in the fight against militancy. The United States faces two major CT challenges in the Arabian Peninsula: the direct threat posed by AQAP and the large quantity of financial support from individuals and charities that flow from the region to al Qa’ida and its affiliates around the world. Taking advantage of the instability in Yemen, AQAP has significantly increased its operating space, particularly in Abyan Governate. Our counterterrorism cooperation with the Government of Yemen, however, is stronger than it has ever been, and together, we have been able to deliver several significant blows to AQAP since April. The defeat of AQAP will remain our priority. Somalia’s chaotic and unsettled political situation has challenged the security environment in East Africa for a generation. Al Qa’ida elements in East Africa continue to be a primary CT focus of the United States in light of clear indications of their ongoing intent to conduct attacks. AQ’s increasingly close affiliation with al Shabaab is enabling the latter to pose a regional threat with trans-regional ties to other al Qa’ida affiliates and to strike, as it did in Uganda, outside of Somalia. With our allies and partners, we have thwarted attacks around the world, including al Qa’ida’s plan to conduct multiple attacks against Europe last fall. We have disrupted plots here at home, including the plan of Najibullah Zazi, who was trained by al Qa’ida to bomb the New York subway. We have affected al Qa’ida’s ability to attract new recruits and made it harder for them to hide and transfer money. In Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia, we’ve shown al Qa’ida that it will enjoy no safe haven, and have decimated its leadership ranks. In addition to UBL, Atiyah Abd al-Rahman, Ilyas Kashmiri, and Younis al Mauritani, the past two years have witnessed the deaths of al Qa’ida’s former #3, Sheik Saeed al-Masri, al Qa’ida’s former operations chief, Abu Abd al-Rahman al-Najdi, AQ’s former chief of external operations, Saleh al-Somali, Pakistan Taliban leader, Baitullah Mahsud, and TTP bombmaker Qari Hussein. Harun Fazul, the leader of al Qa’ida in East Africa and the mastermind of the bombings of our embassies in Africa, was killed this year by Somali security forces. Several AQAP leaders and operatives have also been taken out. Over the past two and a half years, virtually every major al Qa’ida affiliate has lost a key leader or operational planner, and more than half of al Qa’ida’s core leadership has been eliminated. With the death of Usama Bin Ladin, we struck the biggest blow against al Qa’ida yet. Information seized from UBL’s Abbottabad compound revealed his concerns about al Qa’ida’s longterm viability. We will continue to use every tool at our disposal until al Qa’ida is destroyed. We have put al Qa’ida on the path to defeat, and we will not relent until the job is done.


Panel Session II

What Have We Learned about al-Qaeda and Associated Movements since 9/11? Chair: Mr. Peter L. Bergen


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What have we learned about al-Qaeda and Associated Movements since 9/11? Dr. Mark E. Stout 1 Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Advanced Governmental Studies Introduction This panel addressed the question of what we have learned about al-Qaeda and the broader jihadist movement of which it is a part since 2001. Of course, the answer is a great deal. The extent of intellectual effort devoted to understanding al-Qaeda since 9/11, both within governments and outside them, has been remarkable and the suddenness with which this effort was focused is probably unprecedented. As a result, the field of jihadist studies is now very rich. We now know a great deal about the history of al-Qaeda itself and its predecessors. We have a sophisticated understanding of Salafi jihadism, the theology upon which al-Qaeda depends. We have seen extensive discussions of al-Qaeda’s strategic thought and seen how it can go wrong and on al-Qaeda’s operations in the information sphere. We know a great deal about who joins the jihadist movement and some work has been done and more is underway on what it takes to induce someone to leave the movement. Finally, we have seen important work on schisms within the jihadist movement. In short, scholars are in a much more comfortable position and governments are beginning to have a truly sound scholarly basis for formulating counter-jihadist policies and strategies. Not all of this work over the last decade has been of equal quality and all of us have read cringeinducing books on al-Qaeda and jihadism or listened impatiently as so-called experts gave deeply flawed interviews or conducted off-target training courses for law enforcement officials. However, a great deal of the work that has been done has been of the very highest quality and we were fortunate, on this second panel of the conference, to have four fascinating presentations from fine scholars who represented the best of the work that has been done. All of these papers draw from primary source materials, both captured and open source. Three of them challenge us to see al-Qaeda and global jihadist movements which are deeply flawed and which face substantial opposition. Dr. Nelly Lahoud, associate Professor in the Social Sciences Department at West Point, spoke about the “corrective history” that we can find in the autobiography of Fadil Harun, an al-Qaeda insider. Harun was deeply concerned, and very forthright, about the movement’s missteps, particularly since 9/11, and his criticisms are given more weight by the fact that, as Dr. Lahoud pointed out, he was not trying to undermine jihadism; rather, he sought to correct the jihadi path and exonerate al-Qaeda from the misdeeds carried out in its name. 2 Jessica Huckabey’s paper articulates a similar theme. Huckabey is a research staff member at the Institute for Defense Analyses and previously acted as the director of the Conflict Records Research Center (CRRC). She has been working with records captured from al-Qaeda since 2005 and her paper on “jihads in decline” details numerous criticisms, complaints, mistakes, and disputes within the jihadist movement, primarily during the 1990s, that can be found in a close reading of the documents at the CRRC. 1 Peter Bergen’s commitments did not allow him to provide an introduction on this panel for this volume. 2 At the time of publication, Dr. Lahoud’s paper was not available to be included in this volume.


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Professor David Cook, who is an assistant professor of religious studies at Rice University and the author of Understanding Jihad, one of the best books of the last decade, took a slightly different perspective, looking at the theological underpinnings of the al-Qaeda movement.3 His paper’s title is self-explanatory and stark: “The Collapse of the Religious Justifications for Globalist Radical Muslims.” The final paper of this panel two provides evidence of the maturation of jihadist studies. No scholarly field can be said to be mature until it has its own revisionists. The final panelist, Professor Flagg Miller, is an associate professor of Religious Studies at the University of California-Davis. Professor Miller is about to publish a book based on audiocassettes recovered from an al-Qaeda safe house in Kandahar by CNN and now held at Yale University that illuminate many issues of the early history of al-Qaeda. He argues that much of what we think we know about the early days of al-Qaeda, is based on misunderstanding deriving, in part, from an insufficiently close reading of the documentary record.

3 David Cook, Understanding Jihad (Berkley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2005).


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Jihads in Decline: What the Captured Records Tell Us Ms. Jessica M. Huckabey Institute for Defense Analyses The Conflict Records Research Center (CRRC) collection of al-Qaeda and Associated Movements records offers scholars a window into the inner workings of al-Qaeda at the time of the 9/11 attacks and from the preceding era.1 What used to be a novel approach — analyzing al-Qaeda’s aims in its own words — is now commonplace (even expected) in the understanding of jihadist movements. 2 The CRRC is a valuable resource for advancing this study because it makes source materials available as digital copies in their original language and translated forms. A portion of the records in the CRRC’s research database address what could be called “jihads in decline.” These documents illuminate the thinking about the state of earlier jihads around the world as seen by some of jihad’s practitioners. This paper begins with a discussion of the records pertaining to jihads in decline by country or region and then highlights some of the requirements for jihad perceived by its practitioners, including sanction from religious authorities and public support; the need to be guided by strategy; sustainability; and sanctuary and security. What are “jihads in decline?”3 There is certainly an ebb and flow to the course of jihads and to the organizations that pursue them. The captured writings reflect how jihad experiences did not turn out as hoped, often with the view expressed that “if only we’d had more of (or less of) something or some activity, it would have turned out better.” There are also records that outline requirements for future jihads in specific locations and what the authors believe are preventative actions to avert failure. However, to paraphrase Helmuth von Moltke the Elder, no plan for jihad can survive contact with the enemy. Once a jihad moves from the discussion and preparation stage to actual fighting, frictions can become considerable and these difficulties appeared often in the documentary record. Jihad is by definition a “struggle” and by its nature an uphill climb against formidable odds. Those who say they answer the call of violent jihad are used to dealing with hardships and staying in the shadows within their respective societies or theaters of operations; however, there is a major difference between the necessity of operating on the margins toward eventual success and being marginalized into irrelevancy. It is now reported that Osama bin Laden spent his final years secluded in Pakistan and obsessed with the problem of keeping the global jihad he had begun out of a state of perpetual decline. 4

1 The author played a role in establishing the CRRC as its first acting director in 2010 and worked with captured documents as part of the Institute for Defense Analyses research team that studied the strategic and operational views of al-Qaeda (AQ) as expressed in its private and public writings. See Mark E. Stout, Jessica M. Huckabey, John R. Schindler with Jim Lacey, The Terrorist Perspectives Project: Strategic and Operational Views of Al Qaida and Associated Movements (Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2008); Mark Stout, “In Search of Salafi Jihadist Strategic Thought: Mining the Words of the Terrorists,” Studies in Conflict and Terrorism 32, no. 10 (2009); and, Jessica M. Huckabey and Mark Stout, “Al Qaida’s Views of Authoritarian Intelligence Services in the Middle East,” Intelligence and National Security 25, no. 3 (2010). 2 For studies that used captured records to analyze AQ weaknesses from the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, see James J.F. Forest, Jarret Brachman, and Joseph Felter, “Harmony and Disharmony: Exploiting al-Qaida’s Organizational Vulnerabilities,” 14 February 2006, http://www.ctc.usma.edu/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/Harmony-and-Disharmony.pdf, last accessed 29 February 2012; Assaf Moghadam and Brian Fishman, “Self Inflicted Wounds: Debates and Divisions within al-Qa’ida’s and its Periphery,” 16 December 2010, http://www.ctc.usma.edu/posts/self-inflicted-wounds, last accessed 29 February 2012. 3 For a case study of a failed jihad based on open sources, see Thomas Hegghammer, “The Failure of Jihad in Saudi Arabia,” Combating Terrorism Center Occasional Paper Series, 25 February 2010, http://www.ctc.usma.edu/wp-content/uploads/2010/10/ CTC_OP_Hegghammer_Final.pdf, last accessed 29 February 2012. 4 E.g., see “Bin Laden eyed name change for al-Qaeda to repair image,” http://www.usatoday.com/news/world/2011-06-24-Osamabin-Laden-Al-qaeda_n.htm, last accessed 29 February 2012.


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Of note, there were jihadist thinkers such as Abu Musab al-Suri who believed that the 9/11 attacks were a huge mistake and that, in fact, they marked the start of the global jihad’s decline. The overwhelming American response brought an end to al-Qaeda’s Afghanistan sanctuaries and the embryonic Islamic state under the Taliban, and practically overnight turned what had been a success into a failure. Al-Suri is widely known as the chronicler of failed jihads and founder of the “lessons learned” canon within the Salafi jihadist community.5 Much of the narrative of jihad failures and what mistakes to avoid, such as in Syria, and precautions to take for future jihads in Yemen and Central Asia, were from al-Suri’s pen and stemmed from his camp lectures in Afghanistan in the late 1990s.6

Arenas of Jihad Ayman Zawahiri, now al-Qaeda’s emir, observed in 2001 that “a jihadist movement needs an arena that would act like an incubator where seeds would grow, and where it can acquire practical experience in combat, politics, and organizational matters.”7 Afghanistan proved to be such an incubator for al-Qaeda. The “Chat from the Top of the World” series available in the CRRC research database notes that “[e]vents in the Islamic world like Chechnya, Bosnia, Somalia, and Tajikistan caused the birth of Islamic armies from different nationalities and Arabic backgrounds. Afghan graduates had an important role in those deployments.”8 The vanguard of veteran fighters from the jihads in the 1990s took their experience with them around the world. Not all jihadist efforts proved a success, however, and one finds discussions in books, lessons learned studies, and after-action reports that paint a lessthan-rosy picture of the realities on the path to jihad.

Afghanistan Records on Afghanistan form a substantial part of the CRRC collection and cover the 1980s jihad against the Soviets, the establishment of al-Qaeda training camps, and al-Qaeda ties to the Taliban movement in the 1990s. Intermixed with leadership memos on organizational and ideological matters, administrivia from the camps, magazine articles, and news clippings, are historical perspectives on the Afghan jihad and the state of current efforts — what one document called “phase two” of the jihad.9 The earliest document, “Historical Perspectives of Guerrilla War” from the 1980s, offered case studies of previous “people’s wars” in Cyprus, Vietnam, and Algeria as viewed through the lens of current problems in the Soviet-Afghan jihad. Its unidentified author emphasized the role of leadership as the organizing force that holds the political and military efforts together over the long haul against regular forces.10 The danger existed in putting the military cart before the political horse — especially in the case of spontaneous jihads — because political organization was the difference between success 5 E.g., see “Bin Laden eyed name change for al-Qaeda to repair image,” http://www.usatoday.com/news/world/2011-06-24-Osamabin-Laden-Al-qaeda_n.htm, last accessed 29 February 2012. 6 Al-Suri lectured at his al-Ghuraba (meaning the alien) camp on important lessons and issues of jihad and its role in combating the New World Order in Central Asia and Caucasus, Yemen, the Arabian Peninsula, and North Africa. See the flier invitation to the lectures in AQ-MCOP-D-000-041, “Letter from Abu Massab to Any Khabab, enclosing an invitation from al-Ghuraba’ Camp Headquarters to attend Week of Open Sharia, Political and Intellectual Forum,” undated (prior to 19 Sep 1999), p. 3, Conflict Records Research Center, Washington, D.C. 7 FBIS GMP20002010800197, “Al-Sharq Al-Awsat Publishes Extracts from Al-Jihad Leader Al-Zawahiri’s New Book,” Al-Sharq al-Awsat, London, 2 December 2001. 8 AQ-SHPD-D-000-985, “Chat from the Top of the World Number Series, containing a historical overview of the events in Afghanistan during the Soviet invasion and the establishment of al-Qaeda, including ties to Egyptian jihad,” 1997 July, p. 58, Conflict Records Research Center, Washington, D.C. Al-Sharq al-Awsat serialized Abu Walid al-Masri’s chat series in 2006. 9 AQ-SHPD-D-000-928, “Document regarding second stage of jihad in Afghanistan, including political, military, and economic focus,” undated (circa 1995 May), p. 1, Conflict Records Research Center, Washington, D.C. 10 AQ-SHPD-D-000-982, “Historical perspectives of guerrilla war and their relation to jihad and fight against the Soviet occupation,” undated (circa 1980s), p. 1, Conflict Records Research Center, Washington, D.C.


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and failure in these types of wars. “If certain people start by taking up arms prior to completing the building of the political organization, then the organization becomes very complicated. This is the problem that currently faces us in Afghanistan.” Recent history revealed “the extent of the huge losses that we suffered as a result of our lack of organization,” the author concluded. “A quick look at the results of the Islamic guerrilla wars proves it.”11 A well-known critique of the anti-Soviet jihad by an insider is the previously mentioned “Chat from the Top of the World” series by Abu Walid al-Masri (a.k.a. Mustafa Hamid).12 It is certainly one of the most contrarian views of what al-Qaeda considers a successful jihad of epic proportions based on the mujahidin’s primary role — in their view — in bringing down a superpower. Al-Masri declared that the purpose of the series was “to discuss in detail the pros and cons of Arab activity in Afghanistan.” In his view, the positives were few and far between, and the negatives still persisted in ongoing jihads. However, “the study of the negatives and defeats is more useful because it is the real base for future victories.”13 Five parts of the lengthy “Chat” series are available through the CRRC in English and Arabic. It is thus far too extensive to properly cover here; however, the presence of what is essentially a polemic on the actions of the founding members of al-Qaeda among captured al-Qaeda papers is itself noteworthy. Organization during the Afghan jihad was a critical problem, according to al-Masri (the Egyptian), because “the inability for organization or organized work is one of the most prominent traits of the Arabs of the peninsula….” As Afghans had the same deficiencies in organizational skills, Arab chaos supported Afghan chaos and created “a tragic scene of microscopic groups that hate each other and the exceptions are rare.”14 He also found that the Salafi presence was extremely polarizing and that the importation of the Saudi style of administration was ultimately bad for the effectiveness of the jihad. He claimed that competition was so fierce from the influx of money and resources that fistfights broke out in the Peshawar offices.15 Enthusiasm, he observed, was difficult to channel in both the Arab and Afghan mujahidin. Afghans rushed in with great enthusiasm but had little religious or political knowledge and thus were easy to deceive. The Arab youth had the reputation as short-timers and wandering nomads just looking for a fight and were: nothing but ‘delivery mules’ the others use to carry heavy loads then they fire mercy shots at them after their mission is accomplished. Enthusiasm and heroism alone are not enough without wise leadership and courage and giving are not enough without a sound plan. It is war and war is ruthless.…16 Abu Walid al-Masri reserved his harshest criticism for the unbridled enthusiasm that culminated in the Battle of Jalalabad, which he called a “Great Folly” and a horrible tragedy. Both he and Abu Musab al-Suri dissented from the view (and were “mentally terrorized” for their opposition)17 that the tremendous casualties taken by the mujahidin beginning in 1989 were glories for the jihad. Rather, “the truth indicated that the battle was a pre-planned quagmire which the Afghan mujahidin fell into and stupidly were followed by the Arab mujahidin. Except, the Afghans managed to pull out of it 11 Ibid., p. 3. 12 Al-Masri is also reportedly Saif al-Adl’s father in law. http://www.jihadica.com/al-qa’ida-revisions-the-five-letters-of-sayf-al‘adl/, last accessed 29 February 2012. 13 AQ-SHPD-D-000-291, “Chat from the Top of the World Series, evaluating the Islamic jihad experience against the Soviets in Afghanistan and a brief description of Osama bin Laden’s financial support network including two of bin Laden’s colonels,”1995, pp. 221-222, Conflict Records Research Center, Washington, D.C. 14 Ibid., p. 228. 15 Ibid., p. 229. 16 Ibid., p. 231. 17 AQ-SHPD-D-000-283, “Chat from the Top of the World Series, entitled “The Great Folly,” including daily account of movements and travel in 1990,” 1997, p. 7, Conflict Records Research Center, Washington, D.C.


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slowly while the Arabs sank deeper into it.”18 Al-Masri asserted that the leaders who pushed the hoards of fighters to their deaths in a “needless spilling of blood” should be court-martialed.19 As for the leaders who were, in his view, complicit in the appalling casualties, al-Masri put the venerable Abdullah Azzam at the top. He did not hold back criticism of the two giants of the Afghan jihad, Azzam and Osama bin Laden. He credited them both as tremendously influential figures in the Islamic movement: Azzam for his knowledge and motivational abilities and bin Laden for his operational, organizational, and financial skills. 20 However, Azzam’s writings that “ignited the senses of the Muslim youth” caused a deluge of volunteers that was hard to manage and created far too many martyrs while Azzam privately knew the full truth of the disarray and horrors awaiting them in Afghanistan. Al-Masri viewed bin Laden’s rise to power as a double-edged sword. The Saudi millionaire was capable of bringing great resources and credibility to jihad efforts, but al-Masri wondered aloud if the bin Laden model of a “private sector jihad” backed by a single financier might not make its leaders less accountable. 21 Nonetheless, he credited bin Laden and his nascent al-Qaeda organization with providing the best training through quality trainers with camps in Khost province toward the end of the jihad. 22 Ultimately, the “Chat from the Top of the World” pointed to the war’s millions of martyrs and refugees and found little positive to show for it in the chaotic aftermath of the early 1990s. The political goal of establishing an Islamic state failed due to “the nature of the Afghan society itself and the rest because of regional and international involvements in one way or another.” After a decade, Afghan leaders failed to unite and allowed foreign powers to penetrate their organizations and control them. 23 The document “Jihad in Afghanistan — Phase Two” looked at the post-Soviet jihad period and picked up where “Chat at the Top of the World” left off in the narrative of disappointing outcomes. Hopes ran high after the victory over the Soviets that an Islamic state would be immediately established, but the power struggle between the Afghans and defeated Communists prevented it. The unidentified author noted that “[s]ome Muslims were struck by surprise and others by depression. Many among them had not realized that the establishment of God’s law on earth is not an easy task, even in Afghanistan, whose people struggled in the mightiest and most honorable Jihad of our time.”24 The lesson, for some, seemed to be that, despite the capabilities devoted to even a great jihad, human nature tended toward great dissension. Consequently, according to al-Masri the second stage of jihad must be approached differently even if the parties involved remained the same, i.e., the Islamic camp of Afghan scholars and people together with the mujahidin commanders and fighters against the camp of “unbelievers” — the United States and former communist regimes — and the camp of “hypocrites” — the “apostate” Muslim regimes. The document briefly outlined a plan of action for the political, military, and economic focus of the next jihad, which would be an Afghan-based one in Central Asia. One of the more pressing problems was the Arab mujahidin’s political role. The author noted that while the jihadi goal was to establish an Islamic regime in Kabul, “the current dissension among the ranks of the Arabs as well as Afghans will not allow for quick results in this area.”25 While the beginning of a jihad was always difficult to start, the current efforts were made more so by “Arab section” infighting and Arab involvement “in battles 18 Ibid., p. 13. 19 Ibid., p. 1. 20 Ibid., p. 235. 21 Ibid., pp. 237-238. 22 AQ-SHPD-D-000-985, p. 50. 23 AQ-SHPD-D-000-283, p. 6. 24 AQ-SHPD-D-000-928, p. 1. 25 Ibid., p. 3.


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which do not serve Islamic purposes” as well as “unproductive tribal affairs that might frustrate their Islamic goals and their legitimate activities.”26 Moreover, Arab mujahidin needed to build a “base of trust” that gathered the jihadist movements around the world together. The Central Asian Muslims, in particular, were growing impatient for action. As for the military focus, that was on stronger ground because of the valuable “warring and moral culture” of the Arab mujahidin which would be used to train jihadi movements. Arab participation with the Afghan military wings would bring about an Islamic regime in Afghanistan through assassinations and open battles, especially in the North against the Afghan militias. 27

Algeria The greatest cautionary tale of a jihad gone terribly wrong is that of Algeria, which has become a watchword for excessive killing in jihadist circles. This was a jihad not in decline, but in a death spiral by the mid-1990s. The CRRC collection includes the document “Political Gaps in Algeria. Rhetorics and Incitements” — also known as “The Algiers Letter” — that dates from December 1996. It could also be subtitled: “What do we do about the Armed Islamic Group (GIA)?” The letter’s author began by noting that while the military situation has improved in Algeria, the political aspect “is alarming” and “represents a dangerous gap in the Jihadi flank.”28 The reasons offered for this weakness included a leadership void caused by the imprisonment of the Islamic Salvation Front’s (FIS) two sheikhs — “the historic leadership of the movement” — and the lack of a political agenda. More important, the military arm of the jihad, GIA, held divergent ideological and organizational views from the FIS. The Algerian government would exploit these weaknesses by a “confrontational strategy” that kept up military pressure on GIA, further weakened the Islamists politically, and “[i]mplicate[d] the Salvation Front in illegal political situations so that it loses credibility publicly.… ”29 The author warned that the government’s goal was a schism — an armed confrontation if possible — between GIA and the Salvation Front to show the Algerian people that these groups were not a political alternative for their future.30 As for other threats to the Algerian jihad, the author made the obligatory references to external factors such as the French manipulations of the economic situation, the “Crusader” quest for oil, and “Zionist” interference. He declared that success was still possible “if the mujahidin evade the pitfalls and close the gaps in the face of the enemy” and if France and NATO fail in Algeria just as the Soviet Union did in Afghanistan.31 Yet it was clear that the Islamist situation was dire because of internal factors — i.e., those attributed to GIA. The letter asked if there was a way out of the current crisis. To begin, those on the side of jihad would have to show an Islamic way out of Algeria’s economic misery and select new, credible leaders who were “masters of both politics and war.”32 The biggest challenge, however, was 26 Ibid., pp. 3-4. 27 Ibid., pp. 5-6. 28 AQ-SHPD-D-001-293, “Political Gaps in Algeria. Rhetorics and Incitements” (a.k.a. “The Algiers Letter”), undated, p. 1, Conflict Records Research Center, Washington, D.C. 29 The Algerian jihad is likely not what it seems on the surface. There is still the larger question of the extent of the Algerian government’s involvement in the jihad–namely the infiltration by its security service of the Armed Islamic Group (GIA) and its leadership structure. The lack of government response to massacres in 1996-1997 adds to the speculation. For a brief history of the GIA and the Groupe Salafiste pour la Prédication et le Combat (GSPC) to 2004, see Jonathan Schanzer, Al-Qaeda’s Armies: Middle East Affiliate Groups and the Next Generations of Terror (Washington: Washington Institute for Near East Policy, 2004), 30 Ibid., p. 1. 31 Ibid., p. 2. 32 Ibid., p. 4.


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reining in GIA. According to the document’s author, the Armed Islamic Group’s writings sought to delegitimize the political face of the jihadist movement and rely solely on violent killing, which he called the “liquidation principle” espoused in GIA’s bulletins.33 He “warn[ed] the Armed Group against voluntarily and willfully entering into the dark isolation tunnel” that would mean the end of the organization, martyrdom for its members, and could take all of Algeria with it.34 If GIA continued down this extreme path, it would no longer be in the forefront but “a mere scattered army dissenting from the group and the consensus.” Algerian security forces would then deal with this internal security threat “with usual police methods.”35 The author also astutely noted that the regime might also “leave an inconspicuous presence of those armed groups intact so that it may justify measures of oppression and stifle public freedoms and emergency laws, thus justifying state terrorism.…”36 The letter closed with a less-than-convincing ten-point course of action to turn matters around in Algeria. The jihad’s new leadership faced challenges of reformulating and resynchronizing the military and political strategies, emerging from political isolation and expanding influence through media rather than armed efforts, restoring trust between the mujahidin and the Algerian people, and addressing the security and financial threats to them.37

Central Asia/Tajikistan Several documents addressed the question of what the movement’s leadership should do in the Muslim regions of the former Soviet Union. Abu Musab al-Suri and Abu Walid al-Masri offered their views on the strategic direction of jihad in the case of Central Asia. Al-Suri wrote Muslims in Central Asia and the Coming Battle of Islam in November 1999, possibly as a recommendation to Mullah ‘Umar regarding his ties to the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan.38 Al-Suri had previously lectured on Central Asia at his Afghan camp as part of his series on the “important arenas of struggle” for the coming years.39 After providing an overview of the region reminiscent of the CIA Factbook, al-Suri concluded that the time was right — given the Taliban’s success in Afghanistan — to push for jihad throughout Central Asia and put an end to the Russian and American suppression of Muslims in the region. He reminded readers repeatedly of the “good omen of the Prophet” that victory would first emerge in Khorasan. 40 Al-Suri maintained that the region was primed for an Islamic awakening after the Soviet Union collapsed, but was now in danger of “economic occupation” by the West through exploiting its resources and a “Christian crusade” from missionary efforts. 41 Nonetheless, the Central Asian republics were “good ground for jihad” whose inhabitants would answer the call because of the 33 Ibid., pp. 4, 6. 34 Ibid., p. 6. 35 Ibid., p. 4. 36 Ibid., p. 4. 37 Algeria at the time of the letter had all the hallmarks of a jihad in a fatal decline and GIA’s massacres in 1996-1997 ultimately destroyed the group. Al-Qaeda leadership withdrew their backing and Abu Musab al-Suri, who had earlier supported the jihad from his base in London, distanced himself from the cause. Notably, Algerian jihadists did not enter back into al-Qaeda’s fold until 2006 with the affiliation of the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (founded 1998), which became the Al-Qaeda Organization in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). 38 Al-Suri, Muslims in Central Asia and the Coming Battle of Islam, http://allthingscounterterrorism.com/2009/11/25/historicalreading-on-somalia-and-takijistan-from-the-militant-perspective/, last accessed 29 February 2012. 39 AQ-SHPD-D-000-136, “‘The Muslims in Central Asia and the Upcoming Battle of Islam,’ by Abu-Mus’ab al-Suri,” November 1999, p. 5, Conflict Records Research Center, Washington, D.C. “I concluded that the important arenas of struggle in the upcoming days are centralized in many essential, vital cases. The most important of its arenas are: Afghanistan, Central Asia, Yemen, the Far West, the Levantine countries, and the protection of the House of Al-Quds [Jerusalem].” 40 Reference to the historical name for the region that includes Northern Afghanistan, Northeastern Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. 41 AQ-SHPD-D-000-136, p. 8.


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“overall state of poverty” and their military expertise and bravery provided a good base of fighters focused on revenge: “[t]hey live [with] memories of historical bitter fighting against the Russian crusaders.”42 Of note, Al-Suri cited the opportunity to gain control of the region’s vast economic resources that were “sufficient to solve the resource problems of jihad.”43 Also up for grabs were the “military inheritance” of Soviet stockpiles: “a legacy the followers of Islam cannot dream of having anywhere else.”44 He specifically mentioned the capacity of Central Asia — through its industry and raw materials — to produce weapons of mass destruction as a reason to “give hope to Muslims of having these kinds of weapons.”45 Al-Suri’s study highlighted only the positives of Central Asia that should give it prioritization for jihad efforts, and none of the pitfalls. He only briefly referenced the region’s hundred ethnicities “united under the name of Islam” while he acknowledged that “nothing destroyed and broke Muslim might here except disputes based in the ignorance that is ethnicities and peoples.”46 By contrast, earlier documents that mentioned the potential for jihad in a Central Asian country, Tajikistan, took a much more cautious approach. Abu Walid al-Masri wrote “Basic Facts of Jihad in Tajikistan” in 1993 as a response to questions about the situation in the former Soviet republic. He began by laying out the pros and cons of Tajikistan as an arena for jihad. Among the negatives were its small size, lack of regional support, limited financial resources, and a jihad movement that was disorganized and lacked ties to international movements. On the plus side, the movement had a chance to capitalize on growing political and religious unity, internal and regional turmoil, and the strong jihad current within the country. 47 In Abu Walid’s assessment, jihadists should undertake “long term gang warfare” in the mountains and cities that targeted Tajikistan’s weakest link: the economy. 48 He specifically mentioned destroying agricultural capacity and conducting sabotage on infrastructure. Also up for consideration should be corruption and bribery that would lower morale of the military and government officials, as well as making use of drugs — “one of the best ways to finance the war” — for its destructive impact on enemy forces. 49 As for how to conduct military operations, he recommended assassinations and extensive use of explosives and mines as cheap and effective methods. Abu Walid anticipated a war of attrition, and therefore advised operational patience and keeping costs down by keeping the numbers of fighters small and manageable. He repeatedly emphasized quality over quantity. Above all, he noted that the real challenge would be finding capable leadership, which was “the primary factor of success or failure.”50 Al-Masri anticipated that Tajikistan was just the beginning of greater jihad efforts in the region, and advised the utmost attention to security. He warned that the United States would actively try to crush the jihad before it even started. “When they are not able to prevent the ‘Jihad’ work they will try to infiltrate it, spread chaos and create divisions in the ranks, pushing groups to act independently in 42 Ibid., p. 9. Presumably a reference to the revolt against the Soviet Communists in the early 20th century and the earlier Russian conquest of Central Asia in the 19th century. 43 Ibid., p. 21. 44 Ibid., p. 20. 45 Ibid., p. 22. 46 Ibid., p. 23. 47 AQ-SHPD-D-000-186, “Basic information on the jihad war in Tajikistan, including weaknesses of the enemy and recommended strategies,” undated (prior to 2002), p. 1, Conflict Records Research Center, Washington, D.C. 48 Ibid., p. 2. 49 Ibid., p. 7. 50 Ibid., p. 10.


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a wrong manner so ‘Jihad’ fails in the early stage. This causes the most despair in the Muslim hearts across the entirety of Central Asia.”51

Syria Abu Musab al-Suri’s “Lessons Learned from the Armed Jihad Ordeal in Syria” is a widely available study of a failed jihad and thus does not need detailed discussion here; however, it is worth noting some of the difficulties he described as warning signs of decline. Al-Suri set the standard for scholarship and candor with the Syrian study that he would later repeat and greatly expand upon in his 1600-page opus, Call to Global Islamic Resistance.52 His aim, as always, was to use past mistakes to avoid future pitfalls: The lessons learned from the Syrian experience should be studied and analyzed by us and by others who choose to follow this path; it is of tremendous value to our brethren in other countries who choose to hoist the jihad banner. The Moslem arena is similar in all countries, the enemy is the same, the battle is the same, the circumstances of war may or may not be the same…53 Al-Suri found much to admire in the sacrifice for jihad in Syria but far more to lament in its execution. Of the problems that contributed to its defeat, he noted a number. Failure of strategy and planning:

When the Combatant Vanguard (the militant offshoot of the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood) moved openly against the Assad regime in 1979, they had no operational strategy and made fatal organizational errors.54 “Thus events not planners controlled the course of the battle; and despite the [valor and heroic acts] of the mujahidin they failed miserably, their only accomplishment was to prove their willingness and readiness for martyrdom.”55 Failure of leadership:

Leadership was a major issue throughout, on a number of levels. The poor leadership and wisdom exhibited by some of the Muslim Brotherhood’s high-level leaders resulted in the Hamah tragedy in 1982. A lack of political awareness also meant that jihadist leaders did not understand that the war was a means to a political end. 56 Failure to clearly explain objectives:

The true mujahidin failed to put forward their ideology, slogans and objectives via a well crafted media campaign…[T]hey did not explain to the people the nature and form of this ‘Muslim rule,’ they did not explain why people should join in the fight and why they should die for that cause. The mujahidin failed to define their identity, their intentions and motivations…. 57

51 Ibid., p. 9. 52 Al-Suri (a.k.a. Mustafa bin Abd al-Qadir Setmariam Nasar and Umar Abd al-Hakim) is a native of Syria and participated in the jihad as a member of the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood. See Lia, pp. 35-50. 53 AQ-SHPD-D-000-282, p. 18. 54 Ibid., p. 3. “The mujahideen did not develop an operational strategy, they committed fatal organizational mistakes (e.g. expanding the circle of conflict, recruiting too many members without any vetting or control, taking actions without thinking of the consequences, they became too decentralized-fragmented- and too dependent on the outside....etc).” 55 Ibid., p. 5. 56 Ibid., p. 6. 57 Ibid.


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Failure to recruit wisely:

The loss of cadres in the jihad’s early phases led to open-door recruiting — i.e., no vetting of members — and an emphasis on quantity over quality. It proved difficult to replace the experience lost to repression by the regime, “The influx of so many new members made the organization [the Muslim Brotherhood] porous for infiltration by moles from the Syrian intelligence and other enemy organizations.”58 Failure to unify:

The arena was saturated with organizations with intermingled principles, loyalties and affiliations, some members joined the jihad with preconceived notions, others out of need, greed or necessity, some were lured into joining, others had to, all this led to a ‘complicated human structure,’ the true mujahidin were spread among numerous bickering organizations, and thus lost their effectiveness in leading the faithful into one direction; it even went farther than that, friction, hatred, and partisan bickering lead to conflict between the faithful youth — who had the same goals — all because the various leaders had differing and contradictory objectives. Those conditions had negative repercussions on the religious and moral levels, and rendered those organizations ineffective and useless.59 Failure in security:

Syrian jihadists had serious problems with both infiltration and informers. Al-Suri recorded that the Vanguard attempted to reorganize after Hamah, but disbanded after Syrian intelligence infiltrated their organization and arrested a large number of leaders and members. “Informers and spies are a major problem that anyone planning for jihad should address and find solutions for. The mujahidin of Syria ran into a buzz saw of informers numbered in the tens of thousands, those misguided Moslem turncoats favored the oppressor and sided with his regime against the faithful.”60 Failure of trust:

This [trust] crisis was a byproduct of all the problems that piled over time on all levels, the lack of trust in the initial stages was limited to organizations and groups distrusting each other, but the course of events that culminated in the tragedy of Hamah and the dramatic collapse of al-Tali’a al-Muqatila [Fighting Vanguard] exposed the leaders (especially the Muslim brotherhood), people stopped trusting each other even among members of the same organization, the bond of trust between the leaderships and bases was broken and lost. The price the enthusiastic youth had to pay for trusting in their leadership was exorbitant; the resulting damage was so severe it made any attempts for rebuilding and reform next to impossible.61 While al-Suri concluded that the ordeal in Syria was full of bitter lessons, he pointed to a few positives, such as the ability of an Islamic jihad revolution to mobilize the masses in the streets and get them to answer the call and fight with the mujahidin. “Events proved how giving our people are, leaders sprouted from within and produced magnificent military cadres both in leadership and discipline.”62

58 Ibid., p. 7. 59 Ibid. 60 Ibid., p. 26. Part of the problem was the lack of operational security on the part of members. Al-Suri noted that they operated publicly and talked openly about plans, even though they knew they were monitored. 61 Ibid., p. 45. 62 Ibid., p. 11.


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Yemen Jihadist activity in Yemen is currently of great concern to those combating global terrorism. AQAP has emerged as a serious threat due to its ability to train and plan operations against the West from unstable Yemen. Of interest are the CRRC records that discuss the importance of Yemen as an arena for jihad. The first is Abu Musab al-Suri’s book, The Responsibility of the Yemeni People toward Holy Places and Wealth of Muslims.63 This justification for jihad in Yemen was one of the publications by his al-Ghuraba group in Afghanistan in 1999. Al-Suri consistently put Yemen on his list of high priority jihads. Al-Suri began with a nod to class warfare by pointing out that the tremendous oil wealth of the Arabian Peninsula is denied to the vast majority of its Muslim inhabitants: “If you want to know the reality, ask the garbage cans of Yemen about those who are eating garbage from them.”64 He declared that the responsibility to reclaim these riches for all Muslims fell to those in the Arabian Peninsula and that the overthrow of the “shameless rulers” was a legitimate, uncontestable jihad.65 Al-Suri devoted an entire chapter to why it was the special duty of the Yemenis to “cleanse [the peninsula] of Jews, Christians, and ‘apostate backsliders.’”66 He provided eight factors that set Yemen apart from its neighbors, including its large population, agriculture and water resources, and strategic location. Yemenis, he assessed, are well-armed, love to fight, and are ready for an Islamic awakening. Moreover, their general poverty and oppression “is a major hidden mobilizing mechanism.”67 Al-Suri then turned to how to prepare for and conduct the jihad that would transform Yemen into the beachhead from which jihads would break out across the Peninsula. His chapter “Excuses and misgivings that could be brought up to sabotage the inclination of the youth” was essentially a primer on how to ensure jihads decline from the start. The list included arguments that divert the youth from jihad such as: these are legitimate governments ruling according to God’s laws; respect borders as a good neighbor; accept the situation as destiny; and keep Yemen stable and do not stir up trouble.68 Efforts in Yemen under jihadi leader Abu Hasan al-Mukhtar drew al-Suri’s criticism. Among the shortcomings, he found that there was an absence of a plan and clear call to jihad, thus people ignored the leadership’s efforts. He also noted divisions in the ranks from the beginning as well as an absence of support from religious scholars. Understandably, “[m]any of the holy warriors in Yemen doubted the effectiveness of taking up arms and considered it an example of failure.”69 In light of that failure, al-Suri closed with some reminders (paraphrased below) for those who might not have understood how a jihad actually worked: 1. The early wave ends up as prisoners. 2. Mistakes are beneficial if coupled with learning and operations continue wisely. 3. Must bring in religious scholars and preachers. 4. Have a plan! 5. Pay attention to education and adhere to principles. 6. Explain the call and goals inside Yemen better. 63 AQ-THEO-D-001-288, “Book, which was written by Abu Nassab Al-Suri, Talks about Yemenis Responsibility and Duties Towards Defending the Holy Places of Muslims and their Wealth,” undated, Conflict Records Research Center, Washington, D.C., see “Advice on how to prepare for Jihad in Yemen,” AQ-TRED-D-001-289. 64 Ibid., p. 1. 65 Ibid. 66 Ibid., p. 17. 67 Ibid., pp. 18-19. 68 Ibid., pp. 30-31. 69 Ibid., p. 32.


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7. Make the jihad international by putting out call for all Muslims to join. 8. Aim for self-sufficiency (“own nails best for scratching self”).70 Abu Walid al-Masri also assessed the situation in the Southern Arabian Peninsula in the third of the five letters to the African Corps.71 He observed the fighting that had recently broken out in Yemen (likely 1994) and saw nothing but opportunity: “Once again the Yemen file is being opened for jihad after a wait of several years following the passing of one opportunity that had seemed suitable.”72 He cautioned, however, that while it may be exciting if jihad was coming to Yemen, it may not be enough to reach their goals: It may not be possible for us to make Yemen leap from its present situation into a fullyintegrated Islamic status through military jihad action. I believe this is not possible, not in Yemen nor anywhere else. However, the alternative is not to stop the jihad but to carry out a phased advance through continuous jihad battles.73 Al-Masri emphasized the psychological impact of operating in Yemen over the internal factors. “Let us at least scare the Jews and America and inflict real fright on them such as they have not seen this century,” he encouraged. Their fear lay in instability in the Arabian Peninsula that would bring a loss of oil and serve as the “epicenter of the Islamic threat.”74 He ignored the lack of preparation and planning in Yemen — he admitted that there were few fighters and that training and expertise would have to come through battles — and instead called for immediate attacks that would “instill pride” and spur further action. He recommended an announcement over Yemeni and Somali radio declaring that jihad had begun on Yemeni soil “to purify it and restore it to God’s path.”75 His enthusiasm was likely due to his belief, like al-Suri’s, that Yemen would be the spearhead that would spread the “spirit of jihad” throughout the peninsula.76 It is worth noting that al-Masri’s advice on Yemen was filled with the same incaution and rush to action of which he had earlier accused Afghan jihad leaders. His advice was based on wishful thinking and did not contain even a germ of a real strategy.

Requirements for Jihad Writing in 1999, Abu Musab al-Suri surveyed the landscape of what ten years of battling the “New World Order” had brought the jihadist movement after the victory over the Soviets in Afghanistan. What he saw was less than promising: Most movements and arenas suffered great and grave defeats: The killing and imprisonment of most of the heads and scholars of the jihad awakening; the scattering of the remainders of its symbolism, its leaders, its intellectuals, and its cadre; chasing them from one place to another all over the world; campaigns of turn-ins, and kidnappings reach the youth of the jihad movement and their supporters.77 70 Ibid., p. 33. 71 AQ-SHPD-D-000-271, “Letters discussing various al-Qaeda issues and operations in Somalia, Tajikistan, and Afghanistan, including key personnel, and future plans and strategies for Africa and Asia,” April 1994 — January 1995, pp. 16, Conflict Records Research Center, Washington, D.C. 72 Ibid., p. 16. 73 Ibid., p. 16. 74 Ibid., 16. 75 Ibid., p. 17. 76 Ibid., p. 17. 77 AQ-SHPD-D-000-136, p. 28.


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Al-Suri’s narrative that explained how and why jihads decline and fail, however, is just one view — albeit an informed and intellectual one — among many written by people inside the jihad. Scattered throughout the writings of al-Qaeda and associated movements are other insights into the necessary requirements for jihad effectiveness and where they have fallen short. The following are selected examples of these requirements — in the areas of sanction, strategy, sustainability, and sanctuary/security — that were highlighted in previously mentioned documents and other captured records.

Sanction Sanction refers to the legitimacy of a jihad on Islamic religious grounds as well as the support given to the movement’s actions by ulema (scholars) and by the ummah (Muslims as a whole). Al-Qaeda writings placed great emphasis on fard ‘ayn (an individual’s obligation) to pursue jihad, but little on al-Qaeda’s actual authority to declare jihad in the first place.78 While there were numerous references to religious justification, not one of the authors calling for a particular jihad was speaking from religious authority that could sanction jihad in these arenas. Al-Suri’s exhortation for a Yemeni jihad in definitive terms — “this is a legitimate jihad that cannot be contested by anyone”79 — was followed by a reminder that “[i]t is the obligation of the religious scholars to carry out their duty in advising Muslims, pointing out their rights, and working toward regaining them.”80 Religious sanction and the legitimacy conferred through fatwas (religious rulings) were a recurring theme in earlier al-Qaeda documents. There was often a mixture of pleas and shaming directed at the ulema and a discussion of betrayal when scholars withheld their spiritual and material support for jihad. A partial document from the Taliban period referred to this lack of support as the Taliban movement and its leader Mullah ‘Umar stood against (seemingly) the entire world in their refusal to expel Osama bin Laden from Afghanistan. The author declared: “…let us establish the proof and plea with the last remaining righteous people from the remaining Muslim scholars in order to confront them with their responsibilities to act in accordance with God’s truth and judgment towards these current situations and the obligations of Muslims.”81 Of course, Osama bin Laden was well aware of the need for this stamp of religious approval. For instance, he sent a letter to a conference of Deobandi scholars in Peshawar in March 2002 appealing to their duty in light of the U.S. response to the 9/11 attacks: “The nation waits for a clear Fatwa from you and a clear plan to follow so they can lift away this aggression, imposed on them, the holy places, and their children. Are you willing to participate?”82 He also called upon scholars to encourage the youth to join the jihad in Afghanistan and to direct charitable donations to the effort.83 There was also the risk of further delegitimizing a jihad through excessive killings and a lack of discretion in targeting that caused sanction for jihad movements to be withdrawn — and even led to public disapproval of Muslims. The Algerian case is the best example of a jihad that was beyond the pale, even for an ardent supporter like al-Suri. While CRRC records do not at present cover the targeting of Shia Muslims that caused such bad publicity for al-Qaeda in Iraq, there were earlier examples of this thinking. Abu Walid al-Masri notes in “Chat from the Top of the World” that the Arab 78 For a document that greatly details jihad as a religious duty, see AQ-THEO-D-000-022, “Religious and historical account regarding justification for Arabs to continue jihad,” undated (prior to 2002), Conflict Records Research Center, Washington, D.C. 79 AQ-THEO-D-001-288, p. 1. 80 Ibid., p. 2. 81 “Taliban and State of Things in Afghanistan,” p. 1, http://www.ctc.usma.edu/posts/taliban-and-the-state-of-things-inafghanistan-english-translation, last accessed 29 February 2012. 82 Appeal to scholars UBL letter, p. 1, http://www.ctc.usma.edu/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/AFGP-2002-901188-Trans.pdf, last accessed 29 February 2012. 83 Appeal to scholars UBL letter, p. 5.


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mujahidin believed the Shia and Iran were their number one enemies, and that it was more important to fight the polytheism and Sufi heresies of Afghanistan than the Russian army. 84 It is worth noting that the 1990s were a period of transition, when those previously dedicated to jihad began to embrace terrorism in all its forms to achieve their political goals. Al-Qaeda’s targeting of civilians forever coupled the jihad movement with terrorism and moved it away from more traditional military actions, i.e., “mujahidin” became synonymous with “terrorists” in many minds. As a result of the paradigm shift to terrorist operations against an array of enemies, the selection of whom and what to target became another factor to add to the larger sanction dilemma for jihadists. For example, the Algiers Letter — with the December 1994 hijacking of an Air France flight by GIA that targeted the Eiffel Tower in mind — advised that “[c]aution should be taken to recognize that operations not fully thought out might lead to political catastrophes and do not serve the causes of their perpetrators like the [1993] bombing of the World Trade Center in New York, which did not serve any objectives except those of America and Israel.”85

Strategy It is possible to distill the solution to past al-Qaeda problems with strategy into just two words: “have one.” The jihad analyses cited earlier frequently mentioned the lack of strategy, planning, and organization as obstacles to effectiveness. Abu Musab al-Suri was both eloquent and succinct in describing how proper strategic thinking bolstered a jihad: “It is crucial to have a strategic plan for a jihad revolutionary [guerrilla] warfare.”86 He explained that without a comprehensive plan, leaders made decisions impulsively and responded to events instinctively, “thus events not planners [controlled] the course of the battle.”87 Captured documents frequently showed that in reality, however, leaders often exhibited a lack of understanding of the primacy of political over military activities in earlier jihads as well as a lack of planning and organizational skills. Al-Suri was one who made the connection, with references echoing Carl von Clausewitz, that “[t]he jihad revolutionary war, just like any other war, is political at heart; it is politically and ideologically motivated, the military activity is merely the tool or means to achieve that objective.”88 Political actions were ultimately what connected a jihad with the people and prevented its demise, Abu Hudaifa advised bin Laden in 2000: “It is important to have a popular jihad, not the jihad of the elite, which can be surrounded, hit, and liquidated. A strategy has to be established to include people in the battle arena; not to wait for a long time for no use.”89 This proved easy to say but difficult to practice. The Algiers letter noted that “[t]he political battle is usually much more difficult than the military one.…The mujahidin army needs a leadership that excels in understanding the art of politics in its legitimate concept; otherwise, the path the mujahidin helped pave with their blood and arms will doubtlessly encounter oppressive political solutions.”90

84 AQ-SHPD-D-000-291, p. 225. 85 AQ-SHPD-D-001-293, p. 9. For more on the Air France hijacking, see AQ-MCOP-D-001-136, “Article regarding the 1994 Air France hijacking by Sunni Mujahideen, recommends ’air martyrdom operations,’” 30 December 1994, Conflict Records Research Center, Washington, D.C. 86 AQ-SHPD-D-000-282, p. 5. 87 Ibid., p. 5. 88 Ibid., p. 34. 89 AQ-SHPD-D-000-035, “Letter from Abu Hudaifa to Osama bin Laden regarding request to publicize al-Qaeda’s goals and accomplishments in the media to rally public support and invigorate al-Qaeda’s mission in Saudi Arabia,” 20 June 2000, p. 33, Conflict Records Research Center, Washington, D.C. 90 AQ-SHPD-D-001-293, p. 3.


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A well-organized jihad was often difficult to achieve, thus jihads could be in decline almost from the very start. “Structuring an organization requires a lot of thought and foresight,” al-Suri warned, and should also take into account “what has worked and what has failed in similar situations.”91 It was particularly difficult to fix organizational problems and overcome planning deficiencies once the fighting started, which had been the problem with spontaneous jihads like Somalia. A report from the early 1990s from a jihadist in Somalia calling himself Abu Belal complained that youth started the jihad “without planning or coordination” and against the advice of shura councils from around the world.92 Abu Walid al-Masri warned in his “Third Letter to the African Corps” that even after the tactical victory against the Americans at Mogadishu in 1993, none of the earlier critical issues had been answered. He asked rhetorically: The original problem that you went to address still exists. What happened to the Somali Salafia and where is it now? What is its stance? What is the role of Somali Marxism? What is your strategic objective in this complicated arena? How much of your original objective have you accomplished? Did you suddenly go to Somalia and then suddenly withdraw, as happened in Afghanistan, without accomplishing any clear objective or follow up the victory and benefit from it to accomplish additional victories?93 However, al-Qaeda also benefitted when their enemies’ plans failed even worse, as in the case of Afghanistan, the graveyard of strategies. Abu Walid al-Masri observed that “[f]ortunately, plans in Afghanistan usually fail or are carried out so poorly that they may lose their meaning. We have seen what happened to Soviet plans, then those of the Americans. Only certain parts of them succeeded, while other parts failed.”94

Sustainability Sustainability covers the conditions needed for a jihad to sustain its operations over both the short and long term, and more often than not, these conditions degrade over time. They include manpower, cohesion, financial resources, and strategic communications. Al-Qaeda writings frequently address the lack of the right human capital to conduct operations, both in its leadership and members. Talent was quickly lost and the best leaders are often the “original mujahidin who died in the fight.”95 Or if a movement had mediocre leadership to start, its youth became quickly disillusioned. In the case of the jihad in Somalia in the early 1990s and the efforts to set up training camps, a trip report noted, “[the brothers’] opinion about the movement right now is very negative because they think that the leadership is the one that sabotaged the jihad work on purpose and they accuse it of treason and some of them submitted their resignations.…”96 It was difficult to replenish the cadres of experienced fighters lost in the early phases, and often this led to the choice of quantity over quality. Hurried recruiting not only created security headaches for an organization, but also diluted its operational effectiveness. Al-Suri made clear that just because a Muslim youth was enthusiastic for jihad does not mean that he had the skills or the temperament

91 AQ-SHPD-D-000-282, p. 29. 92 “Abu Belal’s Report on Jihad in Somalia,” p. 3. http://www.ctc.usma.edu/posts/abu-belal’s-report-on-jihad-in-somalia-englishtranslation, last accessed 29 February 2012. 93 AQ-SHPD-D-000-271, p. 14. 94 Ibid., p. 8. 95 AQ-SHPD-D-000-282, p. 39. 96 “Report on the Needs of the Mujahidin in Somalia,” p. 17, http://www.ctc.usma.edu/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/AFGP-2002800600-Trans-Meta.pdf, last accessed 29 February 2012.


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to be a mujahid.97 Abu Walid al-Masri also made the practical point that “the objective of making [fighters] of a high level of influence and effectiveness costs exorbitant amounts of money.”98 Therefore he recommended keeping the membership numbers down and the focus on high quality training. According to the document on the historical uses of guerrilla warfare, experienced leaders should know how to calculate the number of fighters for the mission: “We have to understand that a larger increase in the number of guerrilla war men than what is required may lead to their failure and defeat.”99 The author argued that larger forces meant more supplies, and that the need for supplies surpassed the ability of an organization to provide them; in turn, this caused too much of a reliance on foreign support or put too much of a burden on the people to provide for the fighters and worked against securing a people’s trust and sympathy.100 The lack of cohesion within the jihadist ranks — characterized by disunity, infighting, and a breakdown of discipline — is also featured in the documents. Internal dissent and the tendency toward schism often stemmed from the perceived superiority of one group over another, such as the case of Sunnis working alongside Sufis.101 Abu Walid al-Masri noted that during the Soviet-Afghan jihad, “even at the combat front, being in the same ditch does not help in creating a feeling of unity between two groups.”102 Unity was further tested by the presence of those whose motivations were questionable. For example, a memo from the Afghan jihad on the progress of setting up a regional office noted that “[i]n the past some unfavorable individuals used the guise of an Islamic mask but did the opposite.…God willing the opportunists do not find their way here.”103 Al-Suri also personally witnessed discipline problems during the Syrian ordeal: “The problem of undisciplined out-of-control members (those whose commitment is tied to fighting, zeal and bravery)… was difficult to identify during the battle, the ranks included members who joined the fight without going through the maturity process required in Muslim thought and behavior….This presented the leadership with a dilemma; what to do with people who fought for the cause?”104 The issue of resources to finance jihad is scattered throughout the documentary record. The perceived dilemma of having too much money and the corrupting influence of Saudi funding, at least in the view presented in “Chat from the Top of the World,” was discussed previously. Abu Walid al-Masri bluntly stated that Afghans viewed the Arab mujahidin as financiers, not fighters: The Arab presence throughout the war was looked upon as a source of income and the perspective on the Arabs was defined from the financial side mainly and very seldom it exceeded to the combat side. Since the Arabs were spending blindly, and they are easily trapped by the bluffers and liars; they were called by some Afghans, ‘The donkeys who have money.’105

97 AQ-SHPD-D-000-282, pp. 38-39. 98 AQ-SHPD-D-000-186, p. 16. 99 AQ-SHPD-D-000-982, p. 5. 100 Ibid., p. 5, 9. Several CRRC documents also recommended that it was better to rely upon internal resources to support a jihad rather than external financing and the subsequent loss of political independence. See al-Suri on Yemen (AQ-THEO-D-001-288, p. 27) and his plans for using Central Asia’s own resources to fund the jihad. See also AQ-SHPD-D-000-982, p. 7. 101 AQ-TRED-D-000-974, p. 13. 102 AQ-SHPD-D-000-288, p. 35. 103 AQ-SHPD-D-000-804, “Correspondence and notes related to jihad against the Soviet Red Army and the Afghan communist regime of Kabul in the 1980s,” 1978-1988, p. 1, Conflict Records Research Center, Washington, D.C. 104 AQ-SHPD-D-000-282, p. 43. 105 AQ-SHPD-D-000-291, p. 228.


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Al-Masri later addressed the problem of equipping and financing in his letter on Somalia and attributed the problem to both internal mismanagement and international conspiracy: I learned from your letter that there are very few weapons or ammunition in the area. I recall that when the events began many weapons were readily available and cheap. Where did they go? They are in the process of incredible intentional disappearance and ruin, whether because of internal clashes or because they are being taken outside the country…. Financing is a problem that grows more serious every day with respect to the Muslims generally and Islamic action in particular. This should come as no surprise, since today the world’s riches are totally in the hands of the Jews.106 Finally, jihads were sustained by the words and images that were presented to the masses for continued support. The lack of proper media efforts received extensive discussion for both Syria and Algeria, but little could be done through messaging when the real issue was massacres and martyrdom for which the purpose was unclear. Al-Suri wrote: “The military operations could be extremely successful yet if that capital is not expended in accordance with a clear political vision and strategy, and a well crafted public relations campaign, we will only gain titles for our martyrs and tears for their blood.”107 Likewise, Osama bin Laden received advice from Abu Hudaifa that the jihad movement in Saudi Arabia “suffered from great political and informational deficiency…this deficiency is considered one of the killers of the movement.”108 Abu Hudaifa further assessed that al-Qaeda experienced a series of information and media failures following successful jihadi actions in Somalia in 1993 and the 1998 attacks on U.S. embassies in Africa. He also found missed publicity opportunities with the merger of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad into al-Qaeda and the rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Sanctuary/Security CRRC records on Afghanistan, Africa, Central Asia, and Yemen cover al-Qaeda’s quest for training camps and bases for operations in the 1990s, and the importance of sanctuary to the jihad movement was previously noted.109 In general, the denial of sanctuaries and freedom of maneuver brought the loss of a critical requirement: The so-called ‘Drying-up of Resources’ campaigns confined those helpless on earth and made them part of the needy and poverty-stricken population; also by shutting down the so-called ‘Safe Havens’ of terrorists….In some countries, fortresses became restricted one by one. The transgressors and traitors, the rulers of the countries of Islam have shown their fangs and exposed the blackness of their hearts, restricting the planet of the welcoming [places] for this faithful group.110 Security concerns also restricted the ability of jihad movements to maneuver. Organizations worked under the constant threat of infiltration and therefore maintaining “purity of its ranks” from penetration was crucial. One captured document focused on recruitment instructed that “…security must be a major priority in order to protect it from the lurking enemies of the Islamic movement…

106 AQ-SHPD-D-000-271, p. 5. 107 AQ-SHPD-D-000-282, p. 34. 108 AQ-SHPD-D-000-035, p. 9. 109 CRRC records also include AQ efforts to establish training camps in East Africa, including Somalia, in the early 1990s. 110 AQ-SHPD-D-000-136, p. 28. A major reason for AQ’s search for sanctuary abroad was the effectiveness of the security services in their home countries. See Huckabey and Stout, “Al Qaida’s Views of Authoritarian Intelligence Services in the Middle East,” pp. 327-349.


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In order for a birth of the movement without deformity or disruption, the founders must put their utmost efforts in creating the core of the group and its cadres.”111 The unknown author went on to warn that there are various ways that enemy penetration can harm a movement, the most important of which was that infiltrators directed the movement along a “warped course” of Islam, thereby causing followers to lose confidence in the movement.112 Participation in jihad marked individuals as security threats. Al-Suri wrote in frustration that jihadists spoke openly about operational plans in Algeria: “.…the most guarded secrets and plans were being discussed on regular phone lines and in plain language, we knew for certain that the hosting regimes were monitoring those lines and recording the conversations, in some instances the monitors got on the line and conversed with the callers.”113 Abu Walid al-Masri also referred to the blindness to security issues among the Arab mujahidin in Afghanistan. He warned his fellow fighters that “each one who participated in this Jihad will be tracked by authorities and will be in big trouble if he was destined to live and did not martyr.”114 He concluded that: The way you are acting and your views which I heard from you indicate that you are nothing but a security burden to the regime; which the security system, no matter how small, can deal with in a capable manner. You are working [in] an open manner close to pretension in order to prepare for a military act against the regime….and this means your end.115

Conclusion The al-Qaeda records in the CRRC collection are a time capsule of what some of its members read or thought at the time of the 9/11 attacks that permanently altered their world (along with everyone else’s). These documents show how the jihad against the Soviets cast a long shadow over all the jihads that followed and became a watchword for not capitalizing on victory and allowing the goal of an Islamic state to be abandoned or descend into chaos. To answer the question posed here: what do the captured records tell us? First, the records confirm the existence of a small strain of self-analysis within al-Qaeda. Abu Hudaifa wrote to Osama bin Laden in 2000 that: Some of the advantages of the jihad Movement after the setbacks it suffered in some countries is that the door for self-criticism in a loud voice regarding its presented ideas, strategies, and mechanisms was wide open. This kind of criticism was considered until recently some sort of discouragement, frightening, and inspiring failure.116 In addition, these writings are the opinions of a handful of individuals who styled themselves as both scholars and soldiers of jihad. The presence of these studies in captured records does not mean that the lessons they drew were entirely correct or generally agreed upon. They are merely selected benchmarks for further analysis of the decline of jihads.

111 AQ-INSE-D-000-122, “Memorandum regarding recruitment, organization and personnel security, and creating and managing agents,” undated (prior to 2002), p. 1, Conflict Records Research Center, Washington, D.C. 112 Ibid., pp. 2-3. The document outlined six phases to carefully observe and vet potential recruits before allowing them into positions of trust. GIA in Algeria is the best example of a group perhaps intentionally steered wrong to its own demise. 113 AQ-SHPD-D-000-282, p. 9. 114 AQ-SHPD-D-000-291, p. 234. 115 Ibid., p. 232. 116 AQ-SHPD-D-000-035, p. 39.


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The records also show that jihads are pursued by human beings and are subject to human nature and its failings (granted that the jihadist perspective is that jihad is a personal duty and an act of faith and that failures and lack of success were due to insufficient faith). Jihad movements decline and fail for many of the same reasons that traditional militaries do: somewhere along the way, people in the organization failed to adapt, learn, or anticipate.117 Abu Musab al-Suri’s oft-repeated message is that it is possible to learn from past defeats and do better in the future. He, along with the other writers who looked at the balance sheet of jihads, discerned the similar trends of leadership failure, disorganization, and disunity coupled with enthusiasm, bravery, and the willingness to sacrifice that caused jihads to decline and deteriorate over their course. The final word from the records goes to the author of the “Algiers Letter” on how to measure the success of a war. He wrote: “The success of any war is measured by the extent of achieving the objectives it was waged for. Consequently, the success of the jihadi war is measured by the extent of its success in applying God’s laws and in establishing an Islamic regime.”118 By that measure, all of al-Qaeda’s jihads have been failed jihads.

117 Eliot A. Cohen and John Gooch, Military Misfortunes: The Anatomy of Failure in War (New York: Free Press, 1990). 118 AQ-SHPD-D-001-293, p. 9. The rest of the quote that especially applies to Algeria: “Therefore, ending a jihadi war by returning once again to the elections ballots along the secular political trends or ending them in any shape or form of sharing power with such trends would realistically signify the failure of those who waged the war in order to achieve their objectives or renege those objectives.”


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The Collapse of Religious Justifications for Gloablist Radical Muslims Dr. David B. Cook Rice University One of the manifestations of the downturn in popular Muslim support for Salafi-jihadis during the ten years since 11 Septmber 2001 has been the collapse of the tacit religious support accorded to their methodologies and tactics within the world of Islamic jurisprudence. This paper will briefly examine the nature of this support, the reasons it was accorded in the first place, and note the elements of it that have remained in place. Religious justifications for Salafi-jihadi violence have comparatively shallow roots. For the most part the tactics utilized by these groups were developed by Egyptian radicals through the 1970s and 1980s, but were not followed through and given full fruition until the 1990s and 2000s. These justifications constitute a major part of the intellectual framework that Salafi­ jihadis have created for themselves, and serve a propagandistic and media purpose: to convince the larger Muslim community that the violence perpetrated by these groups is in accord with the Prophet Muhammad’s example (and not merely nihilistic in character) and that it will lead inexorably to an otherwise unobtainable victory. To a large degree Muslims, even the Muslim religious elite, until 11 September 2001 were unaware of the vibrant Salafi-jihadi religious culture that flourished away from the limelight. Even for some years — until 2004 and 2005 for the most part — their religious justifications went unanswered. During the 1990s with some few exceptions the Salafi-jihadi debates and publications were unknown — the exceptions being when security forces periodically confiscated materials from these groups and published them.1 However, as the focus of jihadi violence has turned during the past ten years more and more away from fighting the “far enemy” to the task of establishing an Islamic state — a process that has involved the use of suicide attacks killing large numbers of Muslim civilians — the general public has become more and more aware of the religious justifications that underlie such violence. This fact has led to the gradual collapse of the religious underpinnings of alQaeda and its ideological affiliates during the past ten years. First of all, it is important to realize that the religious justifications for jihad, and specific tactics utilized by radical Muslims are not some afterthought on their part. Both the Salafi-jihadi overall strategy and its tactics must be ultimately derived from or related to the example of Muhammad. Without that basis the radicals would lose their legitimacy as Sunnis, those who follow the example of Muhammad, and would lack the ability to convince the broader Muslim community of their goals. Second, it is equally important to note that one of the principal targets of the Salafi-jihadis is in fact the larger Muslim religious establishment, whose conservatism stands in the way of their achieving a radical reform of Islam, and whose symbiotic relationship with governments is deemed by radicals to constitute apostasy. Thus, development of religious justifications for jihad, both in its strategy and in its tactics, constitutes a challenge to the authority of the Muslim religious elite, and serves as an attempt to wrest away from the latter control over a major and prestigious element of religious law. In essence radical Muslim jurisprudence exemplifies the type of Islam the movement wants to promote as an alternative to the conservative religious elite or to the Sufi masses beyond them.

1 The best known example is `Abd al-Salam Faraj’s al-Farida al-gha’iba, trans. Johannes Jansen, The Neglected Duty (New York: MacMillan, 1986).


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Takfir Takfir or the arrogation of the right to declare an apparent Muslim to be an apostate (and thus legitimize his or her death) stands at the heart of the Salafi-jihadi theological justifications for violence. Traditionally, Sunnism has been particularly cautious about the use of takfir, which is almost exclusively a phenomenon of the period since 1960. But in his statement of 14 February 2003, Osama bin Laden stated: The most significant of these shackles and obstacles in our present time are the rulers, the false witnesses among the scholars of evil, the corrupt court ministers, the writers-forhire and others like them…those rulers who want to solve our issues…through the United Nations or by orders of the United States…these rulers have betrayed God and His Prophet, and they have gone beyond the pale of the religious community and betrayed our umma. 2 While it is possible to understand this indictment in light of the undemocratic state of most of the Muslim world, because of doctrinal reasons bin Ladin and other Salafi-jihadis must include much larger numbers within their takfir, otherwise it is impossible to explain the failed state of the Muslim world. This is accomplished by bringing out the doctrine of wala’ wa’l-bara’a (love or loyalty and hatred or disassociation on the basis of Islam). In the interview with Taysir al-`Alwani of al-Jazeera television 21 October 2001 when questioned about relations with non-Muslims, bin Laden cited Quran 5:54 denouncing such relations and stated, “So I say to the Muslims, to be very wary and careful about befriending Jews and Christians, and whomever helps them with one word, let him be devout to Allah, and renew his faith so he can repent of what he did.” The disbelief of al-’Alwani is clear in his response, “Even a word??” to which bin Laden states: “Even a word. Whoever upholds them with one word falls into apostasy.” Immediately al-’Alwani points out the obvious: “But this is a large section of the Muslim community!”3 Although bin Laden very breezily denies that fact, it is apparent that what the Salafi-jihadi takfir does indeed comprise is the large majority of the Muslim community. From this ideological-religious basis it is easy to see the reasons why radicals have morphed themselves during the period following 2003 from fighting non-Muslims and defending the Muslim world to mass casualty attacks aimed almost exclusively at Muslims. There are at least a half a dozen major works on wala’ wa’l-bara’a by Salafi­jihadi authors, such as Zawahiri, during the recent past. The fact is that the belief which stands behind such actions is that most Muslims are in fact apostate, and that Salafi-jihadis have the right to attack them or at least disregard the likelihood that they would be killed in an operation. This mass takfir was already refuted by major Sunni religious figures in the 1990s, 4 and since that time intellectual radicals such as Abu Basir al-Tartusi, who during the 1990s was closely associated with such a broad definition of takfir have been careful during the years since 2003 to redefine themselves, allowing for the possibility that while certain Muslims might have objectionable practices associated with them, that does not necessarily give radicals a blanket right to kill them.5 Equally, it is clear that such broad definitions of contact with non-Muslims are impossibly strict even within Muslim

2 Bruce Lawrence (ed), Messages to the World: The Statements of Osama Bin Laden (trans. James Howarth, London: Verso, 2005), pp. 196-198. 3 “The Unreleased Interview with Usamah Bin Laden,” 21 October 2011, http://www.religioscope.com/info/doc/jihad/ubl_int_3.htm, last accessed 29 February 2012. 4 Such as Nasir al-Din al-Albani, `Abdallah b. Baz, and Ibn `Uthaymin, see Fitnat al-takfir (n.p., n.d.); and see the more recent massive studies of Basim al-Jawabirah, al-Takfir fi daw’ al-sunna al-nabawiyya (Amman, 2006); and Nu`man `Abd al-Razzq al-Sammara’i, al-Takfir fi al-Qur’an wa-l-sunna qadiman wa-hadithan (Riyad: Markaz al-Malik Faysal, 2007). 5 See his http://www.en.altartosi.com/thefourthrule.htm, last accessed 29 February 2012.


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majority countries.6 Thus, although the idea of a global-takfir is still one of the mainstays of Salafijihadis as a propaganda tool, it has lost its efficacy and alienates precisely the people it needs to convince.

Exigencies of Jihad A major factor in the Salafi-jihadi encouragement of jihad has been the idea that the present circumstances of the non-Muslim world’s attempt to attack the Muslims en masse requires Muslims to operate under the rules of “defensive jihad.” Traditionally, jihad was divided into two categories: offensive jihad which had to be waged by some Muslims, but not all, as opposed to defensive jihad, which was invoked when Muslim lands were attacked. Under the latter set of rules, all Muslims are required to fight, and many of the strictures limiting the types of tactics available for Muslims to use fall into abeyance. Throughout the 1990s and beyond Salafi-jihadis tried to make the argument that the present conflicts represent such an emergency situation for the entire Muslim community. Success in this argument would have liberated the radicals from the confines of the Sharia strictures placed upon fighting, making the killing of enemy civilians and the destruction of “collateral damage” not so problematic. Additionally, the defensive jihad would enable the jihadis, as religious scholars, to come to the fore and accomplish the radical transformation of Islam they crave. There are several factors which enabled radicals to make the argument that jihad at the present time is defensive. The first and primary one was the perception that many of the conflicts between Muslims and non-Muslims during the 1990s were religious in nature rather than nationalistic (especially in the Balkans, Africa, and South and Central Asia). The second was a lack of clarity, promoted by Salafijihadis concerning the question of what constitutes “attack” upon Muslims or “occupation of Muslim lands.” While certainly most Arab Muslims accept the premise that Israel constitutes such an “attack” or an “occupation” it is apparent that radicals associated with al-Qaeda wanted to globalize this sense of “attack” or “occupation” to make worldwide attacks upon non-Muslims, mainly the West, possible. Bin Laden, in his 21 October 2001 interview with al-’Alwani, also expands upon the use of exigency saying: This prohibition against killing innocent children is not absolute…God says ‘If you punish, then let your punishment be proportionate to the wrong done to you’ (Q. 16:126)…so that the infidels if they intend to kill our women and children, then there is nothing wrong with our treating them the same to deter them…7 Of course, this line of reasoning opens up the radicals to the possibilities that they can decide who will live and who will die, and has been critiqued on those grounds by even Saudi religious leaders. 8 Zawahiri in his 2008 treatise, al-Tabri’a (The Exoneration), tried to defend such exigencies when discussing the murder of the little girl Shayma in Cairo as a result of the attack on the Egyptian prime minister on 25 November 1993, by saying: We were all saddened by the killing of the little innocent girl unintentionally, but what is to be done?9 It is necessary to wage jihad against the government which is fighting against the Law of God and in alliance with his enemies. We expended all of our energy in such circumstances not to hurt any Muslim, and warned the individuals of the people many times previously… to stay away from the centers of the pillars of the regime, their dwellings and roads they pass…

6 One would have to say that bin Laden himself actually falls into the category of infidel, as he has granted interviews with nonMuslims, and thus exchanged “words” with them. 7 http://www.alneda.com/print.asp?id=471ty=pr, p.5, last accessed 16 April 2002. 8 Fatawa al-`ulama al-kibar fi al-irhab wa-l-tadmir (Riyad: Dar al-Kiyan, 2005), pp. 362 (Ibn Baz, citing Q. 16:12, 3:159). 9 A very breezy comment in the Arabic.


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when [al-Sayyid Salah] was asked concerning the death of the girl Shayma’ he said that he was sorry for the killing of this girl, but the jihad must not be halted.10 It is clear that this callous attitude towards human life is problematic for the message that al-Qaeda and its ideological affiliates need to bring to the Muslim world, although it is very useful and necessary when one considers that it allows radicals to justify any of their collateral damage in terms of the higher goal.11 Zawahiri was responding here to the criticism of his mentor, Dr. al-Fadl (‘Abd al-Qadir b. ‘Abd al-‘Aziz), who had taken him to task in a series of articles, written from prison, and published in Egyptian newspapers during 2007.12 Exigencies of jihad also help radicals justify their signature operation, the suicide attack.

Martyrdom Operations One of the major developments in jihadi tactics during the later 1990s and first decade of the 2000s has been the use of the suicide attack. This attack is one in which an attacker either drives or transports on his or her body a bomb which is then exploded in the midst of an enemy. Developed first by Lebanese radicals, mostly Shia, during the 1980s, the tactic was taken up by Palestinians in the 1990s, and then by Salafi-jihadis everywhere. Starting with the Palestinian use of suicide attacks there was a large development of religious literature designed to accord the tactic of suicide attacks legitimacy, and to protect its utilizers from charges that it actually constituted suicide on the part of the attacker and that it killed innocent civilians.13 For the most part, with some exceptions, the lines of justification provided by this literature was accepted during the 1990s and during the al-Aqsa Intifada (2000-2004), as long as the primary target was Israel. However, starting in the late 1990s and most especially with 11 September 2001, al-Qaeda used suicide attacks against American targets, deploying parallel religious arguments to justify its tactics. Those included the following arguments: 1. The attacker was not committing suicide as long as he or she was truly intending jihad. 2. The choice of general civilian targets was legitimate because of the fact that all citizens were responsible for their governments’ actions through their voting and paying taxes and thus could be killed. 3. Collateral damage could be justified on the principle of the mangonel, the rock-bearing ancestor of the catapult, which the Prophet Muhammad is said to have used against the city of al-Ta’if. If Muhammad used the mangonel, which does not discriminate between civilian and soldier as it descends, then it is legitimate to use a bomb which equally does not discriminate.

10 Al-Zawahiri, al-Tabri’a, http://www.e-prism.org/images/kitab_al-Tabrieah_-_2-3-08.pdf, p. 201, last accessed 29 February 2012. 11 Already during the Algerian civil war fatwas by Abu Qatada allowing the killing of women and children were refuted by al-Jaza’iri, Takhlis al-`ibad min wahshiyyat Abi al-Qatada (Cairo: Dar Madad, 2005, reprint). 12 Al-Fadl, Wathigat Tarshid Al-‘Aml Al-Jihadi fi Misr w’Al-‘Alam, Al-Masri al-Youm, 18 November — December 2007. 13 Most are included in Takruri, al-`Amaliyyat al-istishhadiyya fi al-mizan al-fiqhi (4 editions since 1997); Muhammad Sa`id Ghayba, al-`Amaliyyat al-istishhadiyya wa-ara’ al-fuqaha’ fiha (2 editions, 1997, 2003); and see also Tu`amat al-Qudat, al-Mughamara bi-l-nafs fi al-qital (2001); Masa’il jihadiyya wa-hukm al-`amaliyyat al-istishhadiyya (2002); Ibn Jubayr, al-`Amaliyyat al-istishhadiyya (2002); Hasan al-Bash, al-`Amaliyyat al-istishhadiyya (2003); Ghazi Husayn, al-Irhab al-Isra’ili wa-shara`iyyat al-muqawama wa-l-`amaliyyat al-istishhadiyya (2003); Nawaf al-Zarw, al-`Amaliyyat al-istishhadiyya (2003); and Ahmad `Abd al-Karim Najib, al-Dala’il al-jaliyya `ala mashru`iyyat al-`amaliyyat al-istishhadiyya (2006).


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All of these arguments were first developed with regard to Israel, but were then applied to the United States in the religious justifications of the 9/11 attacks, of which there are at least seven available on the Internet,14 and then to other mass casualty martyrdom operations.15 Because of the close connection of the suicide attack as an operation to Palestinian operations against Israel it has been difficult for the Muslim religious leadership, after having embraced them so obviously during the 1990s and the al-Aqsa Intifada, to then reject them. But the fact is that during the past seven years progressively Muslim religious opinion has moved away from the support of suicide attacks. Earliest to make this move were the Turks16, who published a number of religious refutations of suicide attacks, but then especially after the Riyadh bombings in 2003, and the increasing use of suicide attacks against Muslims, even the conservative Saudi establishment has stated categorically “The one who carries out a ‘suicide attack’ (`amaliyyat intihariyya) is actually a suicide and will be judged as such.”17 While it is true that there is still intellectual incoherence in some of the recent fatwas, in order to allow for suicide attacks to be used against Israel, it is significant that in a very short period of time the religious support for such attacks, broad as it was on 11 September 2001 has collapsed.18 Even radical Muslims such as Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi have criticized Zarqawi’s massive use of suicide attacks (2005, 2006). Criticism such as this, of course, is merely functional, not a critique of the tactic as such. But other prominent jihadi thinkers, such as Abu Musa`b al-Suri, in his great Da`wat al-muqawama al-Islamiyya al-`alamiyya (A Call to Worldwide Islamic Revolution) have pointed out the negative effects that martyrdom operations have on non-Muslim perceptions of Islam. And this is not to speak of a mainstream Sunni figure like Yusuf al-Qaradawi, whose massive 2009 tome, Fiqh al-jihad, can be seen as a response to the plethora of Salafi­jihadi scholarship on the subject during the previous two decades. Although it is difficult to follow al-Qaradawi’s frequent changes in attitude towards suicide attacks, the most cogent line in his thinking is solidly mainstream ulema dogma: suicide attacks are legitimate against Israel because of the absolute nature of the warfare and the fact that the Palestinians are severely disadvantaged as far as military options go, but they are illegitimate as far as general usage. This is a line that al-Qaradawi develops in Fiqh al-jihad, where he stresses the humane nature of jihad, as opposed to what he characterizes as “those who fight jihad for its own sake rather than as a method.”19 Although he mentions repeatedly the United States’ presence in Iraq as illegitimate, and characterizes the fighters (presumably the Sunnis) as “resistance” he does not applaud or even detail their tactics, and avoids supporting the use of suicide attacks against Americans. Of course, if al-Qaradawi cared to look at the situation in depth, he would notice, that in actuality, suicide attacks were used almost exclusively against Shi`ite civilians rather than American military targets. For all of al-Qaradawi’s wishy-washiness, he comes out strongly and repeatedly against the targeting and

14 For example, Yusuf al-`Ayyiri, al-Harb al-salibiyya al-jadida (at tawhed.ws), also Hamud b. `Uqla al-Shu`aybi, “Fatwa on the Events of Sept. 11,” at aloqla.com, alsahwah.com; Abu Qatada (spiritual leader of al-Qaeda in Europe), “September 11: The Legal Vision,” at jihadunspun.com (September 2002); `Abd al-`Aziz b. Salih al-Jarbu`a, al-Ta’sil li-mashru`iyyat ma hasala li-Amrika min tadmir (at tawhed.ws); Husayn `Umar b. Mahfuz, al-Ta’sil al-shar`i li-ahdath Amrika (at tawhed.ws); Sayf al-Din al-Ansari, Ghazwat New York waWashington; and the unsigned Kashf al-shubhat `an ahkam al-hujumat (at tawhed.ws). 15 For example, note Imam Samudra, Aku Melawan Teroris (Solo: Jazera, 2005), pp. 171-173 who cites Nawaf al-Takruri (supporting suicide attacks against Israel) in his justification of the Bali bombings, 12 October 2002. 16 Fethullah Gulen, Terror and Suicide Attacks: An Islamic Perspective (The Light, Inc. & Intihar Saldirilari, 2004). 17 Fatawa, p. 344. 18 This issue of intellectual incoherence is mentioned in Dr Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri fatwa, www.minhaj.org/images-db2/fatwaeng.pdf, last accessed 29 February 2012. See also, Haim Malka, “Must Innocents Die? The Islamic Debate over Suicide Attacks,” Middle East Quarterly, Spring 2003, pp. 19-28. 19 Yusuf al-Qaradawi, Fiqh al-jihad: Dirasa muqarana li-ahkamihi wa-falsafatihi fi daw’ al-Qur’an wa-l-Sunna (Cairo: Maktabat Wahba, 2009), ii, pp. 1172, 1993.


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even the inadvertent killing of civilians, and follows much more of an absolute moral code than do those functionalists such as Abu Basir and Abu Muhammad above: he specifies that it does not matter whether the civilians are Muslims or not. 20 Al-Qaradawi also takes a strong line against the targeting of tourists, speaking about the fact that they have been issued visas, and therefore are “guests” and subject to protection while traveling in Muslim lands. 21 In this line of argument he either develops the rationale of the repentant Egyptian radical Dr. al-Fadl an incarcerated leader of the Jama`at al-Islamiyya, 22 whose series of articles condemning violence against civilians and “collateral damage” called forth Zawahiri’s response, al-Tabri’a (cited above). It is important to realize that although this issue might seem to be a minor one to an outsider, destroying the legitimacy of attacks against tourists in fact undercuts one of the major foundations for the unrestrained type of jihad that Salafi-jihadis want to promote. If the tourists are under “protection” then how much more are Muslim civilians, whose lives the likes of Osama bin Laden, Zawahiri and Zarqawi so callously throw away? Thus the contributions of al-Qaradawi and others to the downfall of the legitimacy of “collateral damage” are quite significant, and although Zawahiri penned al-Tabri’a to shore up this legitimacy, there is no evidence that he was successful in the court of Muslim public opinion.

Conclusions During the last ten years the tone of religious studies of jihad has changed considerably. Whereas the tone of jihad articles and books, both from the mainstream Islamic and from radical Islamic circles, during the 1990s and early 2000s was that of encouragement of jihad and the fairly open-ended development of new tactics (especially martyrdom operations) to be utilized in it, the tone of such articles and books today in the mainstream is one of limitation and closer definition (and in some cases refutation) of the tactics of jihad. Without a doubt this change is as a result of the 9/11 attacks, and most especially as a result of the suicide attack campaign in Iraq (2003- present) and that in Pakistan (2007- present). 23 Al-Qaeda and its ideological affiliates have relied during the past 15 years for their religious justifications upon widespread acceptance of the formula Israel = United States in order to legitimize their attacks. Although there has been a good deal of development in the religious justifications associated with radical Islam, primarily from Egyptian radicals and then secondarily from Saudis, the principal and most popular arguments presented to the Muslim world were always those taken by analogy from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Today that second-hand intellectual and religious link is largely broken, most especially by the elite which has been able to see how dangerous it is to make blanket allowances for violence to be utilized against Israelis. All of those allowances in the end have been turned against Muslims, and have turned countries such as Iraq and Pakistan into war zones, as well as fomented a wide variety of sporadic attacks in other countries. Muslims have been the primary targets of suicide attacks now for a number of years, and this trend shows no sign of abating. However, at least the religious underpinning of such attacks has largely collapsed.

20 Al-Qaradawi, i, 598, 726, ii, pp. 1169ff. 21 Ibid., pp, ii, 1176-1179. 22 Author of Risalat al-`umda li-l-jihad fi sabil allah. For discussion, see the interview with Usama Ayyub, http://www.asharq-e.com/ news.asp?section=3&id=10995, last accessed 29 February 2012. 23 See the fatwas by Muhammad Tahir al-Qadri, http://www.tahir-ul-qadri.com/launch-of-fatwa-on-suicide-bombingsand-terrorism-inenglish.html, last accessed 29 February 2012, as well as others, http://www.cobrapost.com/documents/ FatwaAgainstSuicide.htm; http://www.islamopediaonline.org/news/pakistan-prominent-scholars-issue-fatwa-against-suicideattacks, last accessed 29 February 2012.


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Re-reading the Origins of al-Qaeda through Osama bin Laden’s Former Audiocassette Collection Dr. Flagg Miller 1 University of California-Davis The Conflict Records Research Center (CRRC) is a valuable resource, especially when accompanied by a discussion not only of what documents tell us, but also of how we read them. In this essay, I want to revisit three sets of documents with an eye toward unpacking what we have come to learn about al-Qaeda and its foundation. These three data sets are: (1) a 32-page document captured during United States military operations sometime before 2002 and posted in two sections online by West Point’s Combating Terrorism Center (CTC) in 2006 respectively entitled: “Al-Qaeda’s Structure and Bylaws,” and “Al-Qaeda Goals and Structure”; 2 (2) court documents from the U.S. v.s. Usama bin Laden trial (concluding in early 2002) and the U.S. v.s. Enaam Arnaout trial (concluding mid 2003); (3) the citation and interpretation of these documents by scholars, journalists, and various other analysts. My own training as an anthropologist leads me to the study of texts and archives through broader questions about human society and culture. I approach the institution of al-Qaeda not solely as the organization formed and led during its most coherent years by Osama bin Laden, as we tend to think of it, but rather as a more complex cultural and historical product of ideas, strategies, personalities, texts, and performances; all of which, to some extent, preceded bin Laden and transcend the man himself. The Arabic word al-qaeda has been accurately rendered “the base” or “rule.” At a certain point during the 1990s, the term grew increasingly relevant to the West as certain individuals, bin Laden foremost among them, adapted the concept and their frameworks to Western audiences, often through English translators. Much of my research to date has focused on an archive of over 1,500 audiotapes that were formerly deposited in bin Laden’s residential compound in Kandahar, Afghanistan.3 Acquired by the Cable News Network (CNN) in 2002 and later by Yale University, the tapes feature over two-hundred speakers from across the Islamic world, including bin Laden himself and a host of al-Qaeda’s top operatives and esteemed intellectual heavyweights. 4 In recent years, valuable work has been emerging on the diversity of ideological currents and conflicts that ripple the fabric of al­- Qaeda’s umbrella.5 Scholars working closely with source texts and occasionally conducting interviews have provided key insights into the ways bin Laden’s leadership in the organization was not uncontroversial. Many of the audiocassettes in his former house underscore how al-Qaeda was beset from the beginning by contending worldviews, ideological differences, and leadership disputes. Bin Laden’s own claims to leadership were facilitated by his family wealth, of course, as well as his social connections among Saudis and an expanding community of Afghan Arab volunteers through the 1980s and 1990s. The influence of his leadership was amplified further by his 1 Funding for this research was provided by the American Council of Learned Societies’ Charles A. Ryskamp Fellowship, 2010-11. 2 Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, http://www.ctc.usma.edu, last accessed 29 February 2012. 3 See Flagg Miller, “’Al-Qaida’ as a Pragmatic Base: Contributions of Area Studies to Sociolinguistics.” Language and Communication 28, no. 4 (2008): pp. 386-408 and “Listen, Plan and Carry out ‘Al-Qaida’: Theological Dissension in Usāma Bin Ladin’s Former Audiocassette Collection.” In Contextualising Jihadi Thought (London: Hurst and Company/Columbia University Press, 2011), edited by Jeevan Deol and Zaheer Kazmi, pp. 69-97. 4 The collection is entitled The Islamic Fundamentalist Audiotapes. Yale University is gradually releasing volumes in digital form for public researchers, http://digitalcollections.library.yale.edu/islamic-fund/index.dl, last accessed 29 February 2012. 5 See, for example, Vahid Brown and et. al., Cracks in the Foundation: Leadership Schisms in Al-Qa`ida 1989-2006 (West Point, NY: Combating Terrorism Center, 2007); Anne Stenersen, “Blood Brothers or a Marriage of Convenience? The Ideological Relationship between al-Qaida and the Taliban,” 2009, http://www.allacademic.com//meta/p_mla_apa_research_citation/3/1/2/5/2/ pages312525/p312525-6.php, last accessed 29 February 2012; Assaf Moghadam and Brian Fishman, Self-Inflicted Wounds: Debates and Divisions within Al-Qaida and Its Periphery (West Point, NY: Combatting Terrorism Center, 2010).


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talents in self-marketing. With ranging intellect, he tailored Muslim historical memory and Wahhabiinfluenced theology to widespread skepticism in the Middle East about the rewards of modernization for most of the region’s populace; he offered plans for redemption that appealed to audiences yearning for a restoration of Arab ethnic pride and purity, especially in the wake of the 1967 war between Arab nations and Israel. He proved adept at media outreach: first with Saudi compatriots and an Egyptian documentary producer, then by the mid-1990s with Western journalists and Qatar’s al-Jazeera satellite television station. He used such media interviews to garner wider international audiences than many in the Afghan Arab movement, especially as he became an international pariah through the mid1990s, exiled first from his Saudi homeland and by 1996 from the Sudan as well. Such media attention, along with speculation about his access to family wealth and the militant leverage it availed him, got his name on the roster of most-wanted characters among Saudi and Western intelligence circles, a notoriety that he then used to amplify his status as al-Qaeda’s ringleader. In the years following 11 September 2001, Americans joined others worldwide in seeking not just to understand why such a thing happened but track down those responsible for the attacks and bring them to justice. Many bright minds assembled reports, books, and documents of all sorts to help achieve these goals and communicate their broader significance to public audiences. In the United States, as in much of the West, people who knew little about the complexities of the Muslim world or America’s engagements in the Middle East knew of bin Laden’s name and leadership. Much of this literature was directed toward them. Ten years later, and with bin Laden dead, I believe that we are in a better position to reassess the accuracy and legacy of this early wealth of history for our understanding of the movement bin Laden claimed to represent.

Re-reading al-Qaeda’s Formation The standard account of al-Qaeda’s formation relies on court documents from the U.S. v.s. Enaam Arnaout trial dated April 2002.6 Advanced eloquently by Peter Bergen and Lawrence Wright,7 the essence of the narrative goes like this: on 11 August 1988, bin Laden met Abdalla Azzam, Muhammad Atef (a.k.a. Abu Hafs al-Masri), Ali al-Rashidi (a.k.a. Abu Ubayda al-Banshiri), and others in Peshawar to discuss the formation of an organization called “al-Qaeda” with the aim of keeping jihad alive after the Soviets left Afghanistan.8 Syrian national Muhammad Loay Bayazid took minutes for the group, records of which turned up in Bosnia in 2002 and were subsequently used in a U.S. court case against Benevolence International Foundation, a Saudi-based non-profit group later banned worldwide for supporting terrorism. The minutes, available only through an English translation produced by the prosecution, report a discussion between “the Sheikh”, identified in court documents as bin Laden, and Mr. Bayazid. While details are sparse, bullet points include mention of a discussion “regarding the establishing of a new military group” along with the words “general camp,” “special camp,” and

6 The grand jury charges read as follows: “In or about 1988, Usama Bin Ladin began directing resources to train mujahideen for eventual deployment to places outside Afghanistan. In or about August 1988, Usama Bin Laden and others (including Mamdouh Salim, a/k/a ‘Abu Jaher al Iraqi’) held a series of meetings in Afghanistan during which the al Qaeda (the “Base”) organization was formed. Members of al Qaeda pledged an oath of allegiance (called a ‘bayat’) to al Qaeda. Thereafter, Usama Bin Laden used the al Qaeda organization, as well as affiliated organizations, to provide financial and logistical support to mujahideen in various areas of the world. Al Qaeda had a command and control structure which included a majlis al shura (or consultation council) which discussed and approved major undertakings, including terrorist operation… In addition to participating in armed confrontations in Afghanistan, al Qaeda, acting on its own as well as in concert with other groups, also participated in armed confrontations and violence in other locations, including Bosnia-Herzegovina and Chechnya” (U.S. v.s. Enaam Arnaout, “Special April 2002 Grand Jury Charges,” United States District Court Northern District of Illinois Eastern Division, 2002, p. 34). 7 Peter Bergen, The Osama bin Laden I Know: An Oral History of al Qaeda’s Leader (New York: Free Press, 2006), pp. 74-81; Lawrence Wright, The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11 (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2007), pp.131-136. Bergen elaborates his original position in The Longest War: The Enduring Conflict Between America and Al-Qaeda (New York: Free Press, 2011), pp. 23-25. 8 Wright, The Looming Tower, p.131. U.S v.s. Enaam Arnaout documents mention only the presence of bin Laden, Muhammad Bayazid, and unnamed others at this meeting ,“Government’s Evidentiary Proffer,” pp. 34-35.


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“Qaeda” (left untranslated and in italics).9 They also mention that “within six months of Al-Qaeda, 314 brothers will be trained and ready.” Wright concludes that “For most of the men in the meeting, this was the first time that the name al-Qaeda had arisen.”10 About a week later, court documents report that “a meeting was held ‘at the Sheikh’s house,’ leading to the official formation of Al-Qaeda.”11 Most of the meeting focused on selecting a new advisory council; essential, notes a court translator, given “a split between Abdallah Azzam and bin Laden within the Office of Services.” Bin Laden seems to have been nominated to the advisory council, along with Wail Julaidan, chief of the Red Crescent, Saudi Arabia’s largest humanitarian aid society at the time, as well as Abu Ubayda and Abu Hajir al-Iraqi.12 Military training was also discussed, and recruits were to be enlisted in basic and advanced sessions along the following lines: “Limited duration: they will go to Sada camp [in Pakistan], then get trained and distributed on Afghan fronts under [the] supervision of the military council; Open [ended] duration: they enter a testing camp and the best brothers of them are chosen, in preparation to enter Al Qaeda Al Askariya [‘the Military base’].” When suggestion was made of the need for oaths by incoming recruits, consensus was reached on the following words: “The pledge of God and His covenant is upon me: to listen and obey the superiors, who are doing this work, in energy, early-rising, difficulty, and easiness, and for His superiority upon us, so that the word of God will be the highest, and His religion victorious.”13 To these accounts other analysts have supplied further evidence. In 2006, the CTC released documents whose procurement prior to April 2002 suggests acquisition by American military or intelligence personnel operating in the Afghanistan-Pakistan regions after the fall of the Taliban. They are routinely cited to corroborate the story of al-Qaeda’s formation under bin Laden’s leadership in 1988. One of the most popular documents is divided into two sections, one entitled “Al-Qaeda’s Structure and Bylaws” and the other entitled “Al-Qaeda Goals and Structure.”14 The thirty-two page charter, heavily laden with bureaucratic details of executive, political, military, financial, media, and external relations committees, purportedly sets up the organizational coherence of bin Laden’s worldwide vision. The document raises several important questions, however. First, no date is provided. Second, no mention is made of bin Laden, or any other specific individual for that matter. To be sure, oaths to “the emir” of al-Qaeda are mentioned as are the details of recruits’ rights, obligations, and salaries. When Bergen and Wright cite these details, however, they also infer that oaths given by recruits were made to bin Laden himself.15 Evidence for their assertions, drawn from U.S. v.s. Bin Laden court proceedings against bin Laden for his involvement in the American embassy bombings in East Africa in 1998, includes a testimonial by one of bin Laden’s associates in the Sudan, Jamal al-Fadl. Al-Fadl 9 U.S. v.s. Enaam Arnaout, “Government’s Evidentiary Proffer,” p. 34. 10 Wright, The Looming Tower, p. 133. 11 U.S. v.s. Enaam Arnaout, “Government’s Evidentiary Proffer,” p. 35. 12 Ibid., p. 36. 13 Ibid., p. 37. 14 My analysis suggests that these two files are part of a single larger document, despite their separate titles and cataloguing. In scholarly literature they are often referred to as AFGP-2002-600178 (“Structure and Bylaws,” at one time also catalogued as 2002600048), portions of which are featured in its abridged and annotated version AFGP-2002-000080, the latter of which is paired with its second section AFGP-2002-000078 (“Goals and Structure”), as noted in this document’s English translation. These documents are not to be confused with the similarly labeled “Al-Qaida: Constitutional Charter, Rules and Regulations” (AFGP-2002-600175). The latter text displays hallmark characteristics from al-Qaeda’s official releases in the very late 1990s or early 2000s, including introductory Quranic verses, a definition of “al-Qaeda” that emphasizes its identity as an “Islamic group devoted to jihad,” prominent mention of the group’s ‘aqida (doctrine) and goals of setting up a worldwide Islamic caliphate. 15 Freely paraphrasing al-Fadl, Bergen and Wright both insert bin Laden’s name when details of oath-taking arise: “New recruits filled out forms in triplicate, signed their oath of loyalty to bin Laden [my italics], and swore themselves to secrecy” (Wright, The Looming Tower, pp. 141-142); “When the Russians decide to leave Afghanistan, bin Ladie he decide to make his own group. Al-Qaida, it’s established to do jihad. You have to make bayat. ‘Bayat’ means you swear [an oath of allegiance to bin Laden] [my italics]” (Bergen, The Osama bin Laden I Know, p. 86.) The first reference I have found of someone claiming to have made a bay’a (oath) to bin Laden, other than Jamal al-Fadl, is the Palestinian operative in East Africa Muhammad Odeh, who dates his pledge to 1992 (cited in Ibid., p. 138).


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states that he received a document filled with committee details and membership stipulations that exactly resemble those outlined in the charter documents later released by the CTC. He also states in no uncertain terms that oaths were given not to bin Laden but rather to three other individuals: Abu Ubayda and Abu Hafs, both Egyptian commanders in the group’s military committee, and also an Iraqi Kurd by the name of Abu Ayyoub.16 The latter, insisted the witness, was in fact the group’s first emir, an assertion made elsewhere by others.17 Al-Fadl suggests that while oaths were not made to bin Laden, he remained a kind of “general emir” to whom the others reported; his statements formed part of a plea bargain arrangement with prosecutors after having been convicted of conspiring to attack American military institutions. Whatever we make of al-Fadl’s testimony, however, the advisory council that drafted al-Qaeda’s charter documents (following the Peshawar meetings cited in American court documents and possibly as late as the spring of 1989) appears not to have wanted any explicit association with bin Laden. Indeed, contrary to what has been assumed from observations on the late August meeting in bin Laden’s Peshawar home, the council took pains to make sure that he would not be the group’s emir. In a section outlining the leadership’s security apparatus, they add the following qualification, inaccessible in its English rendition due to garbled syntax: “Neither the commander of the guards nor his associates can be from any of the Gulf States or from Yemen.”18 With the addition of this single clause, peculiar for a document purporting to be a general charter for all Arab and Muslim militants, bin Laden’s core Saudi and Yemeni supporters, those most likely to pledge their lives in his defense, were ensured no part in al-Qaeda’s praetorian guard. Rather than laying the foundations for bin Laden’s future role in jihad, the document is more accurately a bid to marginalize him. How are we to make sense of the fact that al-Qaeda’s founding charter proves such an impediment to bin Laden’s leadership? We must begin with finer points of translation. In Arabic, qaeda simply means “base” (as well as “rule” or “precept,” as I explore elsewhere).19 Defense Department translations, much in the fashion of documents produced by prosecutors in American court proceedings, repeatedly leave this single word in its Arabic original. By doing so, they give the impression that discussions of al-qaeda (the base) are, in fact, about the organization that we have come to know since 11 September 2001 as bin Laden’s brainchild. A closer reading suggests that the “base” being established is an organizational master-plan for the al-Faruq training camp in Jaji, Afghanistan established in 1989, a year after the August meetings in bin Laden’s house, and pointedly under Egyptian leadership. 20 My analysis suggests the need to revisit arguments made by prosecutors in the U.S. v.s. Enaam Arnaout trial, though our lack of original Arabic-language documents from the case prevents definitive conclusions. Before expanding on the implications of my claim, it is worth noting a few more details from the charter as well as corroborations from scholars and ex-militants who have been interviewed about what “al-Qaeda” meant to those involved with bin Laden in the late 1980s. In the months and years following 11 September 2001, experts of diverse persuasions and experiential backgrounds have spoken of bin Laden’s central role in establishing al-Qaeda. In light of bin Laden’s identification with the attacks, most prominent in a video released on the eve of U.S. presidential elections in 2004 in which he professed having had intimate knowledge of the hijackers plans, these accounts help remind audiences of his impressive role as bankroller, organizational chief, warrior, and spokesperson for a struggle that would be turned against the United States in no uncertain terms. Given the generalizing and often breezy nature of narratives about bin Laden’s role in history, 16 Abu Ayyoub al-Iraqi was killed in Pakistan in 1990. 17 See, for example, Camille Tawil’s interview with Libyan Afghan Arab militant Noman Benotman in Brothers in Arms: The Story of al-Qaida and the Arab Jihadists (London: Saqi, 2010), p. 28. 18 Combating Terrorism Center’s Harmony Database Document “Al-Qaida’s Structure and Bylaws,” http://www.ctc.usma.edu/wpcontent/uploads/2010/08/AFGP-2002-600178-Orig-Meta.pdf, p. 33, last accessed 29 February 2012. 19 Miller, “’Al-Qaida’ as a Pragmatic Base: Contributions of Area Studies to Sociolinguistics.” 20 Jason Burke’s outstanding work anticipates my observations of al-Qaeda’s origins at al-Faruq and argues for bin Laden’s peripheral role in the initiative. See Al-Qaeda: Casting a Shadow of Terror (New York: Palgrave, 2003).


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however, it is important to recognize their inadequacy as records of the past, especially considering the desire of some analysts and interviewees to figure prominently in the unfolding drama of bin Laden’s unveiling. Countering assumptions that the al-Qaeda we had come to know after 11 September 2001 could be projected backward for over a decade with little substantial change, others have emphasized the historical variability of the term, at least as it refers to a militant movement drawing strength from bin Laden’s leadership. Egyptian journalist Ahmad Zaydan argues that al-Qaeda was not considered a political organization even by the 2000s; instead, it came to be understood as a term for practical military operations that had Arab-exclusive inclinations, even as the goal was to work roughly with the Afghan mujahidin. 21 Khalfan Khamis Muhammad, a militant sentenced for his role in the American embassy bombings in East Africa, has testified that at the time of the attacks in 1998 he had never heard of an organization called al-Qaeda; the term was rather understood to be, in the words of his FBI interrogator, “a formula system for what they carried out.”22 My review of bin Laden’s tape collection to date has yielded only one cassette referring to “al-Qaeda” as a militant organization or base associated with bin Laden: an al-Qaeda propaganda tape produced in October 2000. 23 More such references may be found in time. At the very least, however, these notes give pause to oversimplistic accounts of al-Qaeda’s organizational coherence over time. One of the more substantial arguments for al-Qaeda’s early significance for Afghan Arabs suggests that the concept referred to qaeda al-malumat (records database) in Peshawar that was set up by bin Laden in 1988. 24 In coordination with the Office of Services, the database kept track of volunteers not only in Peshawar’s guest houses but in training camps and battle zones in Afghanistan as well, and was formalized on computer software in the following year. 25 In broad terms, the concept’s links to an emerging bureaucratic infrastructure are sensible enough. In bin Laden’s recorded speeches, however, bureaucratic renditions of “the base” prove poor currency for inspiring recruits. During the previous year, when speaking about Wail Julaydan’s visit to the Lion’s Den, bin Laden characterized him as a rijal idari (bureaucrat) adding that “while we are all to some administrators, his physique was weak because he spent most of his time at a desk.”26 As in the early lectures of top numerous militant strategists, foremost among them Abu al-Walid al-Masri, the intellectual as well as tactical leverage of “the base” inheres in more exuberant heroes and locales, ideally those situated beyond metropolitan centers of informational surveillance, control, and authority. On the one hand, al-Walid speaks of the muaskar (training camp). As multiple training camps are set up on the frontier of a battlefront, however, a more general qaeda (operational base) becomes necessary, one that can supervise camp activities and coordinate logistics while at the same time remaining spatially re-deployable should its headquarters come under attack. The importance of securing a well-fortified base that could remain in contact with battlefront operations, provide a physical refuge in times of duress, and also remain essentially de-territorialized, makes the base both physical and metaphysical, depending on circumstances. 21 Ahmad Zaydan, Bin Ladin bi-la Qina (Beirut: al-Sharika al-Alamiyya li-l-Kitab, 2003), p. 71. 22 “U.S. v. Usama Bin Laden et. al., Southern District Court of New York” (2001-2), transcript Day 19. 23 Tape no. 1164, The Islamic Fundamentalist Audiotape Collection, Yale University, New Haven, CT. Produced by “The Media Department of al-Qaida” in October 2000, this recording features a wedding celebration in Afghanistan involving one of bin Laden’s bodyguards. Additionally, a cassette jacket in the collection reads “A political course on bin Laden’s Base (Qaeda bin Laden).” Since jackets were separated from their original cassettes during shipping, however, a tape associated with this jacket has not yet been identified. No other recorded material yet found mentions the concept in this way. 24 Burke suggests this possibility based on interviews with Saudi intelligence in Al-Qaeda: Casting a Shadow of Terror, p. 251. Tawil adds that, according to his reports, the base encompassed Afghan Arab camps and battle zones in Brothers in Arms: The Story of al-Qaida and the Arab Jihadists, p. 25. 25 The “computer database” derivation is outlined by Pierre-Henri Bunel in Proche-Orient, une guerre mondiale?: des dérives de la finance internationale (New York: Carnot, 2004), and is reiterated by Jonathan Randal in Osama: The Making of a Terrorist (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2004), p. 90. 26 Tape no. 508, The Islamic Fundamentalist Audiotape Collection, Yale University, New Haven, CT. The tape was recorded in 1988 in Saudi Arabia.


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If conceived as “a formula system,” as Khalfan Muhammad is reported to have said, we might put it this way: the base expresses the relationship of an agent (e.g., a person or group) to fields of perceived ethical contest and struggle, one made credible by its power to represent as well as qualify established systems of authority. The idea of a computer database provides users with an interactive system of logistics; it poorly captures the disruptive potentials of the base for those grappling with corporations and their officiating councils. It also fails to account for the concept’s roots in Islamic law, linguistics, and culture, as I suggest elsewhere. For bin Laden, an iconoclastic rendition of al-Qaeda would become all the more essential if, as founding charter documents suggests, attempts were being made to obstruct his influence. What evidence do we have that “the base” discussed in al-Qaeda’s charter is the al-Faruq training camp and, should de-camping be necessary, its template? Aside from the fact that the words “training base/camp” make perfect sense every time al-qaeda appears in the original Arabic text, the geographic specificity of the base/camp is clear in repeated discussions of its proximity to Peshawar. Scholars and militants corroborate al-Qaeda’s origins at al-Faruq. Terror analyst Rohan Gunaratna suggested as much shortly after the attacks of 11 September 2001, though he later changed his views to fall in line with Bergen and Wright’s emphasis on meetings in bin Laden’s house the previous year. 27 The source for his first assessment was al-Fadl’s testimonial: al-Faruq was the location in which he reports first meeting al-Qaeda’s first emir, receiving charter documents whose structure very much resembles those later posted online by the CTC and giving an oath before the Egyptian-dominated military committee. 28 Al-Bahri goes into further detail elsewhere: With an increase in the number of Arab mujahedin coming to Afghanistan, a training camp (muaskar) called Sada, meaning the “echo” (sada) of jihad, was established. It was located along the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan. After the arrival of many well-qualified militants from the Jihad Group and the Egyptian Islamic Group, Bin Laden and his jihadi associates set up a new and more advanced training camp. It was called the al-Faruq Camp or the al-Faruq Military College (kulliyyat al-Faruq al-askariyya), and was effectively a military college.… Of course, the college was later called the al-Faruq Military College where military base training occurs (bi muaskar al-qaeda), the understanding being that it was a military base for jihad. 29 Al-Bahri’s narrative suggests that the al-Faruq camp was a qualitatively more advanced “college” for militant training, the significance of which I will discuss below. His account of bin Laden’s leadership in setting up al-Faruq corresponds with bin Laden’s role as a financier and construction engineer, one whose combat experience the previous year would have put him in a solid position to exercise authority there. Charter documents, as I have shown, complicate this picture: Bin Laden faced serious hurdles in extending actual command over the base and its activities. With respect to the foundations of al-Qaeda, al-Bahri’s narrative proves illuminating in another respect: in mentioning the twostage process of camp planning, the first consisting of basic introductory courses at the Sada camp and the second more advanced training at al-Faruq, al-Bahri sheds key light on the significance of conversations held in bin Laden’s home the previous year. The discussion that day was about setting up plans to open the “special” al-Faruq training camp, one whose distinction as a qaeda (base) was conceptually different than other muaskarat camps as clarified in the previous meeting on 11 August. Wright’s assertion that “for most of the men in the meeting, this was the first time that the name 27 Rohan Gunaratna, Inside Al Qaeda: Global Network of Terror (London: C. Hurst, 2002), p.56; his change of opinion is noted in Beyond al-Qaeda: The Global Jihadist Movement (Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, 2006), p. 27. 28 U.S. v.s. Usama Bin Laden et. al., p. 191. Al-Fadl’s description of the documents he received closely match the core structural components of the CTC’s charter documents, particularly the outlining of camp goals, the delineation of “advisory,” “military,” “financial,” and “media” councils, and the clarification of duties expected from emirs and recruits (Ibid., pp. 192-209). 29 “Tanzim al-Qaeda min Dakhil,” al-Quds al-Arabi, March 22, 2005, p. 19.


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al-Qaeda had arisen” is a historical canard.30 Though his observation parallels conclusions drawn by prosecutors in the U.S. v.s. Enaam Arnaout trial, al-Bahri’s contextualization of training camp initiatives at the time suggests that the designation of al-qaeda as “a group” under bin Laden’s leadership would not yet have occurred. Bergen’s notes from his own interviews suggest that something has been lost in translation: “Those with knowledge of the meetings at bin Laden’s house say that some of those who participated only discussed dissatisfaction about how the Office of Services was being run, and were unaware that some of the other participants also discussed the founding of al-Qaeda.”31 The very individuals present at the meeting, when asked about the meeting in a post-9/11 era, profess being unaware of al-Qaeda’s foundation because no such event took place.

Re-assessment in the Wake of al-Faruq Two conclusions can be drawn from my re-assessment of al-Qaeda’s origins. First, “the base” is a more complicated institution than we have come to understand, especially given the fact that it transcended bin Laden’s own leadership. The legacies of a blueprint for a “military college” that provided thousands of students with practical tools and guidance for coordinating transnational Islamic militancy are significant and complex. Little work has been devoted to the al-Faruq camp’s ideological orientation, though I sketch a few outlines below. Second, bin Laden seems to have been relatively peripheral to the al-Faruq camp’s administrative hierarchy. Even as a bankroller, his investments in al-Faruq seem to have been surprisingly insignificant: a memo from the Central Intelligence Agency in the mid-1990s reports that, since the late 1980s or early 1990s, the only camp benefitting from bin Laden’s financial support was a “Kunar camp” for Afghan Arabs located north of Jalalabad. Interviews with Hizb-i Islami and Sayyaf activists confirm this memo.32 Such observations raise obvious questions about how he was able to maneuver himself, by the latter half of the 1990s, into becoming al-Qaeda’s number one man. A few broader notes on the institution benefitting from his outreach and fundraising activities are in order. Al-Faruq’s advisory council was composed of over a dozen members from across the Middle East and North Africa. Although Iraqis and Saudis were especially well represented, Egyptians outweighed the contributions of other members both numerically and intellectually.33 They included the camp’s chief instructor Abu Hafs as well as the self-styled Islamic scholars Ayman Zawahiri and Sayyid Imam al-Sharif (a.k.a. Dr. Fadl), both surgeons by profession. Around the time of bin Laden’s 1989 lecture, Zawahiri and Dr. Fadl would be coaching audiences on the merits of breaking free from Egypt’s largest Islamist organization, al-jamaa al-islamiyya (Islamic Group). Founded by reformminded university students in the 1970s, the Islamic Group had suffered attrition through the 1980s as it advocated militant solutions to state injustice. Sermons by the blind cleric Umar Abd al-Rahman, later imprisoned by the United States for his involvement in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, provided much theological armament to members and would later feature on at least eight tapes in bin Laden’s collection. According to Zawahiri, however, the Islamic Group’s aims were too parochial, their qualifications to represent the ummah (pious community) too indebted to Egyptian nationalism. Accommodation with the infidel state held no appeal to true Muslims, and to support such a stance committed one to takfir (apostasy). Branding their movement Islamic Jihad (or “the Jihad Group”), the group’s calling card became the assassination of Egyptian state officials, intellectuals, and, by the 1990s, foreign tourists in the country. Although efforts were focused primarily on securing a true Islamic state in Egypt, the organization gained momentum and a wider range of recruits abroad. 30 Wright, The Looming Tower , p. 133. 31 Bergen, The Osama bin Laden I Know, p. 80. 32 Burke, Al-Qaeda: Casting a Shadow of Terror, p. 98. 33 Jamal al-Fadl reports four Egyptians, three Iraqis, two Saudis, and single delegates from Yemen, Oman, Algeria, and Libya (U.S. v.s. Usama Bin Laden et. al., 6 February transcript).


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In Peshawar and, after public backlash at home during the mid-1990s, the Sudan and Yemen, Jihad Group leaders pressed a transnational coterie of disaffected scholars to defend its mission in more transportable terms. In memos to group members, Zawahiri seems to have tried to put a post-colonial stamp on the group’s orientations: he spoke of the enemy as “foreign investors” and of operations as “commercial activities” designed to yield “joint profit,” the assumption being that although Muslims were bound by their common hatred for Western global economic domination they could also, however self-consciously, turn its weapons to good use.34 Al-Faruq’s instructors, most of them Egyptian, appreciated the need to combine exercises in militant training with workshops on transnational jihadism that could discipline recruits in appropriate strains of reasoning and belief. Classes in physical fitness and weapons use were accompanied by courses on Islamic law, creed, and militancy.35 The legacies of this institution have yet to be understood, partly because it has been overshadowed by its more illustrious twin: a camp using the same name near Kandahar, some two-hundred fifty miles west of Khost, set up by bin Laden himself. The latter al-Faruq, paired with a more advanced facility known among Western analysts as “the airport camp,” proved training grounds for al-Qaeda’s recruits beginning in 1999.36 Geared to preparing the faithful for al-Qaeda’s increasingly open war with the West, the camp hosted a second and less-experienced generation of fighters, many of them from Western countries. Its roster of guests and graduates included a host of 11 September 2001 hijackers including Saeed al-Ghamdi, Ahmad al-Nami, and the brothers Wail and Waleed al-Shehri, as well as a larger corps of militants who would later end up in Guantánamo, most infamous of them Khalid Shaikh Mohammad. As infamous as this second camp would become for minting al-Qaeda’s credentials under bin Laden, the first and older al-Faruq must be distinguished from the more recent iteration.37 Inaugurated during a messy post-Soviet era, after the final remnants of the Red Army had left but before Kabul or Jalalabad had been wrested from the Communist sympathies of president Muhammad Najibullah, al-Faruq 1 provided recruits with a curriculum for transnational militancy that remained unparalleled in sophistication and strategic vision. The Khost camp was al-Qaeda’s Ivy League campus through at least the late 1990s and likely up to 2001 as well.38 A survey of the lecturers featured on 14 tapes labeled “al-Faruq” in bin Laden’s former collection gives rare insight into the ideological orientations that the camp sought to impart to its recruits. Of six individuals identified on tape cartridges, there are two Saudis (Abdalla al-Sabt, Abdalla al-Hamad), two Egyptians (Abd al-Rahman Abd al-Khaliq, Abu al-Walid al-Masri), one Kuwaiti (Ahmad al-Qattan) and one Yemeni (Abd al-Majid al-Zindani, member of a five-member presidential council throughout 34 Alan Cullison, “Inside al-Qaeda’s Hard Drive,” Atlantic Monthly, September (2004). 35 U.S. v.s. Usama Bin Laden et. al., (testimony of L’Houssaine Kherchtou, cited in Bergen, The Osama bin Laden I Know, pp. 101-2); Ibid., 6 February transcript of Jamal al-Fadl’s testimony. 36 Thomas Hegghammer, Jihad in Saudi Arabia: Violence and Pan-Islamism since 1979 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010), p. 109. 37 Rohan Gunaratna discusses Zhawar Kili, a region in Khost hosting a military complex that was build during the Soviet occupation and that later accommodated the addition of al-Faruq (“The Terrorist Training Camps of al Qaida,” in The Making of a Terrorist: Recruitment, Training and Root Causes Volume II: Training (Westport, CN: Praeger, 2006), ed. James J.F. Forest. He does not mention al-Faruq, however, or discuss the profiles or orientations of specific camps within the complex. 38 Al-Faruq 1’s dates of operation are difficult to pinpoint. Based on my re-reading of U.S. v.s. Enaam Arnaout documents, I calculate that ground was broken on around 10 September 1988 (p. 37), i.e. , before the last Soviet troops had officially left the country, in February 1989. Administrators welcomed the camp’s first class of recruits, however, only in the summer of 1989, following a disastrous defeat at Jalalabad in May in which Shafiq al-Madani, one of bin Laden’s closest friends, was killed (Wright, The Looming Tower, pp. 140-141). From this perspective, assertions that al-Faruq was founded in Soviet-occupied Afghanistan, frequently found in militant narratives, hold primarily symbolic significance. Tape no. 332 in Yale’s Islamic Fundamentalist Audiotape collection, recorded at the camp in 1998 by leading militant theoretician Abu al-Walid al-Masri, suggests that al-Qaeda’s top cadres continued to teach there at that time. In August 1998, al-Faruq 1, as part of the larger Zhawar Kili complex, was the target of U.S. cruise missiles strikes in retaliation for embassy bombings in East Africa. These strikes were not very devastating, however, since the camps appear to have been operational again within two weeks (Peter L. Bergen, Holywar, Inc.: Inside the Secret World of Osama bin Laden (New York: Free Press, 2001), p. 122).


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the mid-1990s and long a top advisor for Yemen’s largest Islamist organization.) The majority of these figures are well-recognized jurisprudents; some of them, such as al-Zindani, prominent state officials. While dates and locations for their speeches are difficult to identify, the likelihood of their appearance at al-Faruq 1 is high given the controversy that their appearance at al-Faruq 2 would have created by the time of its founding.39 The contents of these tapes vary. Some are clearly lectures on combat and guerilla warfare. Tape no. 332, for example, features Abu al-Walid al-Masri talking to recruits in 1998 about the tactics of fighting Soviet troops in Afghanistan’s mountainous terrain and the lessons for turning the struggle against Americans. To these tapes might be added at least eight recordings by renowned theorist of global jihad Abu Musab al-Suri; although his lectures tend not to mention locations or dates, he is known to have penned treatises on the legacies of modern Muslim militancy for world-wide jihad during his residence at the camp. 40 Such audio-lectures suggest the vanguard role of al-Faruq 1 teachers in tailoring Muslim militancy to post-Cold War contexts of American geopolitical influence. Most of the tapes marked “al-Faruq,” however, dwell on topics that seem only obliquely related to armed jihad. Coaching audiences on commonalties among Muslims and on unifying virtues and morals, these lectures shy from charges of takfir (apostasy) that camp recruits are reported to have indulged in when among Muslims of different sects and political affiliations back in Peshawar. While instructors were known for sowing discord at home, their dissertation at al-Faruq 1 is devoted to solidarity with fellow campmates and those who might be persuaded to join their ranks. What lessons can we take from the al-Faruq 1 foundations of al-Qaeda? First, al-Qaeda’s inner conflicts in the late 1990s and 2000s, much documented by scholars, cannot be contrasted with an earlier period in which it was more ideologically coherent and consolidated. As suggested by bin Laden’s peripheral role and in some respects marginalization in al-Faruq founding documents, such struggles marked the organization from its outset. Second, historical assessments of bin Laden’s organizational, ideological, and symbolic influence need to account for the ways his militant initiatives were always mediated by a shifting terrain of jihadi training camps in diverse countries whose various supporting “bases” were not synonymous with those under his control. Bin Laden’s record in founding militant camps and promoting his image as a base leader is impressive; roots for such operational momentum were sown in the “Lion’s Den” camp in Jaji, Afghanistan, founded in 1986; his residence and guesthouses in Peshawar in the early 1990s; compounds for Afghan Arab returnees in Saudi Arabia before 1994; properties held outside Khartoum in the Sudan from the early to mid-1990s; and, in Afghanistan at Tora Bora, Jalalabad, and later Kandahar from 1996-2001. Beyond these headquarters, bin Laden’s own objectives faced continuous and sometimes heated negotiation as militants representing diverse movements jockeyed for leadership. By the late 1990s, of course, bin Laden had acquired status as a figurehead for global anti-American jihad in ways that proved expedient for beleaguered parties seeking redemption in the

39 Saudi Arabia is perhaps the most important index of such controversy. As early as the fall of 1994, attacks by Afghan Arab returnees on Saudi officials resulted in heightened crackdowns on preachers supporting armed jihad even in foreign countries (Hegghammer, Jihad in Saudi Arabia, pp. 70-71). By 1999, two years after al-Faruq 2’s founding, Saudi superstar Salman al-Awda openly denounced the jihad in Afghanistan. In the years following 2000, only the most openly militant clerics, such as Hamud al-Shuaybi defended the Taliban and encouraged Saudis to go fight in the region (Stéphane Lacroix, Les Islamistes Saoudiens: Une Insurrection Manquée (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 2010), p. 303). 40 For example, see “Book by Mustafa Hamid,” http://www.ctc.usma.edu/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/AFGP-2002-600087Trans.pdf, last accessed 29 February 2012.


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public eye, at least in some quarters of the Muslim world. 41 In Afghanistan, for example, Taliban chief Mullah ‘Umar stood to gain from publicly backing bin Laden after 1998 when nationalist sentiment against domestic interference by the United States climaxed following cruise missile strikes on militant training camps, a response to the bombing of its embassies in East Africa. ‘Umar’s defense of bin Laden at the time, at odds with approximately 80% of the Taliban leadership, provided exceptional leverage given his negotiations with Unocal consultants earlier in the decade when the American oil company sought to bring a pipeline through his district. For many Afghanis, ‘Umar’s loyalties were not necessarily transparent, however difficult this may be for Westerners to imagine. The circumstances of Mullah ‘Umar’s alliance with bin Laden underscore the ways in which his “base” was always intrinsically linked to local political hierarchies. They give caution to portraits of al-Qaeda as a transhistorical constant, an assumption often made in popular strains of network theory that link separate actors through space and time and de-emphasize the need for contextualization. 42 Third, al-Faruq’s importance as a template for organizing Muslim militancy calls for renewed attention to ideological tensions that arose among Afghan Arabs and Muslim militants generally as bin Laden attempted to lay claim to al-Qaeda’s historic mantle. The first axis of tensions expresses as a conflict between cultural particularism and transnationalism. Al-Faruq camp instructors and commanders were heavily dominated by Egyptians whose domestic ambitions for unseating Mubarak’s regime had faced serious setbacks and who, unlike bin Laden and many Saudis, were banned from returning home. Like many of their North African associates, then, they were committed to transnational militancy in ways that bin Laden, as evident in his late 1980s and early 1990s audio-recorded speeches, struggled to square himself with. Bin Laden’s speeches from these years express little interest in such regions as Kashmir, Tajikistan, Mindanao, and Chechnya, all areas said to be al-Qaeda’s strategic priorities at its outset. 43 Bin Laden expresses a profound commitment instead to purifying the Arabian Peninsula of what he perceives to be foreign influences. In his 1989 speech entitled “Our Present Reality,” over 250,000 copies of which sold in Saudi cassette shops, bin Laden identifies Islam’s primary foreign enemies as Iranian Shia above all followed by Egyptian Arab socialists, Iraqi Ba’athists, Yemeni communists, and finally religious minorities such as Christians and Jews who support them. In the years that followed, bin Laden fashioned his leadership through a peculiar form of Arabism, one that gave short shrift to the Palestinians, the bulk of whom, to bin Laden’s mind, were victims awaiting manly assistance from a bolder desert race. Such Arabism is often lost in analyses of bin Laden’s influence that emphasize his role as Abdallah Azzam’s pan-Islamic successor and the new face of deterritorialized and transnational jihad. 44 Such an argument is easier to justify after 11 September 2001, when, as the mastermind behind the attacks, bin Laden adopts a language corresponding with his status as worldwide figurehead for defying the West. Before 2001, however, his appeal among core supporters had a greater ethno-nationalist basis than we tend to 41 His anti-Americanism, arguably the most important element of his call to arms and his appeal to diverse militant groups, was not given from the outset of his career, whatever bin Laden himself has said on the matter; quite the opposite given his family’s close connections with the United States and the West. His significance as a symbol of American defiance arose from particular historical events, foremost among them his blacklisting by the U.S. Anti-Terrorism Act of April 1996 that led to the freezing of his assets, a Time Magazine article introducing his name to a popular Western readership a few months later, an audacious speech around the same time that came to be known as his Declaration of War against the United States, interviews by major American television news networks in 1997-1998, subsequent video-taped interviews on al-Jazeera as American-led air strikes in Iraq fueled anti-American sentiment among viewers across the Middle East, and of course his notoriety following the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings in East Africa. 42 A focus on “oaths” plagues such accounts. Actors pledging support for bin Laden’s operations at one historical juncture, whatever their intentions, may be incorporated within quite different “bases” initiatives at other moments. One could argue that alQaeda’s affiliates build credibility precisely on these margins, mobilizing on some occasions under al-Qaeda’s common signifier while spurning such affiliations for other causes on others. As Dr. Fadl points out in his influential work The Essential Guide of Preparation for Jihad (al-Umda fi Imad al-Udda), circulated much at al-Faruq, there are at least four kinds of oaths in Islam in Simon Fuchs, Proper Signposts for the Camp: The Reception of Classical Authorities in the Jihad Manual al-Umda fi Imad al-Udda (Wurzburg: Ergon-Verlag, 2011), p. 96. 43 Michael Scheuer, Osama Bin Laden (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011), p. 73. 44 Yossef Bodansky, Bin Laden: The Man Who Declared War on America (New York: Random House, 1999), p. 49.


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think. Analyses that emphasize his indebtedness to medieval Muslim thinkers such Taqi al-Din Ibn Taymiyya or to jihadi theologians more often than not miss this element of his identity. Reports from non-Saudis and non-Arab recruits at bin Laden’s camps or those of other Afghan Arabs convey enough insight to suggest that ethno-nationalism was both divisive and persistent, even in his presence. From this perspective, al-Qaeda is not as unique in the annals of terrorist history as is often claimed. To be sure, bin Laden was talented at posturing himself to global audiences, especially after 11 September 2001. Public statements about the salience of transnational global jihadism to al-Qaeda’s mission became his trademark. If he provided a distinctive model for wider groups of militants or sympathetic audiences, however, it was through a kind of sincerity that enabled him to pull off speaking on a world stage, ostensibly representing all Muslims who sought liberation from the yoke of Western influence, while retaining an austerity that was highly specific to his own cultural background and that combined themes of Yemeni mountain primitivism, Saudi-Salafi asceticism, and Arab indigenous redress against the hypocrisies of modern life. Faysal Devji, a scholar of al-Qaeda, suggests that bin Laden rose to prominence for most Arab audiences as a kind of “reality TV” figure on al-Jazeera during the late 1990s as popular frustration over the United States’ involvement in Iraq and Palestine fed public desire for something beyond America’s reach. 45 Bin Laden’s carefully orchestrated videos at the time were on message, driving up al-Jazeera’s viewership through a performance of what anthropologists have called “the tribal zone”: a form of identity emphasizing armed indigenous resistance to the economic, environmental, and cultural depredations of foreign states. 46 Ayman Zawahiri, it should be noted, never proved as talented as bin Laden at enlisting transregional and global discourses in the service of such neo-tribal imaginaries. Whatever may be rightly said of al-Qaeda’s irrelevance to the recent “Arab Spring” movement, bin Laden’s performances found an early resonance with the kind of “new social movements” that would play an important role in these later uprisings. Given the roots of such movements in post-industrial societies whose largely middle class and professional leaders had set aside earlier class-struggle vocabularies for coalition-building initiatives focusing on identity and quality of life issues, bin Laden’s pitch to commonalties of religion and political defiance struck chords of sympathy among many, even as his violent methods were condemned. 47 Under bin Laden’s leadership, al-Qaeda tapped into popular forms of world-system dissent in ways that have long been familiar to modern terrorist organizations. A second axis of militant tensions that was occasioned by bin Laden’s peripheralism to al-Faruq is expressed in a conflict between two kinds of political theory. I will call them doctrinalism and legalism with the understanding that politics is as much a struggle over symbols as resources. Al-Faruq’s courses on militant tactics and weapons use were extensive and have been the primary focus of those trying to understand the camp’s influence. Its courses on ideology have received far less attention, though as forums for discussion and text production for well over a decade they are arguably the camp’s more enduring legacy. The details of al-Faruq’s intellectual production remain to be unpacked. To date, my own analysis of audiocassettes and writings produced at the camp suggest the following observation: the primary drift in most courses was not instruction on the finer points of jihadi texts through the ages, nor even was it reinforcing homage to the Islamic state and, in the idiom of the Muslim Brotherhood, its claims upon modern forms of community activism. Rather than offering lessons on governance or jurisprudence, instructors purported to coach students on how better to know their god. Before implementing Sharia (Islamic law), the reasoning went, one

45 Faisal Devji, Landscapes of the Jihad: Militancy, Morality, Modernity (London: Hurst & Co., 2006), pp. 103-107. 46 R. Brian Ferguson and Neil L. Whitehead, eds., War in the Tribal Zone: Expanding States and Indigenous Warfare (Sante Fe, NM: School of American Research Press, 1992). 47 Stephen Vertigans, Militant Islam: A Sociology of Characteristics, Causes and Consequences (New York: Routledge, 2008), pp. 37-43.


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had to know ‘aqida (doctrine). 48 Salafi renderings of Saudi Wahhabism were paramount, especially those conveyed in discourses of al-amr bi-l-maruf wa al-nahy an al-munkar (commanding the good and forbidding the evil), a task requiring not only considerable self-discipline but also active outreach to other members of the community who might neglect its prerogatives, including those in positions of social and political power. The preponderantly doctrinal element of many courses in transnational militancy at al-Faruq requires some rather fundamental shifts in our thinking of what al-Qaeda offered to its recruits. To begin with, the primary enemy was not the American, Jew, or Christian, but rather the errant Muslim within. Camp instructors devoted much attention, of course, to the common bonds that united Muslims, foremost among them a shared commitment to tawhid (monotheism). Themes of unity, however, were belied by instructors’ arguments, most of which, developed to rebut misperceptions and correct inaccurate interpretations or practices, give students a portfolio of transportable debate strategies when canvassing support for controversial causes and winning recruits back at home or in other Muslim-majority societies. The assumption in such arguments is that the majority is against you. This viewpoint is expounded by instructors in numerous ways, among them scenarios of global Western domination and classical jihad against infidels occupying Muslim lands. The whetting stone for refining ones’ thoughts, words, behavior, and action, however, was one’s own co-religionists, a task that required a large measure of theological diplomacy. Given the thrust of such ideological training, bin Laden’s anti-Americanism would require considerable invention, a larger analysis of which exceeds the bounds of this paper. I should note, however, that al-Faruq camp instructors’ efforts to make doctrine more central to Muslim militancy played to the favor of such invention in two ways. First, introductory courses on doctrine coached students on building arguments in favor of armed insurrection that were less technical and scholastic than those typically developed through Islamic law. Theology’s interest in existential questions about the human condition accommodated discussions of identity, society, and one’s everyday senses in ways that made religious imperatives more approachable for non-specialists. Second, theological lectures made such practices as worship, bodily care, self discipline, and intellectual development relevant by illuminating their links to students’ experiences as modern global subjects. What emerged from camp instruction, then, was a confidence in mapping struggles not onto older fault lines “Islamic” or “non-Islamic,” but rather onto new understandings of human repertoires for action against unjust establishments. Such confidence stemmed from an intimacy with what was happening elsewhere in the world, however much they might be isolated as the product of “Islamic radicalism” alone or a mindset doomed to internal contradiction and failure. Finally, my analysis of al-Faruq’s legacy underscores the importance of attending to practices of reading and to the ways interpretation is shaped by our own historical and cultural experiences. Archives are only as valuable as the tools we employ to unpack them. Area studies programs will continue to be urgent to the work of studying the Muslim world and terrorism. Expertise in foreign languages and the humanities must complement the heavy load taken on by the social sciences. Collaboration among scholars needs to be our bedrock not only for building credibility through different disciplinary perspectives but for building allies in communities and cultures other than our own.

48 For a discussion of Ahl al-Sunna’s doctrinal activism and its tensions with Muslim Brotherhood ideology in the Sudan, see Noah Saloman, “The Salafi Critique of Islamism: Doctrine, Difference and the Problem of Islamic Political Action in Contemporary Sudan,” in Global Salafism: Islam’s New Religious Movement, ed. Roel Meijer (London: C. Hurst & Company, 2009). Top speakers in the al-Faruq tapes include Abd al-Rahman Abd al-Khaliq, one of the most important thinkers for the Ahl al-Sunna community, as well as Abdalla Sabt, his student. Bin Laden became intimately acquainted with Ahl al-Sunna doctrinalism while living in the Sudan between 19921996.


Banquet Address

A Decade Beyond the 9/11 Attacks C. Michael Hurley, Esq.


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A Decade Beyond the 9/11 Attacks C. Michael Hurley, Esq. The National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States There are so many important issues that I want to address. Some of what I present comes from a white paper released a week ago by the Chair former Governor Tom Kean and Vice Chair the Honorable Lee Hamilton of the 9/11 Commission.1 I will borrow liberally from that, which I can do because I had a small hand in drafting it. On this very solemn occasion of the 10th anniversary of the attacks, it is appropriate and important to reflect on and evaluate where we are in national security reform and what we have yet to achieve. How secure has the United States made itself since 2001? I believe that is the key question. And how do we keep our country and allies and innocent people around the world safe? What is the story of the last ten years? We have come a long way. The 9/11 attacks were an event of staggering importance. There was the “before” and the “after.” Step back for a moment and think about the past ten years. Here is a fact that strikes me. We have not suffered a major attack in the United States, at least of the kind and on the scale of a 9/11 attack — this is what we most feared in the days, weeks, and months after the 9/11 attacks. Why? There are many reasons: We have made dramatic changes in our country; we went on the offense, taking the fight to the enemy; and we hardened our defenses. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said recently, while still Director of CIA, that we are within reach of “strategically defeating al‑Qaeda.” The killing of Osama bin Laden helped. Bin Laden is dead, but al‑Qaeda is not. It remains adaptive and resilient. It is a network, not a hierarchy. Ayman Zawahiri is alive and has taken command of it. Although it is fragmented and decentralized, it is still lethal in places like Yemen, Somalia, Pakistan, and elsewhere. The bin Laden success, I believe, highlights many reforms that have taken place since the 2001 attacks, in particular, the excellent cooperation between special operations forces and the CIA. I believe that is an extraordinary development. In many ways now, the combatant commander of the fight against violent Islamic extremists is the Director of CIA. This is a profound change. Consider the use of the Predator, the unmanned aerial vehicle that has been in the news so much recently. In the fall of 2001, before the 9/11 attacks, then‑CIA Director George Tenet, raised at a Principals Committee meeting, the highest level meeting of the United States government and national security apparatus, whether he should “have the trigger” on the Predator. I do not think he wanted it, but he definitely wanted all his National Security Council colleagues to knowingly consent if the responsibility was to be given to him, and he wanted the Principals to think through the implications such a change would signify — that CIA would have the lead in killing the terrorist enemy. It is worth thinking about the profound nature of this decision. The Washington Post recently argued that killing the enemy has become the CIA’s primary role. 2 So there have been dramatic changes in our government: the creation of the Department of Homeland Security with its now $53 billion annual budget; a surge to more than $80 billion annually 1 Lee Hamilton and Thomas Kean, Tenth Anniversary Report Card: The Status of the 9/11 Commission Recommendations, Bipartisan Policy Center, September 2011, http://bipartisanpolicy.org/sites/default/files/CommissionRecommendations.pdf, last accessed 5 March 2012. 2 Greg Miller and Julie Tate, “CIA shifts focus to killing targets,” Washington Post, 1 September 2011, http://www.washingtonpost. com/world/national-security/cia-shifts-focus-to-killing-targets/2011/08/30/gIQA7MZGvJ_story.html, last accessed 5 March 2012.


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spent on intelligence; the creation of the Office of Director of National Intelligence, the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC), and new commands in the military (Northern Command and Cyber Command); and, significant changes in the FBI and CIA. The changes have even been instilled in our lexicon. Before 9/11, we did not much use the phrase “homeland security.” Everything was “national security.” Obviously, the economic effect of the attacks on our country and the world has been enormous. So, what is the threat that we face today? The biggest threat to our national security in many ways still comes from affiliates of “core al‑Qaeda.” Peter Bergen, in a report he co‑authored a year ago for the Chair and Vice Chair of the 9/11 Commission, highlights the threat from al‑Qaeda jihadists, calling it a “strategy of diversification, attacks mounted by a wide variety of perpetrators of different national and ethnic origins and backgrounds that cannot be easily profiled as threats.”3 Peter Bergen’s, latest book, The Longest War, is an insightful account of the last ten years and of the threat and challenges that we face today. 4 Most troubling, I think, is the pattern and recruitment of American citizens and residents, the so‑called “lone wolves,” and people who become self‑radicalized, in many cases, over the Internet. In 2009, there were two actual attacks on our soil — the Fort Hood shootings that claimed 13 lives; and the killing of a U.S. military recruiter in Little Rock, Arkansas. Somali youth are being recruited in Minneapolis and Portland — in some respects, moving the “front lines” of the conflict to the interior of our country. These are big problems. It is simply impossible to know the inner thinking or pathology of every person that is at risk in the country. Now, al‑Qaeda is adapting — a fragmented al‑Qaeda is following a worrisome strategy of innovation. October 2010 witnessed the disturbing discovery of explosives packed in toner cartridges addressed to Chicago synagogues and shipped on FedEx and UPS cargo flights from Yemen. The plot failed, but clearly, the enemy is looking for new ways to inflict great harm and damage. That would have been an attack in which the people executing it would not have even crossed our borders. Cyber attacks are potentially a major problem. Homeland security leaders have been warning of cyber attacks to critical infrastructure — electrical grids, financial systems, telecommunications, food and water supplies — that could be a “nightmare scenario.” That is exactly what some are calling this threat. As the current crisis in Japan shows, the disruption of power grids and infrastructure can have devastating effects on society. It is not science fiction. It is possible to take down cyber systems and trigger cascading disruptions and damage across a large area. Just a few years ago, a Chinese general was asked in an interview for an economic journal whether China feared war with the United States. The nonchalance of his reply was chilling. He said that, no, China does not fear war with the United States because in the first few minutes of a war China would throw a switch and knock out all of the U.S.’ telecommunications satellites; then, it would throw a second switch and disrupt the U.S. financial system. Is China really capable of these feats? The answer is not clear, but the statement and others like it have caught the attention of our defense experts. What has the United States done in the post-9/11 world to protect against these threats? There has been substantial reform and progress. Consider, for example, the creation of the NCTC. Most security experts regard that organization as a success.

3 Peter Bergen and Bruce Hoffman, “Assessing the Terrorist Threat,” Report of the National Security Preparedness Group, 10 September 2010, p. 17, http://insct.syr.edu/uploadedFiles/insct/uploadedfiles/PDFs/Final_NSPG_Threat_Assessment_Report[1]. pdf, last accessed 5 March 2012. 4 Peter Bergen, The Longest War: The Enduring Conflict between America and Al-Qaeda (New York: Free Press, 2011).


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Lee Hamilton has remarked that it is difficult for politicians to set priorities. Sometimes it is hard for the intelligence community to set priorities as well. In the months after the 9/11 attacks, the Terrorist Threat Integration Center the precursor to the NCTC produced the “Threat Matrix,” an intelligence product that every day collected all the threats that were acquired by our vast intelligence system, whether through diplomatic, intelligence, military, state and local, or open source channels. This Threat Matrix, often containing dozens of threats of widely variable reliability, was put together and dumped on the President’s desk. But unless our intelligence system is able to sort through this disparate information and assign priorities, it does not help the President much, and does not begin to solve the intelligence puzzle. We are better at this today than in those initial months after the attacks. The CIA, for example, has sharpened the intelligence and analysis it provides policymakers. Many of those with inside knowledge of failures in the national security community in the years before 9/11 believe the 9/11 Commission went easy on the FBI; that it should have recommended far reaching reform. Still, the FBI has changed in important ways. It is no longer solely a law enforcement agency; it is actively involved in collecting and analyzing intelligence on terrorist threats. There are now 105 Joint Terrorism Task Forces and 72 Fusion Centers around the country. This change has significantly improved information sharing, something which was lacking before the 9/11 attacks. We are safer today because of these changes, but we are not ultimately safe because a number of important reforms remain unfinished. The 9/11 Commission stressed that unity of command and effort in responding to a terrorist attack or natural disaster is vitally important. Unity of command is natural to our military but implementing it on a government wide basis — across federal, state and local agencies — when a multi-jurisdictional response is required, has proven difficult to achieve. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has made some progress, but too many police and fire chiefs and other first responders continue to say that unity of command and effort remains unclear in municipalities around the country. Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and the Gulf of Mexico 2010 oil spill revealed some yawning gaps in unity of command. A centralized system was set up to respond to the devastating oil spill, placing one person in charge. However, states, at times, pursued their own policies. They in different directions, and this created problems. Another unsolved problem is that we still lack interoperability of radios and communications to be used in emergency response. This failure is particularly appalling and inexcusable because it will lead to needless loss of life in future incidents. Thinking back to New York City on 9/11, we lost hundreds of firemen and policemen because of the inability to communicate on incompatible radio systems. We do not yet have the necessary bandwidth reserved on the radio spectrum for specialized use in emergency situations that the country needs. It is a big political problem and a big political fight, but the fact that it has not been accomplished in ten years borders on negligence. The 9/11 Commission recommended the creation of a privacy and civil liberties board. Having such a board functioning was an imperative priority, Commissioners believed, because there had been so many changes in our country and its laws — new laws, policies, regulations, and procedures in high numbers have been implemented, each having impact on the balance between security and civil liberties. Sorting through this, determining if the correct balance has been struck is of great importance. The job of the Board was to do this analysis and weigh the competing factors. The Bush Administration created the Board, staffed it, and appointed a few of its members. To date, the Obama Administration has named only two people, and they have yet to meet as a Board. The Chair and Vice Chair of the 9/11 Commission believe that this is an appalling failure. It is important, they believe, for our government to be able to explain to the American public that the impact new laws


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and regulations will have on privacy and civil liberties has been thoroughly examined and that the measures are appropriate and necessary for broader security considerations. Congress’ move to reform other agencies has been enthusiastic. Congress, however, has not displayed the same alacrity in reforming itself. The 9/11 commissioners believe that Congressional reform is necessary to enhance national security. This is not reform for reform’s sake. Our nation’s security, in part, depends on the role of Congress. But Congressional oversight continues to be dysfunctional. The DHS, for example, reports to 88 committees and subcommittees. That, itself, is inefficient and bad. More importantly, it also leads to incoherent advice and instruction. Congress has a critical role in helping our national security departments carry out their important responsibilities effectively. Working hand in hand with the organizations it oversees should be a priority of Congress. This goal cannot be met when oversight is fragmented. Congress has been unwilling to change. With respect to transportation security, we need to improve the ability of screening checkpoints to detect explosives on passengers. That technology still falls short and will be a problem well into the future. The 9/11 Commission recommended that we also have biometric exit screening. We know when people are coming into the country now. We do not know, however, when they leave. We do not know if they have overstayed their visas. That was a problem before 9/11 because a number of the 9/11 hijackers had, in fact, overstayed their visas. What about standardizing secure identifications? The 9/11 Commission recommended setting national standards in birth certificates and issuance of driver’s licenses, and states were required to implement the standards. Unfortunately, only one-third of the states have complied, which means two-thirds of them are currently in noncompliance. The DHS has extended certain deadlines until 2014. These delays are unacceptable. We have to know who people are before they get on airplanes. If we cannot verify identities we are leaving our people vulnerable to harm. Another unfinished reform is that we have failed to develop coalition standards for terrorist detention. This is a hard problem that has vexed two presidents. How are we going to treat prisoners? This is a problem that requires Congressional legislation in order to prescribe procedures for how detentions should be handled. The fact that two presidents, with all goodwill and good intention, have failed to resolve this really tough, thorny issue and have been unable to make substantial progress, indicates the Administration needs help from Congress. The Obama Administration took an important step in early 2009. It reviewed all the cases of detainees held in Guantanamo. However, Congress needs to be more involved. We have to determine as a country what the procedures are for handling these people, and we have to codify that into law. Developing a comprehensive counter‑radicalization strategy is also critically important. Our European allies have gained much experience in counter-radicalization. The United States has been insufficiently focused on it. Counter‑radicalization should concern how you keep people from becoming radicalized? It is not just a question of law enforcement. Law enforcement is important, but our strategy has to involve more than law enforcement officers going into communities. It is already too late at that point. Communities must be inoculated against the virus of violent Islamist extremism, particularly young people who are at greatest risk. We have to approach this task with imagination; formulate a coherent plan. Most people, possibly including counterterrorism experts, would be hard put to identify just what department or what individual in the U.S. government is in charge of our counter‑radicalization policy.


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Immediately after the 9/11 attacks, the greatest fear that our leaders had was that al-Qaeda might have acquired a nuclear weapon or nuclear materials. Former Director of the CIA George Tenet recounts this in his memoir, At the Center of the Storm.5 Did al‑Qaeda have a dangerous weapon? Could it already be in the United States? The big concern was: What if we don’t find this? What if something like that has happened but we miss it? On the team I managed on the 9/11 Commission, there was a brilliant young Ph.D. from Columbia University. One day in fall 2003, as part of the many interviews we conducted of people on the NSC staff, we interviewed a specialist on nuclear issues assigned to the counterterrorism office. She had been in this assignment since the late 1990s. She told us that on many days, as she drove from her home to her White House office, because of the intelligence she had read, she expected to see a mushroom cloud over Washington, D.C. from a terrorist detonation of a nuclear device. My colleague and I were stunned. At the time, the American public had no inkling that these experts had such concerns. This experience, and other fact finding the 9/11 Commission did, resulted in a key recommendation. The Commission said that our highest priority had to be to keep the most dangerous weapons in the world from falling into the hands of the most dangerous people, al‑Qaeda. In the seven years since our report was published, this has changed.6 There seems to be less emphasis now on the possibility of terrorists using a nuclear weapon or dirty bomb. We cannot dismiss the possibility because we still need to weigh the likelihood of a terrorist nuclear attack against the gravity of harm it would cause were it to take place. The heightened awareness that we have all had since the shock of the attacks is the most important and underrated attribute of our success in preventing major attacks over the last ten years. We, of course, should not minimize the Fort Hood killings of 13 people. That was severe and tragic; a recent Senate review concluded that the murders could have been prevented.7 Think of the pre‑9/11 mindset. The 9/11 Commission pointed out weaknesses in CIA’s portraiture of al-Qaeda before the 9/11 attacks. Obviously, CIA and the military were very aware of the threat from al-Qaeda, but there were still weaknesses in the portraiture. However, the 9/11 Commission said that both Presidents Bill Clinton and George Bush and their top advisers got the picture of the threat. They understood bin Laden was a danger, but given the character and pace of their policy efforts, the Commission did not believe they fully understood just how many people al-Qaeda might kill and how soon it might do it. The Commission said that, at some level it found hard to define, the threat had not yet become compelling. And the American public, despite the attacks at embassies in East Africa in 1998, and the attack on the U.S.S. Cole in 2000, did not understand the hatred al-Qaeda had for the United States. A brilliant colleague of mine, Dr. Philip Zelikow, executive director of the 9/11 Commission, has written an “Afterward” to the latest edition of The 9/11 Commission Report just published in connection

5 George Tenet, At the Center of the Storm: My Years at the CIA (New York: HarperCollins, 2007). 6 National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States, The 9/11 Commission Report: Final Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (New York: Norton, 2004). 7 Joseph I. Lieberman and Susan M. Collins, “A Ticking Time Bomb: Counterterrorism Lessons from the U.S. Government’s Failure to Prevent the Fort Hood Attack,” U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, February 2011, http://www. hsgac.senate.gov//imo/media/doc/Fort_Hood/FortHoodReport.pdf?attempt=2, last accessed 5 March 2012.


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with the 10th anniversary of the attacks.8 I highly recommend it. It is always worth paying attention to what Dr. Zelikow says, and so I am going to make a few of his points. One of the most common misunderstandings of The 9/11 Commission Report, Dr. Zelikow says, is that the Commission blamed the failure to prevent the attack on a lack of imagination; the implication is that if only the government had done more out‑of‑the‑box thinking, the attack could have been averted. But, as Dr. Zelikow says, our point instead was that the imagination of large organizations must take an institutional form to be carried out effectively by ordinary people every day. That means the development of a craft or a culture of routine procedures. Part of the problem of 9/11, was that parts of the government had actually already mastered the craft of analyzing surprise attack dangers but had not systematically applied its proven techniques to the enemy that in 2001 was most likely to attack the United States. So, we had these procedures, but we failed to use them. We had developed, during the Cold War, doctrines concerning how best to warn of a potential attack. The concept had its basis in engineering. Engineers consider the most credible, likely dangerous pathways that will lead to a catastrophic failure, and then they look for telltale indicators, and they collect intelligence on those indicators. In contrast, it seemed like there was an element of randomness to our collection of intelligence on al-Qaeda, and it was not knitted together. The organizational capability of al‑Qaeda today, says Zelikow, now seems to be back at the level it had in the mid-1990s. Its scattered fanatical adherents, though, have crystallized in some places. The most deadly recent attack on U.S. soil, as we have already discussed, was carried out by a solo fanatic, the Army psychologist inspired by Islamic propaganda to murder 13 people at Fort Hood. The danger of global Islamist terrorism is now fairly significantly reduced from what it was on 9/11. In Pakistan, it is probably true that the core — I emphasize the “core” al‑Qaeda — is down to a few hundred reliable operatives. That is Dr. Zelikow’s position as well. From the Shoe Bomber, Richard Reid, to the Christmas 2009 “underwear bomber” on the Northwest flight bound for Detroit, the risk of catastrophic terrorist attack is significantly lower than on 9/11, but the risk is not zero. It is far from zero. It remains true that an attack could happen at any time. What shape will it take? We do not really know. Would it be a swarming Mumbai‑style attack? Would it be an Oklahoma City attack? Would it be something different, a Fort Hood type of shooting? We do not know. In 2010 we witnessed the car bomb attempt in Times Square. Thus, although the capability of al-Qaeda has been seriously diminished, an attack could happen at any time. Politically, as Zelikow says, our leaders cannot downplay the danger or right‑size the enemy to a more normal proportion. He calls that the “paradox of adjustment.” The efforts to right‑size or to normalize or reduce risk seem, in Dr. Zelikow’s words, “too risky.” The most serious threats are posed by a relatively tiny number of people, not well organized, but who are zealous in their determination to strike and cause harm. We have succeeded, to some extent, in denying sanctuary to al-Qaeda, albeit with important qualifications, such as parts of Yemen and Somalia. We have also succeeded in interdicting terrorist travel in many instances and disrupting terrorist financing. These are successes. As 9/11 Commissioner Richard Ben‑Veniste says, “We might best combat terrorists by taking away the terror.”9 8 The 9/11 Commission Report: The Attack from Planning to Aftermath (New Afterword by Philip Zelikow, Executive Director, 9/11 Commission), (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2011), pp. 499-548. 9 Philip D. Zelikow, “Civil Liberties, Counterterrorism, and Intelligence: What’s Left to Be Done,” Foreign Affairs, 8 September 2011, http://www.foreignaffairs.com/discussions/roundtables/civil-liberties-counterterrorism-and-intelligence, last accessed 5 March 2012.


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Contemporary societies, Dr. Zelikow notes, will remain vulnerable to the abilities of even a few people to do terribly disruptive things. How we deal with failure, because there will be some, is highly important. We need honest self‑examination and thoughtful accountability. We need to go on the offensive against the most dangerous groups, rely on versatile allies where they are reliable, and regional strategies. We will have to shape and influence regions, carry out operations on the ground, and contain dangers. Is Dr. Zelikow saying that we can massively scale back? No, that goes too far. The threat is diminished but there remains the possibility of potential lethal attacks, and that is going to be with us for a long time. So what does all this say about funding and how we should allocate our money and set our priorities? For the first time, Congress is questioning how much money we are spending on counterterrorism. Lee Hamilton argues that we need to rationalize spending. Following the attacks, the immediate concern of Congress and our leadership was the security of the country and our people. Our leadership did not care about what it cost. We can no longer be so cavalier. Tough decisions of allocation and priority will have to be made. Our elected officials will have to figure out what works and what does not. Do the measures that we have implemented keep us safe, do they lessen the threat of terrorism? In the Cold War it was nuclear weapons versus nuclear weapons, equations versus equations. Deterrence was mechanistic. Films such as Failsafe (1964) and Dr. Strangelove (1964) dramatized that reality. Once the doomsday machines were set in motion events could spiral out of control. Now it is humans versus humans. We are confronting what New York Times’ columnist Tom Friedman calls “people of mass destruction,” people who strap explosives on themselves to blow up a base, as happened at a CIA base in eastern Afghanistan. Can we deter such people? There are theorists who argue that committed zealots can be deterred. I have not found any of their arguments persuasive. As Americans, what are our attributes? We have many of them. Our capabilities are enormous. Believe it or not, our big organizations can be agile and nimble when they need to be. We probably have all seen this in our careers. What can we say about ourselves that the enemy cannot say with regard to capabilities? More than 20 years ago there was a prominent international bank, BCCI. It was used to launder billions of dollars generated by drug cartels. The U.S. government acted against this bank. If you analyze how the military and the CIA work, they are command and control organizations. When elements receive direction they can react very quickly to accomplish complex tasks. When the actions of multiple agencies — Department of Defense, State Department, Department of Justice, Treasury, and CIA — are coordinated the results can be stunningly impressive. This is what occurred when we acted against the criminality of that bank. An important comparative advantage we have is our ability to share information rapidly. Before 9/11, information sharing was lacking. In interviewing a lieutenant general, the 9/11 Commission learned that information on al-Qaeda was closely held. Offices that could have contributed were kept out of the entire issue area. The United States has 19,000 state and local law enforcement organizations, most of which were in the dark concerning al-Qaeda before the attacks. The failure to engage that brainpower and experience was a loss to the country. Information sharing has significantly improved, although it is still imperfect. Today, for example, we have software with amazing power that is able to identify patterns in enormous amounts of data. I urge you to read a new book, Triple Agent, by Joby Warrick of the Washington Post which tells the story of the Jordanian doctor, Humam Khalil Abu-Mulal al‑Balawi, who was “recruited” by Jordanian


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intelligence.10 Al-Balawi is the terrorist who in December 2009 strapped explosives to himself and blew up seven CIA officers, and others at the CIA Base in Khost, Afghanistan. That is part of the heartbreaking price we pay as we aggressively confront the threat. Consider the role of the Predator again. This weapon has had a major impact on the fight against alQaeda and violent extremists. It has killed enemies of the United States and the West. Killing those enemies has protected people. But even successful weapons and the policies associated with their use are double‑edged and have a downside. Do we know who, or how many, the strikes are radicalizing? It takes little to radicalize people in certain parts of the world. Thinking through the long-term effects of our actions is prudent. The terrorists will not give up even though they have been badly hurt. We have had our successes but we cannot let our guard down. That would be a huge mistake. We will see new attempts and successful attacks. We are safer than ten years ago, and we have hit the enemy hard, but we must continue, regularly, to reassess and recalibrate our strategies. I hope that is what you are doing in your work, whether you are a manager or not — thinking through problems, using your imagination, anticipating what an agile and adaptive enemy might attempt, raising questions, and recalibrating. These are the best ways to stay ahead of a determined adversary. One of our major deficiencies before the 9/11 attacks was the failure by national security agencies to adapt quickly to new and different kinds of enemies. We are better at adapting now. When the story of how our government responded in these years is told, what will it be? Overreaction? Reason? Did we keep our heads when confronted with a new and horrific reality? I think for the most part we did, but in all honesty, we have made mistakes. We have missed opportunities, and there is much more to do. Overall, I agree with many commentators that the U.S. military has been the greatest source for peace in the history of the world. I had a minor role fashioning U.S. policy during the Kosovo crisis in 19881999. I remember a speech that Vaclav Havel, the heroic President of the Czech Republic gave at the Canadian Parliament in Ottawa in spring 1999, just as NATO was conducting its air campaign against Serbia. He said that the U.S.‑led coalition’s defense of Kosovo was one of the most altruistic acts in history. It is a fascinating speech that I commend to your attention. In confronting the challenge of terrorism we must rely on our brains and know‑how more than our brawn. Our knowledge, what we have learned, will see us through. That is what intelligence is all about. I would like to close with a final thought. I want you to understand that when the 9/11 Commission or any other serious panel does an investigation, the primary purpose is not to find fault per se. Rather, it is to understand what occurred; to make suggestions to do things better to protect our people. So we are in a common endeavor. The research done in the academic world to understand the world in which we live, the challenges that we face, the ideologies, the cultures, every aspect of this, is critically important. We cannot arrive at understanding without that analysis and those insights. Whether they come from the government or from scholars and the academic community — wherever it comes from — we need the ability to find the truth, to put it together to see the patterns. This is important work, and it is not the time to let up. The threat is still very much with us and will be into the future.

10 Joby Warrick, The Triple Agent: The al-Qaeda Mole who Infiltrated the CIA (New York: Doubleday, 2011).


Panel Session III

What Should be the Focus of al-Qaeda and Associated Movements Studies for the Future? Chair: The Honorable Juan C. Zarate


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What should be the focus of al-Qaeda and Associated Movements Studies for the future? Chair: The Honorable Juan C. Zarate Center for Strategic and International Studies Introduction As we reflect on the ten-year anniversary of 9/11 and the recent death of Osama bin Laden, it remains critical to ask what the future of al-Qaeda and associated movements (AQAM) may look like and determine how to frame our studies and research focus in the coming years. We assembled a distinguished panel to discuss these issues. The panel presented a myriad of perspectives on the research challenges and opportunities that are emerging given the changing shape of the al-Qaeda-led terrorist movement and the shifting geopolitical and local landscapes, especially in the wake of the Arab Spring. The al-Qaeda of 2011 is not the al-Qaeda of 2001. We have had a decade of experience with AQAM, with assumptions and frames of reference that have guided a burgeoning academic field in counterterrorism and policymaking that has been central to the discourse on national and international security. Now, however, we must rethink our past frameworks to account for the ongoing evolution of a terrorist threat that has grown more diversified, regionally and globally nimble, and less easily categorized. This must be done with an eye toward the explosion and importance of social networking and new technologies that are reshaping how individuals and networks consume and create information and adapt to and affect their environments. There have been attempts already to think rigorously about the future of AQAM. I helped oversee a study, “Confronting an Uncertain Threat,” at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), published on 7 September 2011, that reviewed what factors — historical and future — might impact the evolution of AQAM and the possible trajectories it could take, looking out to 2025. The study then posited policy recommendations that might assist in shaping the future environment to constrain the reach and allure of AQAM and its ideology. The future is likely to bring multiple and overlapping manifestations of AQAM. It will not present itself as a monolithic, hierarchical organization as we saw in 2001, and it may not be easily categorized with definable outposts and affiliates as witnessed over the last decade. AQAM may look more like a morphing hydra with multiple manifestations. It may retain a declining, but still relevant core in western Pakistan and Iran. Its regional affiliates may take on the form of insurgencies, as seen in Yemen and Somalia, or embed more aggressively in local grievances or conflicts as with al-Qaeda in Iraq and Boko Haram in Nigeria. These groups, aligned by ideology under the banner of al-Qaeda, will find ways to support each other, share resources, and innovate in their own context and globally. Other constellations of competitor groups may arise, like Lashkar-e-Tayyiba (LeT) and Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HuJI), which take up a global violent ideological agenda more aggressively against old and new far enemies. These could all shape a new arc of violent extremist militancy from Central and South Asia to North and West Africa. Individuals and small groups who hybridize the ideology, contextualize it, and then decide to mobilize on their own will continue to emerge. These lone wolves will arise but could begin to collectivize organically into packs of wolves while being motivated to attack in the West and elsewhere.


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Strategic shocks, like a war with Iran, the rise of a fervently Islamist state in Egypt, or the decimation of the remaining core al-Qaeda leadership, could reshape the landscape and alter the evolution of this movement. The role of technology will remain a major wildcard not only because of how it might influence AQAM’s activities and the mutation of its ideology but perhaps also how technological innovations might help organize and mobilize the various heads of the terrorist hydra. There are myriad questions that could be asked about the evolution of this movement and whether it will even survive or prove relevant. The expert panel assembled focused on different aspects of the future of AQAM and the way we should be studying the problem. Brian Fishman, a Counterterrorism Research Fellow at the New America Foundation, presented his paper, “The Counterterrorism Research Agenda Ten Years after 9/11.” Here, Mr. Fishman underscores the need to challenge the orthodoxy of past methodologies and assumptions and ask provocative questions tested by data. He notes that many of the ideological tenets that al-Qaeda has espoused and were assumed to be dogmatic — like the need to overthrow autocratic, infidel regimes by violence — have been abandoned quickly by al-Qaeda leadership in the wake of the Arab Spring. In this regard, he cautions against relying too heavily on past, captured documents for insights into the future developments of AQAM. He urges researchers to understand how different al-Qaeda affiliates are going to organize their violence and describe their political goals. He further challenges researchers to look at key questions and assumptions in a rapidly changing environment — Would China rise to become a new “far enemy” given its increasing global presence and reliance on Saudi and Middle Eastern sources of oil? Does social breakdown and upheaval benefit or harm the ability of AQAM to embed and operate? Do individuals really radicalize online? Do attitudes toward the United States and its policies really matter? Will other, unrelated groups or individuals, like Anders Breivik who perpetrated the right-wing terrorist attacks in Norway, present parallel counterterrorism challenges? Finally, he notes that we needed to question our assumptions about the effectiveness of the enemy — including in its ability to send messages and attract adherents. Dr. Zabikhulla Saipov, a lecturer at the University of World Economy and Diplomacy in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, presented his paper, “Reflections on Government Strategies to Counteract Unofficial Islam in Uzbekistan.”1 Dr. Saipov discussed a conceptual framework to understand the radical Islamic ideological undercurrents and challenges in Central Asia and in particular the relationship between the state and religion in Uzbekistan. Given American and Western attention to Afghanistan and Central Asia as we approach a security handover and pullout in 2014, the question of radicalization and counterterrorism policies in Central Asia become even more important. Dr. Saipov discussed key judgments and implications of Uzbekistan’s counterterrorism approach which focuses heavily on the central problem of religious extremism. Religion then is central to the approach taken by the government to address extremism, with the concept of “official” and “unofficial” Islam at the core of the government’s policy framework. This includes a strategy to alter and restrict certain elements of religious expression. Uzbekistan has used various tools — like training of imams and the use of mahala (neighborhood communities) — to counteract “unofficial” Islam. The role of Tashkent in the traditional life of Islam in Central Asia plays a part in these policies, with a view that traditional Central Asian Islam can be promoted explicitly through historical references. This counterterrorism approach could be defined as a form of socio-religious engineering with an explicit goal of promoting a more moderate form of Islam while marginalizing religious extremism.

1 At the time of publication, Dr. Saipov’s paper was not available to be included in this volume.


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Ms. Anne Stenersen, a Research Fellow at the Norwegian Defense Research Establishment, presented her paper, “The Relationship between al-Qaeda and the Taliban: Insights from Captured Documents.” Here, Ms. Stenersen pulls from her latest research using captured records on the historical relationship between al-Qaeda and the Taliban to delineate key considerations as we look to the future of that relationship, especially in the context of ongoing negotiations with the Taliban. She reminds us that al-Qaeda has no homeland and is dependent on local relationships and accommodations to operate. Thus, understanding the local relationships and dynamic is critical to understanding al-Qaeda’s presence. She notes that the Taliban decided to host and shield al-Qaeda for pragmatic and ideological reasons. More importantly, her research looks at the Taliban through the eyes of al-Qaeda, concluding that al-Qaeda and bin Laden provided the Taliban with some military benefits — with detachments of Arabs willing to fight on the front lines. More importantly, bin Laden provided control over the myriad of Arabs running around Afghanistan and reinforced the ideological legitimacy of the Taliban’s fight against the Northern Alliance and control of the Afghan state. Ms. Stenersen concludes that it is the local context that primarily drives a group’s decision-making (more than international factors), and it is critical to understand the relationships between al-Qaeda and the local groups that decide to help the movement. Dr. Thomas Lynch, a Distinguished Research Fellow for Near East and South Asia for the Institute for National Strategic Studies at the National Defense University, presented his paper, “The 80% Solution: The Defeat of bin Laden and the Future of South Asian Security” In his work, Dr. Lynch provides a more complex perspective on the strategic impact of the death of bin Laden. He argues that the manner in which the U.S. intelligence and military operatives found and eliminated bin Laden was devastating and provided an 80 percent solution to three of the five most critical elements of al-Qaeda — its ability to catalyze catastrophic terrorism against the West; the branding rights as the victor and vanguard of the Salafi jihadi regional movements; and, its ability to claim ultimate victory and to provide safe haven for the unfettered training for global jihadists. Bin Laden was unique in his ability to unify the Salafi jihadi movement, and his death has helped break the core’s ability to galvanize the movement, including his relationships with key local leaders in Afghanistan and Pakistan like Mullah ‘Umar and Mawlawi Jalaluddin Haqqani. Dr. Lynch acknowledges the threats remaining from regional jihadi groups, but he contends that al-Qaeda’s relevance to South Asian security has diminished after bin Laden’s death. He argues that as a result the United States needs a different approach to its counterinsurgency strategy — with less focus on the regeneration of an al-Qaeda safe haven in Afghanistan and more acute attention to arresting the prospect of a proxy war between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Finally, he recommends using the treasure trove of documents found during the Abbottobad raid and new information from al-Qaeda to better understand the lasting impact of bin Laden’s death. Mr. Alexander Meleagrou-Hitchens, a Research Fellow at the International Centre for the Study of Radicalism, concluded our panel’s presentations with a discussion of his paper, “The Development of al-Qaeda’s Media Strategy and Its Role in Mobilizing Western Muslims.” In the paper, Mr. MeleagrouHitchens lays out the allure of the ideology in the West, what it means in terms of radicalization, and what the future of the ideology in a Western context means. He discusses the evolution of the jihadist media strategy, with a clear, early recognition by alQaeda that their success would be determined in the “battle of ideas” against the idol and apostate regimes and their ability to create alternate media sources. He emphasizes the importance of Abu Musab al-Suri’s 2004 text, “The Call of Global Islamic Resistance,” to the ideological evolution of the movement beyond formal organization and broader global inspiration. His approach to a more diffuse international movement was catalyzed by the growing ubiquity of the Internet and social media and the maturation and emergence of figures like Anwar al-Awlaki. In this, Abu Musab recognized


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the importance of the media and the creation of small, specialized media units that could provide consumers with requisite ideological, strategic, and operational materials. The message to the West then, through al-Awlaki, focused on mobilizing western Muslims by convincing them that the war on Islam is real and that it is happening in their midst. The al-Qaeda media strategy has taken advantage of a more diffuse organization and the tools available to reach potential adherents with messages that are tailored and relevant to their local experiences. Al-Qaeda will continue to rely on a global media strategy to advocate and survive. Overall, the panelists gave conference participants an opportunity to think rigorously about the future of AQAM through various lenses informed by direct experience in the field and the use of captured documents like those at the CRRC. The panel provided important insights into the history of AQAM, perspectives on understanding key elements of the movement, and perhaps most important, ways to frame future questions and studies about the evolution of AQAM.


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The Counterterrorism Research Agenda Ten Years After 9/11 Mr. Brian Fishman New America Foundation The counterterrorism community, both in and outside of government, has advanced the collective body of knowledge about al-Qaeda a long way since the 9/11 attacks. Intelligence analysts and academics alike are now familiar with a wide range of historical, ideological, and strategic concepts that shape how and to what ends the jihadi movement, and al-Qaeda in particular, organizes. Al-Qaeda is no longer an amorphous horror. But government officials and academics have taken different approaches to study al-Qaeda — both of which have merit. Scholars outside of government have focused intensely on understanding al-Qaeda’s ideology — and parsed it effectively. That work has revealed not just the thinkers who articulated the ideas that came to motivate al-Qaeda’s war on the United States and the West more generally, but also revealed that jihadism itself is divided into numerous sub-genres. Experts in the field now converse fluently about classical and global jihadism and can make at least informed assumptions about how those ideas impact the ability of terrorist organizations to operate. Academics have also poured their efforts into understanding the radicalization process of al-Qaeda recruits. And while there has been less success developing a commonly agreed upon framework for understanding that process than in parsing al-Qaeda’s ideology, scholars have come to widely-held agreement that radicalization is often a highly individualized process. Unsatisfying as that finding may be to counterterrorism practitioners, who are unable to tailor counter-radicalization efforts to specific individuals, it has helped establish an appropriately low expectation baseline for counter-radicalization programs while clarifying the most promising opportunities. Academic investigations of al-Qaeda’s history and ideology have also revealed key vulnerabilities for the group, none more important than al-Qaeda’s willingness to kill Muslims, often indiscriminately.1 Students of al-Qaeda are now expected to know the most important precedent of jihadi brutality undermining jihadi goals: Algeria in the 1990s (some will also remember, as Ayman Zawahiri does, the tiny and short-lived emirate of Jamil al-Rahman in Afghanistan). Analysts appreciate how jihadis apply the doctrine of takfir, which is used to justify violence against Muslims and understand not only how that stands in contrast to mainstream Islamic practice, but also the differing interpretations of takfir within the jihadi community itself. With access to intelligence sources and a writ to delve into the gritty details of terrorist groups, government analysts and officials have studied the al-Qaeda organization differently than academics. They have come to understand that the movement is divided by personal animosities, jealousy, and competition for resources. Intelligence officers that have scoured a jihadi hard drive full of pornography can explain that the high-minded rhetoric of al-Qaeda’s propaganda is often not reflected in al-Qaeda operatives, who align themselves with the movement for a variety of reasons, ranging from ideological commitment to criminal intent. With increased access to declassified documents from al-Qaeda’s operations, academics have increasingly noted these issues as well. 2 Government analysts have also found that the majority of al-Qaeda supporters and adherents are far from master terrorists. A slew of failed plots has revealed that al-Qaeda will need luck as well as skill to pull off a major attack. 1 Jarret Brachman and Will McCants, “Stealing al-Qa`ida’s Playbook,” Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, May 2006. Mohamed Hafez “Takfir and Violence Against Muslims” in ed. Assaf Moghadam and Brian Fishman, Fault Lines in Global Jihad: Organizational, Strategic, and Ideological Fissures (New York: Routledge, 2011). 2 “Harmony and Disharmony: Exploiting al-Qa`ida’s Organizational Vulnerabilities” The Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, February 2006.


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But the progress made in understanding al-Qaeda does not mean that the threat itself has been eliminated or that all of the compelling research questions have been answered. Indeed in an age of government austerity, good research is arguably more important than ever in order to inform targeted responses to terrorist threats. Some areas of research need to continue in much the way they have previously, including honing understanding of particular terrorist movements and the modes and methods that modern terrorists use to get weapons, especially those capable of killing on a massive scale. But this short paper offers several ways of thinking about the evolution of al-Qaeda and attempts to provoke new and innovative thinking about terrorism — and al-Qaeda in particular — in order to inform and improve the future policy debates about terrorism. Broadly speaking, there are four categories of research — categorizing al-Qaeda’s strategies, information resonance, geopolitical evolution, and jihadis and the Arab Spring — that deserve more attention in the coming years.

Categorizing al-Qaeda Strategies Jihadi groups like al-Qaeda are often distinguished by their ideological differences and broad strategic focus, especially whether or not to focus violence on the “near enemy” or the “far enemy.” But that distinction, never hard and fast, has softened in recent years.3 Jihadi organizations, perhaps because of their inability to achieve distinct goals associated with specific ideological concepts, have broadened their ideological framework to justify a range of violence. In this way, groups are able to recruit and perpetuate violent behavior without actually demonstrating concrete successes. But even as jihadi organizations have hybridized in an ideological sense, they remain divided over key strategic ideas and the political purpose of violent uprising. Indeed, jihadi assessments about the nature of the problems they face and the character of their own organization have a profound impact on their strategic outlook. Certainly these assessments are influenced deeply by ideology, but it is a mistake to assume that jihadis are fundamentally ideological and determine their military and political strategies based on ideological concepts developed independently of pragmatic real-world assessments. Indeed, ideological concepts often seem to be developed in order to explain operational concepts in support of key goals rather than as foundational principles for those goals. Al-Qaeda’s pursuit of a qualified jurist to justify the use of weapons of mass destruction, an endeavor that ended in Nasr bin Hamd al-Fahd’s famous fatwa blessing such operations is one example. 4 Recognizing that jihadi ideology — like all political concepts — is sometimes used instrumentally is not particularly insightful on its own. But it does suggest potentially fruitful ways to understand jihadi behavior. For example, the primary debates among jihadis in recent years are not about ideological questions or the grand strategic implications of prioritizing the near or far enemy. Rather, jihadis have debated the purpose and utility of violence conducted within Muslim-majority countries, including Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, and, more recently, places where the Arab Spring has destabilized existing governments. Those debates have centered less on what is deemed acceptable according to jihadi ideology, and more on what behavior is effective. That basic pragmatism informs the strategic debates among jihadis today, even when those debates are conducted in deeply ideological terms. Two disputes rise above the others: whether activist jihadi organizations should focus on establishing political control in a particular place, and whether the problems facing Muslim societies are a function of broad social corruption or simply unacceptable political systems. The answers to those questions vary in interesting ways from place to place and either shape or reflect the strategic choices of al-Qaeda related groups in each. 3 Thomas Hegghammer, “The Ideological Hybridization of Jihadi Groups,” Current Trends in Islamist Ideology, vol. 9, 18 November 2009, pp. 26-45. 4 Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, “The Role of Consensus in the Contemporary Struggle for Islam,” The Review of Faith and International Affairs vol. 6 issue 4, 2008, pp. 13-22.


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Figure 1 offers a useful matrix for conceptualizing the differences between jihadi campaigns shaped by particular answers to the two key questions noted above.

Figure 1 Social Movement

Territorial Control

Society Corrupted

Society Good

One of the more interesting strategic debates among al-Qaeda factions took place between Abu Musab Zarqawi and Zawahiri over the correct course of action in Iraq. Zarqawi’s brutal campaign did not win him a mass following among Iraqis, but it was not designed to do so. Zarqawi embraced his organization’s isolation from society. Both before and after joining al-Qaeda he relished calling himself al-Gharib (the stranger) and even used separation from society as evidence that his movement was on the correct ideological path.5 In doing so, his group was following in the footsteps of Islamist groups like Takfir w’al Hijra, the Egyptian Islamic Group (EIG), and the Groupe Islamiques Arme (GIA), all of which feared society’s corruption and believed that society itself needed fundamental reformation before an Islamic political hierarchy could be established.6 These groups differed from Egyptian Islamic Jihad (EIJ), Zawahiri’s first militant group, which championed a theory of political and social change that depended on decapitating a corrupt and repressive political hierarchy and enabling the basically good Muslim masses to assert political authority within an Islamic state.7 Zarqawi’s and Zawahiri’s different theories of jihadist socio-political change influenced their preferred strategies in Iraq. Zarqawi used violence to terrify, radicalize, and purge society and did not give much thought to subsequent institutional change.8 Zawahiri argued that social purges were less important than replacing “un-Islamic” political institutions with “better” ones and urged Zarqawi to 5 See Brian Fishman, “After Zarqawi: The Dilemmas and Future of al-Qaeda in Iraq,” The Washington Quarterly, 29:4 (2006), pp. 19–32. 6 See, for example: Quintan Wiktorowicz, “A Genealogy of Radical Islam,” Studies in Conflict and Terrorism, 28 (2005) pp. 75-97 and Islamic Activism (Bloomington, IN: University of Indiana Press, 2004). 7 David Zeidan, “Radical Islam in Egypt: A Comparison of Two Groups,” MERIA 3 (1999), http://meria.idc.ac.il/journal/1999/issue3/ zeidan.pdf, last accessed 29 February 2012. 8 Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, letter released by the Coalition Provisional Authority, February 12, 2004, http://www.cpa-iraq.org/ transcripts/20040212_zarqawi_full.html, last accessed 29 February 2012.


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build a political coalition capable of seizing power when the United States withdrew, a turn of events he seems to have believed was imminent in mid-2005.9 On one level, the debate between Zawahiri and Zarqawi reflects what Brynjar Lia has termed a conflict between strategists (who favor political pragmatism) and doctrinarians (who prioritize ideological purity) within the jihadi movement.10 But the debate also indicates a deep disagreement about the importance of territory and governance to jihadis — as well as a differing idea about the nature of jihadi revolution. Whereas Zawahiri sees it as something inherently political, Zarqawi understands the purpose of jihadi fighting to purge society itself of apostasy. In Figure 1, Zawahiri’s views would find him in the top left of the chart and Zarqawi in the bottom right. The best example of an al-Qaeda organization that aimed to purify society and establish a real polity (top right of Figure 1) is the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI), which in many ways was the offspring of Zawahiri and Zarqawi. After Zarqawi’s death, al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) adopted Zawahiri’s focus on developing a distinct control over territory and imposing its own political system — embodied in the ISI — but the ethos of the organization remained deeply distrustful of Iraqi society. In other words, the ISI tried to impose control over a population that it was consistently purging. Other al-Qaeda affiliates have different approaches to militancy. As of this writing, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has not tried to establish an independent political authority, though it has on occasion clashed with the Yemeni government. AQAP cultivates reasonably productive relationships with a number of tribal groups in Yemen, and has refrained from the sort of wanton attacks that ultimately wore thin al-Qaeda’s welcome in Iraq. It would fall into the bottom left of Figure 1. Developing a scheme to understand how the general approach of al-Qaeda affiliates to politics and society impacts a group’s strategy and operational behavior is important for a variety of reasons. First, it may offer useful guidelines about the type of operations a particular jihadi organization is most likely to conduct. Second, it provides a framework for thinking about the debates and potential fissures within particular jihadi organizations — as they manifest in operational behavior. Enhancing or exploiting those schisms requires comprehensive strategies to link discredited operations with contestable strategic concepts.

Information Resonance Both academic and government analysts have long-recognized the importance of ideas motivating al-Qaeda. The group itself, and the movement it has emerged from, is deeply ideological. That insight has compelled counterterrorism planners to try to disrupt al­- Qaeda’s propaganda operations and to develop mechanisms for counter-messaging. As al-Qaeda has evolved in the wake of effective strikes against its organized leadership, the group increasingly relies on propaganda to motivate widely dispersed followers to independently organize violence, which has caused much consternation among Western counterterrorism officials. How do you stop a terrorist who never connects with a terrorist group, especially when operating in a Western civil liberties framework in which the consumption of radical political material is not a crime? Those concerns came to a head with the increased prominence of al-Awlaki and the prevalence of Inspire magazine.

9 Ayman al-Zawahiri, letter dated July 9, 2005 released by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, released October 11, 2005, http://www.globalsecurity.org/security/library/report/2005/zawahiri-zarqawi-letter_9jul2005.htm, last accessed 29 February 2012. 10 See Brynjar Lia, The Architect of Global Jihad (New York: Columbia University Press, 2008); Brynjar Lia “Jihadi Strategists and Doctrinarians” in Assaf Moghadam and Brian Fishman, ed.s, Fault Lines of Global Jihad: Organizational, Strategic, and Ideological Fissures (New York: Routledge, 2011).


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But there are a series of assumptions embedded in the counterterrorism worries about propaganda directed at western citizens that deserve to be interrogated further by the research community. It is not clear, for example, that content delivered by al-Qaeda to potential activists online actually radicalizes people. Although it is now clear that many al-Qaeda adherents, including those who conduct violence or join a terrorist cell, have viewed al-Qaeda propaganda, those individuals seek it out, which presumes a prior interest in jihadism. Online content seems to reinforce, rather than introduce, al-Qaeda’s ideology. That key difference is often disregarded in political discussions about the continuing threat from al-Qaeda — and it is an issue that deserves attention from counterterrorism researchers. Understanding when in the radicalization process would-be jihadis access information online is not just important for getting a better picture of the threat environment, it is important to inform countermeasures. There are a plethora of simple studies to be conducted investigating the use of jihadi websites, including collecting user statistics captured by the software programs themselves, analyzing how Western content is re-appropriated for a jihadi audience, and parsing the social media environment so that jihadi messages can be countered more effectively. Researchers studying alQaeda have long noted that credible messengers, whether former jihadis, religious scholars or the like are better suited than American officials for countering al-Qaeda. But there has been very little good work parsing specific al-Qaeda audiences and trying to understand the range of information sources those people already access. Too often, Western counterterrorism officials seem to imagine the information conflict with al-Qaeda in binary terms, when in fact there is already a lot of information readily available that implicitly counters al-Qaeda’s message. The trick may simply be to leverage that information more effectively.

Geopolitical Evolution The jihadi studies and counterterrorism research communities have too often stood apart from the wider national security and foreign policy community over the past decade. Since 9/11, the imperative of defeating al-Qaeda has been so overwhelming that research investigating al-Qaeda and terrorism has ignored other national priorities, such as the increased prominence of China and the manner in which traditional geopolitical competition has been shaped by the War on Terror. That time must come to an end. Ten years after 9/11, al-Qaeda is diminished. A major part of the threat it poses now is its ability to provoke unsustainable and unwise spending by the United States. Researchers must start to place the al-Qaeda challenge within a wider context.11 There are two great geopolitical shifts ongoing in the world: the first is a shift of global power East, and the second is a shift of authority away from states. That raises key questions about how al-Qaeda will function in the coming years.12 The first is how and where al-Qaeda, or groups like it, will be able to use state weakness in order to establish safe havens. Especially as the global economy relies on resource extraction from a wide range of states in Africa, South America, and Central Asia — where central governments do not have complete control over their territory — it is very important to assess the ability of non-state groups to exert influence and control. The second key issue is how al-Qaeda will interact with the globe’s rising powers. The rise of China and India will change how the entire globe conceptualizes geopolitics and it will influence 11 In the post 9/11 world, there are a few examples of authors who have attempted to place counterterrorism policy within the context of broader U.S. interests and geopolitical developments. For example, Paul Pillar, Terrorism and U.S. Foreign Policy (Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press, 2003). 12 Susan Strand, The Retreat of the State: The Diffusion of Power in the World Economy (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press 1996); Arvind Subramanian, “The Inevitable Superpower: Why China’s Rise Is a Sure Thing,” Foreign Affairs, Vol. 90, No. 5 (September/ October 2011), pp. 66–78; Christopher Layne, “The Waning of U.S. Hegemony — M yth or Reality? A Review Essay,” International Security, Vol. 34, No. 1 (Summer 2009), pp. 147–172.


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al-Qaeda’s threat calculation as well. This is particularly important because both China and India will increasingly look to developing areas of the world for resources to support growing economies. During the Cold War, both China and India adopted foreign policy positions that emphasized the sovereignty and independence of small states and economies. The rising ability of both states to project power beyond their borders and the threat posed by non-state groups like al-Qaeda may force both states to rethink that policy approach. China, in particular, has already been singled out by al-Qaeda as a potential target. Al-Qaeda’s motivations are complex: it aspires to support the Uyghur independence movement in China’s Xinjiang province, but also worries that growing Chinese power will create a new “far enemy” that will adopt the role that the United States has played over the past decade in providing economic and political support for states that al-Qaeda abhors.13 China now imports as much Saudi oil as the United States. If such economic relationships are part of al-Qaeda’s motivation for attacking the United States, they may be part of a broader strategic rethink that compels al-Qaeda to redefine their enemies in broader terms. The academic and research community has a responsibility to reach beyond the arcane questions of al-Qaeda ideology to ask the larger geopolitical questions about how counterterrorism fits into a wider American strategy in the coming era.14 To do so, researchers and academics who have made a career assessing terrorism in a narrow sense must challenge both the boundaries of their knowledge and the self-interested logic of funding, which incentivizes a continued focus on al-Qaeda and terrorism within the agencies of the U.S. government. Just as bureaucrats and politicians have a responsibility to challenge staid thinking that creates funding continuity, researchers and academics must have the intellectual courage to challenge the received wisdom about al-Qaeda and prepare the American security community for a dynamic world.

Jihadis and the Arab Spring The Arab revolutions will have such a major impact on al-Qaeda and related movements that it deserves to be considered separately from broader geopolitical shifts. Researchers and policymakers are already debating how the Arab Spring has impacted al-Qaeda, with some thinkers arguing that the revolutions are positive because they undermine al-Qaeda’s recruitment pitches, while others worry that the fracturing of strong state apparatuses will offer terrorism movements new space to operate.15 Both arguments have merit. The challenge now for researchers is to follow up on their initial analyses in the wake of these revolutions — which were generally based on old research — with more systematic assessments of militant groups in this new environment. Al-Qaeda has already demonstrated an interesting ideological dexterity in the face of the Arab revolutions for example, attempting to walk back its long-time opposition to electoral politics.16 Researchers and academics must update their understanding of al-Qaeda as a result of these shifts. The question is not just how will al-Qaeda operate in this new environment, but how will this new environment change al-Qaeda? 13 For more, see: Brian Fishman, “Al-Qaeda and the Rise of China: Jihadi Geopolitics in a Post-Hegemonic World,” The Washington Quarterly, 34:3 (2011), pp. 47-62.

,

14 Some Washington think tanks have already taken this approach. One notable example is Rick “Ozzie” Nelson Thomas M. Sanderson, Ben Bodurian, David Gordon, Arnaud de Borchgrave, and Juan C. Zarate, Confronting an Uncertain Threat (Washington, D.C.: Center for Strategic and International Studies, 2011). 15 See Michael Sakbani “The revolutions of the Arab Spring: are democracy, development and modernity at the gates?” Contemporary Arab Affairs vol. 4, issue 2, 2011, pp. 127-147; Andre Le Sage, “The Evolving Threat of al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb” National Defense University Strategic Forum, Number 268, July 2011; Juan Zarate, “Al-Qaeda, Stirs Again,” The New York Times, 17 April 2011. 16 See, for example, Will McCants, “The Allure of Parliamentary Politics,” Jihadica, 20 October 2011, www.jihadica.com, last accessed 29 February 2012, and Joas Wagemakers “Al-Qa`ida Advises the Arab Spring: Syria,” Jihadica, 19 November 2011, last accessed 29 February 2012.


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Militant groups are not static. AQAP has taken advantage of state weakness in Yemen to expand its efforts to seize control of territory — an ambitious approach that has hurt al-Qaeda factions in the past.17 But researchers must not assume that AQAP, or groups like it, will necessarily make the same mistakes as older jihadi organizations. The organizations themselves are likely to shift and researchers must be malleable enough in their research design and intellectual approach to capture those changes. You cannot understand Zawahiri’s strategic approach or AQAP’s prospects today by studying Sayyid Qutb alone. One challenge for today’s counterterrorism researchers is understanding and approaching research on the Arab Spring through a broader political lens than simply its impact on terrorist organizations. Although al-Qaeda will remain a danger for the foreseeable future, the group and its offshoots should not define the analytical framework used to understand the Middle East. That narrow focus made sense in the immediate wake of 9/11, but it is destructive and counterproductive today. Instead, counterterrorism researchers must work more collaboratively across disciplines to place terrorist movements within a broader social and political context — both to understand how they will impact domestic trends in various countries, but also how they will impact traditional state-to-state relations. It is reductive and narrow to say that the United States failed to understand the power of the Arab Spring movements because it was overly focused on terrorism, but American national security thinkers should nonetheless take the Arab Spring’s power to produce change as a wake-up-call for how American thinkers conceptualize our ontological priorities in the Middle East. Those changes occasioned by the Arab Spring will impact how we think about the threat from alQaeda. One key security worry in the wake of the Egyptian revolution is the impact of Salafi and jihadi ideology on Bedouin tribes in the Sinai. Although these movements may not be sufficient to threaten the nascent Egyptian government or pose a significant threat to Israel, they are likely to worsen already disputatious relations between Israel and the new Egyptian leadership. That threat is real. But it is not the same kind of threat that al-Qaeda has posed over the last decade, and it will require a different sort of response from the United States. Defining the scope of those differences is the sort of question counterterrorism researchers ought to be asking.

Conclusions Counterterrorism research has become an industry that only partly serves the national interest. Counterterrorism researchers have done a service by advancing understanding of al-Qaeda in a decade where such knowledge has been critical for countering a real and destructive threat. But those researchers have also benefited privately from the public investment in understanding al-Qaeda and the threat it poses. The research community must consciously reject the tempting incentive to emphasize the continuation of the al-Qaeda threat and instead strive to understand how that threat has evolved — no easy task because it means acknowledging that expertise developed over the past decade is less directly relevant to new challenges. Threats are dynamic. Researchers who want to contribute to the public good must be as well. One way to improve research about al-Qaeda is to ground it in hard data on the organizations themselves. Some of the most important research on al-Qaeda has been facilitated by access to internal al-Qaeda and affiliated movements’ documents, and several organizations, including the CTC at West Point and NDU’s CRRC, are focused on this challenge. Increased access to this kind of material will be critical for researchers in the coming years. But it is very important for researchers to use this sort of material responsibly. A document produced inside the U.S. government may

17 Gregory Johnsen, “Jihadis Talking in Yemen,” Waq al-Waq, 25 October 2011, last accessed 29 February 2012.


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be indicative of key thinking within the government at large, but it may also simply reflect the meandering mind of a particular bureaucrat. The same dynamic exists within al-Qaeda — and researchers plumbing al-Qaeda’s archives must be wary of this problem. In any research area where data is difficult to acquire there is an incentive for researchers to imbue tremendous authority to whatever information becomes available. That is a particularly dangerous risk when research is conducted on a politically sensitive topic like terrorism. The terrorism research community should take its risks in designing innovative research questions that force both the academic and government communities to broaden the range of issues they consider terrorism-related, but they have an extra obligation to be circumspect when coming to policy or politically relevant conclusions.


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The Relationship between al-Qaeda and the Taliban: Insights from Captured Documents Anne Stenersen Norwegian Defence Research Establishment (FFI) Introduction After al-Qaeda’s terrorist attacks on New York and Washington on 11 September 2001, the Taliban regime in Afghanistan was faced with an ultimatum: hand over Osama bin Laden to the United States, or face military attack. However, the Taliban replied that it was “impossible” for them to hand over the al-Qaeda leader, as it would compromise their own moral and religious principles.1 The U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan started on 7 October 2001, and within a few months the Taliban regime was ousted and replaced by a Transitional Authority led by Hamid Karzai. The aim of this study is to explain why the Taliban regime hosted al-Qaeda on their territory from 1996-2001. When describing the al-­Qaeda-Taliban relationship, it is common to focus narrowly on the role of bin Laden and his status within the Taliban regime. Less attention has been given to the local environment in which al-Qaeda was operating — in particular, the diverse community of foreign fighters in Afghanistan of which al-Qaeda was one among several militant groups. This paper argues that in order to properly explain the Taliban’s support for al-Qaeda in 1996-2001, it is imperative to understand the relationship between the Taliban and the broader foreign fighter community in Afghanistan, as well as discern al-Qaeda’s role within this community. One of the major challenges to conducting such a study is the lack of credible source material. However, in recent years a number of primary sources have become available that may shed light on the inner workings of the foreign fighter community in Afghanistan, like those at the Combating Terrorism Center (CTC) at West Point and the Conflict Records Research Center (CRRC) at National Defense University. The documents were collected in Afghanistan after the U.S.-led invasion in 2001, and appear to constitute internal correspondence of the Taliban, al-Qaeda, and other militants in Afghanistan. In 2005, the Department of Defense (DoD) started a process of releasing selected documents and making them available to academic scholars. The released documents provide a wealth of information about the Arab militants in Afghanistan and their dealings with the Taliban regime — yet, no studies to date have so far utilized these documents to gain a better understanding of the relationship between al-Qaeda and the Taliban. Drawing from these and other primary sources, this paper challenges common hypotheses about the Taliban’s decision to host al-Qaeda in 1996-2001. In particular, the paper argues that material contributions (i.e., bin Laden’s financial and military assistance to the Taliban), ideological similarity between the Taliban and al-Qaeda, or personal friendship between bin Laden and Mullah Muhammad ‘Umar were less important for their relationship than commonly assumed. The paper concludes that the Taliban’s relationship to al-Qaeda was first and foremost shaped by domestic and regional constraints which limited the Taliban regime’s freedom of action. These findings may open alternative ways of dealing with security challenges posed by the Taliban and other fundamentalist religious movements in the future.

1 “Handover of Osama impossible: Taliban official,” People’s Daily, 21 September 2001, http://english.people.com.cn/ english/200109/21/eng20010921_80733.html, last accessed 29 February 2012.


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Taliban’s Decision to Host Foreign Fighters: Ideology or Expediency? There are three main hypotheses about why the Taliban hosted foreign fighters in Afghanistan in 1996-2001, namely, al-Qaeda’s military and financial support to the Taliban regime, ideological similarities, and personal friendship. Adherents to the first hypothesis see the alliance between alQaeda and the Taliban as an “alliance of convenience,” where both alliance partners had resources to offer that matched the security needs of the other. The core of the argument is that the Taliban offered al-Qaeda sanctuary in Afghanistan in return for financial and military support from bin Laden’s organization. Existing literature has challenged this hypothesis. Steve Coll argued in his 2004 book, Ghost Wars, that the size of bin Laden’s fortune after 1996 was much smaller than previously assumed. 2 While bin Laden’s finances might have been large enough to buy the personal friendship of Mullah ‘Umar, it was certainly not large enough to compete with major state sponsors such as Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. Hence, economic factors alone cannot explain why the Taliban jeopardized their relations with Saudi Arabia in 1998, for example, for the sake of protecting bin Laden. In September 1998, Prince Turki al-Faisal visited Mullah ‘Umar in Kandahar and demanded bin Laden’s handover, but Mullah ‘Umar refused to comply, and instead offended the Prince and the Saudi Royal family. The episode caused a diplomatic crisis between the two countries.3 With regards to al-Qaeda’s military contributions to the Taliban, the picture is less clear. Several studies support the notion that the Taliban’s army benefited from bin Laden’s fighters to fight the Northern Alliance. 4 However, new primary sources on al-Qaeda’s activities in Afghanistan give reason to question this assumption. A 2007 report from the CTC indicated that Arab fighters on the Taliban’s fronts were few and poorly motivated.5 Brynjar Lia’s study Architect of Global Jihad, published in 2008, illustrated that the Arab community in Afghanistan was divided and riven with personal conflicts.6 Lia punctures the argument that bin Laden had a large “army” of Arab fighters at his disposal. Others argue that while bin Laden’s Arab fighters were small in number, they were still valuable to the Taliban due to their high morale and fighting skills.7 Al-Qaeda proved capable of carrying out operations that were of strategic value — in particular, the assassination of the Northern Alliance commander Ahmad Shah Mas’ud on 9 September 2001. Yet, this does not explain why the Taliban protected al-Qaeda before that time — in particular around 1998 and 1999, when relations between Mullah ‘Umar and bin Laden were strained and the international pressure on the Taliban was mounting. More research is needed in order to clarify the role and impact of bin Laden’s fighters in Afghanistan in the earlier period, and whether the Taliban regarded them as a strategic asset or not.

2 Steve Coll, Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and bin Laden, From the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001 (New York: Penguin Press, 2004), p. 332. 3 S. Iftikhar Murshed, Afghanistan: The Taliban Years (London: Bennett and Bloom, 2006), p. 301. 4 See, for example, Michael Innes, ed., Denial of Sanctuary: Understanding Terrorist Safe Havens (Westport, Connecticut: Praeger Security International, 2007), p. 59. 5 Vahid Brown, Cracks in the Foundation: Leadership Schisms in al-Qa’ida From 1989–2006, Part II (West Point, NY: Combating Terrorism Center, 2007), http://www.ctc.usma.edu/posts/cracks-in-the-foundation-leadership-schisms-in-al-qaidafrom-1989-2006, last accessed 29 February 2012. 6 Brynjar Lia, Architect of Global Jihad: The Life of al-Qaida Strategist Abu Mus‘ab al-Suri (New York: Columbia University Press, 2008), p. 250. 7 Alan Cullison and Andrew Higgins, “Once-stormy terror alliance was solidified by cruise missiles,” Wall Street Journal, 2 August 2002, http://online.wsj.com/article/0,,SB1028236160532452080,00.html?mod, last accessed 29 February 2012.


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According to internal al-Qaeda correspondence as well as eyewitness accounts, Arab fighters played a defensive role in the war against the Northern Alliance. 8 Arab groups were engaged on the al-khatt al-awwal (first line) and the al-khatt al-thani (second line) of defense. According to the autobiography of high-ranking al-Qaeda member Fadil Harun, the Arabs and the “Punjabis” (i.e., Pakistani militants from Harakat ul-Ansar) had been given different responsibilities in the defense of the capital. The Arabs were on the first line of defense outside the city, while the Pakistanis were responsible for defending the city center.9 In October 1998, when the top Arab commander Abu Zayd al-Tunisi was killed, he had been in charge on a mountain overlooking the main road, described as a “permanent base and a first line of defense for Kabul.”10 The Arabs were divided into groups which specialized in different tasks. The Arabs had a few heavy weapons at their disposal, including 82 mm mortars (“BM rockets”11) and at least one tank. An undated and unsigned letter from an Arab commander at the front described the Arab groups present at the second line of defense, as well as their specialties: The Baghram group (majmu’at bagram): Abu Ziyad (responsible for surveillance), Abu Tamim Group (BM), Abd al-Hadi al-Urdunni group (gharnai)12, Al-Zubayr al-Yemeni group (tank) [a description of other groups is missing].13 A letter from Abd al-Hadi al-Ansari (probably an alias for the Iraqi al-Qaeda commander Abd al-Hadi al-Iraqi) to Abu Hafs (i.e., Muhammad Atif) dated 11 February 1998, gives a more vivid account of the latest achievements of the Arabs at the front: Praise to God, we have destroyed one of the enemy’s cars on the way to Murad Bek using an 82 mm mortar, and we destroyed another car on the way to Bagram using a tank. Also, in Bagram we scored a direct hit on two enemy tanks, and now we are trying to hit the third tank which is in front of our position after they withdrew the fourth tank. If you were here with us while we were shooting at them using Abu Turab’s tank, you would have laughed at the way they were running away!14 Despite these achievements, the Arabs’ contributions to the Taliban’s front appeared small and localized. According to al-Ansari, al-­Qaeda’s men had only one car to use at the front — donated by bin Laden personally — and he was struggling to convince the Taliban’s Prime Minister, Mullah Muhammad Rabbani, to issue official papers for it.15 Such mundane issues seemed to characterize some of the meetings between Arab commanders and Taliban officials in Kabul. A letter from alAnsari to Atif read: I asked [Mullah Rabbani] for a paper for the car, or for a car. He told me that he had heard from you that [you] sent us two cars. I denied this, and refuted the story of the two cars from the beginning of our participation. I told him how the Sheikh [Osama bin Laden] sent

8 See, for example, “Ciphers and Status of bin Laden’s Security,” document no. AFGP-2002-003677, CTC’s Harmony Document Database, http://www.ctc.usma.edu/posts/ciphers-and-status-of-bin-ladens-security-original, p. 19, last accessed 29 February 2012; and Fadil Abdallah Muhammad, Al-harb ala al-islam: Qissat Fadil Harun, (2009), posted on Shabakat ansar al-mujahidin, 26 February 2009, http://www.as-ansar.com/vb/showthread.php?t=1463, p. 368, last accessed 29 February 2012. 9 Muhammad, Al-harb ala al-islam,p. 368. 10 Ibid., p. 381. 11 Probably referring to the 122 mm rockets of the Soviet multiple rocket launcher “BM-21.” 12 The meaning of this word is unknown. Possibly a local name for a weapon. 13 “Ciphers and status of bin Laden’s security,” p. 19. 14 Letter from Abd al-Hadi al-Ansari to Abu Hafs, 11 February 1998, in “Ciphers and status of bin Laden’s security,” pp. 13–16. 15 Ibid.


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us his personal car which is now on the front line. He said to me — and it appeared that he did not believe what I said — that he would talk to you about this car situation.16 In the same letter, al-Ansari complained that it took him “three days of unrelenting attempts” to finally schedule a meeting with Rabbani.17 The rest of al-Ansari’s meeting with Rabbani concerned two issues: how to secure the release of three Arabs taken prisoner by the Northern Alliance, and the allocation of a headquarters for al-Ansari’s men in Kabul. Rabbani tells al-Ansari that the Arabs can no longer stay in the city center because the Saudi consul in Kabul is keeping them under surveillance. Therefore, he is trying to find a house for them at the outskirts of Kabul — not so much to protect them it seems, as to avoid confrontation between his own government and the Saudis. Rabbani reportedly told the Arabs to “show deference to [the Taliban’s] position and not show defiance or embarrass them…”18 With regards to the prisoners, Rabbani asks the Arabs to cooperate with the Taliban’s intelligence department and to not attempt to trade the prisoners for money.19 The meeting between Rabbani and al-Ansari conveys the impression that there was a lack of trust between the Taliban and the Arabs, and that the Taliban to some extent saw the Arabs as a liability rather than an asset. Rabbani’s background must be taken into account. The Taliban minister was known to be skeptical of the Arab militants, and bin Laden in particular. 20 This may explain the tone of his meeting with al-Ansari. However, coordination problems and mutual distrust between Arabs and the Taliban were evident on the battlefield as well. Reports from Arab commanders serving on the Taliban’s frontlines paint a rather grim picture of the quality of their relationship with the Taliban. Part of the problem seems to have stemmed from a lack of communication. Al-Ansari was not the only commander who found it difficult to reach Taliban officials in Kabul. An unidentified Arab commander, who needs to meet with the Taliban’s Defense Ministry to discuss a matter pertaining to the Arabs on the front, complains: There is no official in Kabul that I can talk to on this matter in any real way…The Minister of Defense is in Pakistan…Akbar Agha is in Kandahar…and the rest of them are not qualified… 21 The Arabs were frustrated with the Taliban’s fighting methods and morale. In the same letter quoted above, the commander complains that the Taliban are not advancing on Masoud’s forces, in spite of the fact that “their position is strong and good all along the front.” “The Taliban have lost their will to sacrifice,” he concludes, noting that “the severity of this situation has created a bad response by a lot of our brothers who have lost their will to stay for the Taliban.”22 In a letter from April 2000, al-Ansari makes similar observations concerning the Taliban’s fighting methods. “We need to understand the fighting methods of the Taliban, which is that they often run away from battle,” he says. While Arabs should seek to play a more offensive role in the Taliban’s warfare, he warns that the Taliban’s fighting methods could put the Arabs in dangerous situations. He lists a number of measures that could be taken “to avoid embarrassment with the Taliban,” as he puts 16 The letters on pp. 13–14 and on pp. 15–16 of the source document appear to be part of the same letter. The first is signed Abd alHadi al-Ansari and dated 11 February 1998, and appears to be an addendum to the second letter which is addressed to Abu Hafs, but which is undated and unsigned. “Ciphers and status of bin Laden’s security.” 17 Ibid. 18 Ibid. 19 Ibid. 20 Peter L. Bergen, The Osama bin Laden I Know: An Oral History of al Qaeda’s Leader (New York: Free Press, 2006), pp. 94, 233. 21 “Ciphers and status of bin Laden’s security,” pp. 19–20. 22 Ibid.


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it. They include “putting people in rear positions to support our people in case the Taliban abandons them,” having a medical unit, providing artillery support, and “monitoring the situation and alert our brothers in case something happens.”23 Judging from al-Ansari’s letter, the Arabs appear to be poorly integrated into the Taliban’s command-and-control structure. Moreover, the Arab-Taliban relationship seems to suffer from a fundamental lack of trust. This is substantiated by the way al-Ansari describes the challenges faced by the defensive units of the Arabs: the units suffer from the lack of good weapons and ammunitions, but also, from “the difficulty of coordinating with the Taliban, because they [the Taliban] consider the heavy weapons and its ammunition a matter they must control completely.”24 For the Taliban, the Arabs seemed to be a liability rather than a valuable asset. The Arabs, on their side, had mixed feelings about fighting for the Taliban. The legality of fighting for the Taliban was a controversial issue among the Arab militants in Afghanistan. This was not merely an abstract theological debate, it was a matter of immediate concern to rank-and-file jihadists who came to Afghanistan to join the training camps. New recruits who came to the country often did not have a clear idea of what they wanted to do and in the end, many Arabs ended up fighting on the Taliban’s frontlines north of Kabul. This was due to a mixed set of reasons. Notably, many of the Arabs at the front line appeared to be there because they had no other option, not because they believed they were participating in true jihad. Al-Ansari noted in April 2000: I am very sure that if we open the doors of Chechnya now — in the fighting season — 70 percent of the youth from this front or others will stream there without hesitation. This is an obvious and well-known fact from the speeches and confessions of the brothers. 25 At the time, al-Qaeda was in a dilemma. Volunteers were flocking to Afghanistan to join the training camps, but it was hard for al-Qaeda to accommodate them after they had finished the training. The battlefronts in Chechnya and Kashmir had become hard to access for foreign volunteers, and alQaeda’s own operations against U.S. interests were few and far between. In April 2000, camp trainees were impatiently waiting for an opportunity to fight. One of them asked bin Laden after a lecture, “You mentioned once that a front will open in Uzbekistan, but we heard nothing about it afterwards. Will this front open soon or not?”26 Neither al-Qaeda nor the Taliban made it obligatory for the trainees to participate at the Taliban’s front. 27 However, the practice was encouraged, especially by al-Qaeda who used the Taliban’s front to test potential recruits and to educate their own cadre. 28 A letter from the commander Abd al-Hadi (alAnsari) to a senior al-Qaeda figure in April 2000 is revealing. Al-Ansari notes that the Arab mujahidin are well trained on defensive tactics and heavy weapons, but that they lack offensive skills and capability. He argues that Arabs should “put in place clear policies to join the Taliban at the front” in 23 “Notes from Abd al-Hadi,” document no. AFGP-2002-000091, CTC’s Harmony Document Database, http://www.ctc.usma.edu/ posts/notes-from-abd-al-hadi-original, last accessed 29 February 2012. 24 Ibid. 25 Ibid. 26 “Various Admin Documents and Questions,” document no. AFGP-2002-801138, CTC’s Harmony Document Database, http://www. ctc.usma.edu/posts/various-admin-documents-and-questions-original, p. 146, last accessed 29 February 2012. 27 Recruits who joined training camps in 2001 testified that they were free to do what they wanted after they finished basic training. Even after 11 September, when a United States attack on Afghanistan was imminent, recruits were given the choice of whether to participate in the fight against the United States or not. Thomas Hegghammer, Violent Islamism in Saudi Arabia, 1979–2006, PhD Thesis, Sciences-Po Paris, 2007, p. 342. 28 A document uncovered after the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan, which outlines al-Qaeda’s training program, states that after completing the “Basic course,” trainees may be assigned to “the fronts.” One of the purposes of this is to give the trainee experience and evaluate whether he is qualified to enter the “cadre course.” See “Al Qaida Staff Count Public Appointments,” document no. AFGP-2002-000112, CTC’s Harmony Document Database, http://www.ctc.usma.edu/posts/al-qaida-staff-count-publicappointments-original, last accessed 29 February 2012.


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order to get more combat experience. The purpose, it seems, is not so much to help the Taliban conquer Afghanistan, as to prepare for the stage beyond. [The fight in Afghanistan] can be considered as a training field to our brothers the mujahidin. In fact, after the end of our fight in Afghanistan…the fight will change to a more savage fight all over the area with organized forces, equipped and ready for the fight. 29 There is little doubt that al-Qaeda and other foreign fighters provided the Taliban regime with military support. However, it is hard to find evidence that this support was in any way vital to the Taliban’s military campaign against the Northern Alliance. Some of the training camp commanders, such as Abu Musab Zarqawi, were even opposed to the idea of providing fighters for the Taliban. Nevertheless, the Taliban allowed Zarqawi to run a training camp for foreigners in Herat. This suggests that the Taliban’s policy to host foreign militants in Afghanistan was motivated by ideology, rather than expediency. However, from about 1999 the Taliban’s policies toward the foreign militants in Afghanistan changed. In short, the Taliban sought to formalize the ties to foreign militant organizations and streamline the training camp system.30 In this process, al-Qaeda and some other militant groups were favored, while others were marginalized. Al-Qaeda was put in charge of the important al-Faruq training camp outside Kandahar, which received the bulk of new foreign volunteers to Afghanistan. Other “competing” camps, such as Khalden in Khost, were shut down. Ideology has been used as an explanation for why the Taliban favored al-Qaeda in this process. However, ideology alone cannot explain the Taliban’s divergent policies toward the foreign fighters. Mullah ‘Umar had more than once criticized bin Laden’s anti-American and anti-Saudi agenda, and in the beginning of 1999, the Taliban attempted to restrict bin Laden’s communications with the outside world. Moreover, the Taliban continued to support other foreign militants whose agendas diverged from al-Qaeda’s such as Abu Musab al-Suri, who was an outspoken critic of bin Laden. While using al-Qaeda to streamline the training camp system, the Taliban made sure that the foreign fighter community in Afghanistan maintained multiple centers of gravity. To explain the Taliban’s policies, it is imperative to look beyond general explanations, such as ideology and military contributions, and to look at the local context in which al-Qaeda was operating within Afghanistan. The following section argues that the Taliban’s policies toward al-Qaeda after 1999 were shaped by necessity, rather than a desire to empower al-Qaeda per se.

The Taliban’s Policies Towards al-Qaeda Al-Qaeda was only one of several foreign militant groups operating training camps in Afghanistan. Before 1999, the training camps for Arabs were relatively small and disorganized. The camp structures that existed were remnants from the Afghan-Soviet war that to some extent had continued to operate during the Afghan civil war. Several of these camps, including the Zhawar Kili complex associated with al-Qaeda, were located in the southeastern province of Khost. The well-known Khalden camp, an “independent” camp run by Ibn Sheikh al-Libi and Abu Zubaydah, was located in the same area.

29 “Notes from Abd al-Hadi.” 30 This happened at the same time as the Taliban’s administration carried out a number of other bureaucratic reforms. The government ministers were made permanent, the state adopted a formal constitution and the Taliban expanded the number of diplomatic missions to foreign countries. It is likely that the Taliban’s changed policies towards the foreign training camps were part of the same reform effort. Wakil Ahmad Mutawakil, Afghanistan aw taliban (place and publisher unknown, 1384 h. [2005]), p. 44; Neamatollah Nojumi, The rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan: Mass mobilization, civil war, and the future of the region (New York: Palgrave, 2002), pp. 138-139.


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After the United States missile attacks on Khost in 1998 (which affected the Zhawar Kili complex, but not Khalden), al-Qaeda reorganized and sought to establish more systematic training courses for new recruits coming to Afghanistan. The East African embassy bombings and the subsequent United States missile strikes on bin Laden’s camps in Khost had presented al-Qaeda with maximum publicity. It was important for al-Qaeda to accommodate new recruits that arrived in Afghanistan to join their cause. In addition, external threats had heightened the security awareness among al-Qaeda’s members. There was a need for a more rigid system to screen new recruits and root out spies and infiltrators. Al-Qaeda’s general aims at this time are captured in the account of Fadil Harun. He recalled that alQaeda’s Shura Council called a meeting sometime after the missile strikes: …in order to organize the inner organization (al-bayt al-dakhili), and to gather the ranks of the youth again, and to take proper security measures in order to wage the new war; and to activate the training camps, and to put in place new security measures for the new arrivals. Osama had closed the door for joining al-Qaeda, and then opened it again after the East Africa operations because many of the umma’s youth came to Afghanistan after those operations.31 Mustafa Hamid elaborates on the discussions that went on in al-Qaeda in this period. He recalled that sometime after the U.S. missile strikes in 1998, there was a desire among some of al-Qaeda’s leaders to change the training camp structure in Afghanistan. At the time, there were around ten different training camps, but according to the critics in al-Qaeda, the training was of low quality, and different ideologies such as takfirism were allowed to grow.32 These concerns were shared by the Taliban, who saw the “takfiri current” as a threat to the internal stability of the regime. The takfiris were heavy critics of the Taliban regime and everyone fighting under its banner. The criticism against the Taliban concerned both legal and political matters. For example, the Taliban were accused of espousing quburiyya (grave-worship), of making alliances with God’s enemies (i.e., Arab regimes), and of ingratiating itself within the United Nations.33 The strongest proponents of the takfiri current in the 1990s were based in Peshawar.34 They included the Egyptian ideologue Muhammad Najah Abd al-Maqsud, better known as Abu Mus‘ab “Reuter,” and Baha’ Mustafa Jaghal, a.k.a. Abd al-Hamid al-Suri. Abu Mus‘ab Reuter was a veteran of the Afghan-Soviet war who distributed news about the mujahidin in Arabic, hence the nickname “Reuter.” Around 1998 (or later), they wrote a pamphlet criticizing the Taliban entitled, “Exposing the fighters under the banner of those who violated the essence of the religion.”35 The Peshawar group was harshly criticized by the Arabs in Afghanistan who supported the Taliban. However, there were other groups within Afghanistan who agreed with the Peshawar group’s views. In 1995-1997, there was a strong anti-Taliban attitude among trainees in the Khalden camp.36 At the forefront of the criticism was an Egyptian ideologue, Abu Abdallah al-Muhajir, referred to as the 31 Muhammad, al-harb ala al-islam, p. 380. 32 Mustafa Hamid, salib fi sama’ qandahar, book 6 of tharthara fi saqaf al-alam (Place and publisher unknown), MAFA [Mustafa Hamid’s blog], http://mafa.maktoobblog.com, p. 127, last accessed 29 February 2012. 33 See, for example, Abu Mus‘ab al-Suri, afghanistan wa al-taliban wa ma‘rakat al-islam al-yawm (Kabul: Markaz al-Ghuraba’ lil-Dirasat al-Islamiyya, October 1998). Part III of the book summarizes the main points of criticism against the Taliban regime that circulated in Afghanistan/Pakistan in 1997-1998. 34 For more details on this Peshawar-based group, see Vahid Brown, Cracks in the foundation: Leadership schisms in al-Qa’ida from 1989–2006, Part II (West Point, NY: Combating Terrorism Center, 2007), http://www.ctc.usma.edu/posts/cracks-in-the-foundationleadership-schisms-in-al-qaida-from-1989-2006, pp. 13-15, last accessed 29 February 2012. 35 “Condolence Letter,” document no. AFGP-2002-601402, CTC’s Harmony Document Database, http://www.ctc.usma.edu/posts/ condolence-letter-original, last accessed 29 February 2012. 36 As described, for example, in Omar Nasiri, Inside the Jihad: My Life with Al Qaeda (New York: Basic Books, 2006).


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mas’ul shara‘i (legal officer) in Khalden.37 In 1996, he ran a center next to the camp named ma‘had kata’ib al-iman (Institute for the Faith Brigades).38 According to an eyewitness account: At this time [in 1996], the Institute for the Faith Brigades was opened next to the [Khalden] camp and Abu Abdallah al-Muhajir was responsible for it. Most of the institute’s students were from North Africa, and the Algerian group in Afghanistan was formed in this institute, and the Tunisian group,…[sic].…The gap between Bin Laden and his followers, and those who stayed in Khalden, increased because of this institute, whose students distributed proof of Bin Laden’s deviation and in particular, the fact that he was fighting with the Taliban, many of whom were immersed in shirk [polytheism].39 As a result of pressure from the Taliban and (allegedly) bin Laden, Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, and Abu Zubaydah agreed in 1997 to not let “fanatics” enter the Khalden camp anymore. 40 As a result, several North Africans moved to Jalalabad and established their own guesthouses there. 41 It is unclear to what extent Khalden continued to be a breeding ground for takfirism after 1997, but in any case, militants with anti-Taliban ideologies continued to make use of Afghanistan as a sanctuary. Some of these militants were most likely connected to the training camps at Derunta outside Jalalabad. Moazzam Begg, a British citizen who was imprisoned at Guantanamo, said that he visited one of the camps in Derunta in early 1998. It was training Kurdish locals from Northern Iraq in how to use improvised grenades. He described the camp as “very small and poorly tended.” He further observed, “This camp in no way was part of al-Qaeda, its organizers were quite outspoken against al-Qaeda, and Taliban — for their own reasons — and it was consequently shut down in mid-1999, and didn’t reopen.”42 In 2000 or 2001, a “Moroccan house” was established in Kabul. The house was established to protect the Moroccans “from the influence of other ideas.” According to one eyewitness, around 17 people stayed there in 2001. They were against fighting for the Taliban, and were against bin Laden. The people in the Moroccan house: …would advise people about Bin Laden….We were very honest in what we said against Bin Laden. For that reason, we received a lot of threats. But that was not important to us. We kept saying bad things about Bin Laden and about al Qaeda. 43

37 “hal ibn Laden min al-du’a ala abwab jahannam?!” part 4, last accessed 9 November 2010, muntadayat al-mahdi,; “ibn Laden al-jahil wa al-murib: hadhihi al-marra rasmiyyan,” muntadayat al-mahdi, posted on 29 January 2010, last accessed 10 November 2010. 38 The author is indebted to Truls H. Tønnessen and Brynjar Lia for pointing me to this information, which was first referred to in Lia, Architect of Global Jihad, p. 242. 39 “haqiqat (abu abdallah al-muhajir) aladhi adall al-zarqawi wa tawassa’ al-akhir fi safq al-dima’,” muntadayat al-mahdi, 14 July 2005, http://www.almahdy.net/vb/showthread.php?t=3354, last accessed 29 February 2012. 40 ISN #10016 [Zayn al Abidin Muhammad Husayn, aka Abu Zubaydah], “Verbatim transcript of Combatant Status Review Tribunal Hearing for ISN 10016,” 27 March 2007, U.S. Department of Defense, http://www.defenselink.mil/news/transcript_ISN10016.pdf, last accessed 29 February 2012. 41 Bin Laden allegedly said that, “Now the takfiris have moved to Jalalabad.” Abu al-Harith, who had fought with Jalaluddin Haqqani in Khost in 1992, joined the critics of the takfiris, demanding that they, “either fight with the Taliban, or leave Afghanistan altogether.” See “haqiqat (abu abd allah al-muhajir) aladhi adall al-zarqawi.” 42 Moazzam Begg, “Response to tribunal process,” in “Testimony of Detainees Before the Combatant Status Review Tribunal,” Set 6, Department of Defense, www.pbs.org/now/shows/230/moazzam-begg.pdf, p. 37. 43 ISN #197 [Yunis Abdurrahman Shokuri], “Summarized Detainee Sworn Statement,” in “Testimony of Detainees Before the Combatant Status Review Tribunal,” Set 36, Department of Defense, www.pbs.org/now/shows/230/moazzam-begg.pdf, pp. 70–85.


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There was also a guesthouse for North Africans in Jalalabad, known as the “Algerian house” or “the house of the French.”44 A Yemeni volunteer in his fifties, who went to Afghanistan in July or August 2001, recalled that the North African groups had their own ideas about the Taliban and al-Qaeda. “They say the Taliban are non-believers and they forbid any fighting with them. They consider anyone that fights with them non-believers as well.”45 The takfiris remained a minority within Afghanistan. This was partly due to the efforts by certain commanders and ideologues, such as bin Laden, al-Suri, and al-Libi, who openly defended the Taliban. But a real turning point came in 2000­2001 when the influential Saudi cleric Hamid Uqla al-Shu’aybi issued a fatwa in support of the Taliban. 46 The Saudi jihadi ideologue, Yusuf al-‘Ayiri, also voiced support for the regime. 47 This was probably an important reason why the number of recruits from the Arabian Peninsula peaked in 2000-2001. 48 While neither very large nor powerful, the takfiris represented a potential source of instability within Afghanistan. The prospect that takfiri camps and guest houses may be infiltrated by foreign spies and agents was of particular concern to the Taliban. By 1999, both bin Laden and Mullah ‘Umar had been exposed to assassination attempts inside Afghanistan. Domestic security concerns were probably one of the main reasons why the Taliban sought stricter control over the foreign fighter community and the influx of foreign volunteers. From the Taliban’s perspective, the foreign fighter community in Afghanistan represented a large spectrum of groups. At one end of the spectrum were the takfiris who rejected the Taliban regime on theological grounds. At the other end of the spectrum were individuals such as al-Suri who were loyal to the Taliban and their policies. It should be noted that al-Qaeda was at neither end of this spectrum. In fact, bin Laden was criticized by both the takfiris and the “loyalists” among the Arab fighters in Afghanistan. The takfiris criticized bin Laden because he recognized the Taliban regime and encouraged Arab fighters to fight at the Taliban’s fronts. The “loyalists,” on the other hand, criticized bin Laden for violating Mullah ‘Umar’s orders in favor of pursuing his own, internationally focused agenda. However, bin Laden was more influential than the individuals representing either end of the spectrum. This may explain why the Taliban were forced to turn to bin Laden’s organization, rather than “loyalists” such al-Suri, in order to get the Arab fighter community in Afghanistan under control. Empowering bin Laden’s organization was probably seen by the Taliban as the easiest way of solving internal conflicts among the Arabs, at a time when the Taliban themselves needed to focus their resources on the war with the Northern Alliance.

44 ISN #173 [Redouane Khalid], “Summarized Sworn Detainee Statement,” in “Testimony of Detainees Before the Combatant Status Review Tribunal,” Set 7, Department of Defense, www.pbs.org/now/shows/230/moazzam-begg.pdf, pp. 52–62; ISN #148, “Summarized Detainee Statement,” in “Testimony of Detainees Before the Combatant Status Review Tribunal,” Set 50, Department of Defense, www.pbs.org/now/shows/230/moazzam-begg.pdf, pp. 48–57; and ISN #659, “Summarized Detainee Statement,” in “Testimony of Detainees Before the Combatant Status Review Tribunal,” Set 51, Department of Defense, www.pbs.org/now/ shows/230/moazzam-begg.pdf, pp. 38–52. 45 ISN #509, “Summarized Sworn Detainee Statement,” in “Testimony of Detainees Before the Combatant Status Review Tribunal,” Department of Defense, Set 48, http://www.pbs.org/now/shows/230/moazzam-begg.pdf, pp. 11-18. 46 Thomas Hegghammer, Jihad in Saudi Arabia: Violence and pan-Islamism since 1979 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010), p. 125. 47 Yusuf al-‘Ayiri, al-mizan li-harakat taliban, E-book version (place unknown: Markaz al-Dirasat wa al-Buhuth al-Islamiyya, 2002), http://www.tawhed.ws/a?a=cfmaghvc, last accessed 29 February 2012. 48 Thomas Hegghammer, Violent Islamism in Saudi Arabia, 1979–2006 (PhD Thesis, Sciences-Po Paris, 2007), p. 281.


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Bin Laden’s Powerful Friends Lastly, this paper challenges another common assumption; namely, that bin Laden’s personal relationship to Mullah ‘Umar was of vital importance for the al-Qaeda-Taliban alliance. New sources indicate that their relationship was not so “close” as commonly assumed. 49 But bin Laden had other powerful friends in Afghanistan who may have influenced his standing within the Taliban. They included former mujahidin who had allied themselves with the Taliban in 1995-96, such as Jalaluddin Haqqani and Yunus Khalis, and influential Deobandi scholars across Afghanistan and Pakistan. After bin Laden returned to Afghanistan in May 1996, he actively sought to reactivate and consolidate his personal ties to these sheikhs and ulema (Islamic scholars). Bin Laden’s ties to the well-known regional power-holders, Haqqani and Khalis, in Eastern Afghanistan stretched back to the Afghan-Soviet war in the 1980s, when the Afghan-Arabs movement was based in Peshawar. In this period, bin Laden’s men were mainly active in the eastern Afghan provinces of Khost and Nangarhar. They set up bases and participated in battles against the Soviets, and provided material and logistical support to the mujahidin. Undoubtedly, there were local commanders in these areas who remembered and appreciated bin Laden’s previous support when he later returned to the country.50 While bin Laden allied himself with the Kandahar-based Taliban movement in 1996, he continued to have strong ties to old allies in eastern Afghanistan. Their ties were handy both for bin Laden and for the Taliban leadership in Kandahar. When the Taliban regime received threats from the U.S. administration, or rumors arose that bin Laden’s personal security was threatened, bin Laden simply moved out of the Taliban’s way. In early 1999 when bin Laden reportedly “disappeared” from Kandahar, several accounts held that he had retreated to his old stronghold in Jalalabad.51 History gives several examples that it was not Mullah ‘Umar, but the old battle comrades in eastern Afghanistan that bin Laden relied on in times of real trouble. There are indications that in the latter half of 2000, Sayf al-Adl was researching alternative safe havens for bin Laden in eastern Afghanistan.52 The point is further illustrated by the events that followed the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. The main escape routes of Arabs went through the provinces of Paktika and Nangarhar, which both border the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) of Pakistan.53 South Waziristan, which is adjacent to Paktika province, emerged as one of the most important strongholds of al-Qaeda after 2001. It was allegedly the same areas that had been considered as alternative safe havens for bin Laden in late 2000. The fact that bin Laden had powerful friends in Afghanistan strengthened his sanctuary there, as it put the Taliban government in a difficult position. If the Taliban expelled bin Laden, he might simply move somewhere else, and in the worst case join the Taliban’s enemies.54 Another concern was the internal stability of the Taliban’s military organization. Bin Laden received support not only from well-known commanders, such as Engineer Mahmoud and Khalis in Jalalabad, but there are 49 See, for example, Najwa bin Laden, Omar bin Laden and Jean Sasson, Growing up Bin Laden: Osama’s Wife and Son Take Us Inside Their Secret World (Oxford: Oneworld, 2009), pp. 244-248. 50 See, for example, Omar bin Laden’s description of Mullah Noorullah’s reception of bin Laden in Jalalabad in May 1996. N. bin Laden, O. bin Laden, and Sasson, Growing Up bin Laden, p. 151. 51 Muhammad Salah, “asbab amniyya wa mardiyya li-‘ihtijabihi’ wa zuhurihi murtaqab i‘lamiyyan. ibn Laden fi tora bora janub jalalabad,” Al-Hayat, 17 February 1999. 52 Muhammad, Al-harb ala al-Islam, pp. 424-425. 53 Anne Stenersen, “Al Qaeda’s Foot Soldiers: A Study of the Biographies of Foreign Fighters Killed in Afghanistan and Pakistan Between 2002 and 2006,” Studies in Conflict and Terrorism 34, No. 3 (March 2011), pp. 171-198. 54 Hamid Gul, the former head of Pakistan’s Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI), described the Taliban’s dilemma in an interview with The Islamic Emirate in August 2000. See “Jihad is the fundamental component of the Islamic awakening,” The Islamic Emirate, issue 2 (August 2000), p. 27.


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indications that he enjoyed sympathy from broader segments of the Taliban’s military power base as well. This may have placed pressure on Mullah ‘Umar. In early 2001, al-Hayat reported that “tens” of Taliban commanders had warned Mullah ‘Umar that if he surrendered bin Laden, they would lay down their weapons against the Northern Alliance.55 The number may seem insignificant; however, we do not know to which level of command these commanders belonged or the extent of the areas they controlled. As the Taliban was in the middle of a war, they were probably wary of any actions that might antagonize their field commanders and in the worst case, motivate them to join the enemy’s ranks. While former mujahidin leaders such as Khalis and Haqqani gave bin Laden support in the field of personal security, Afghan and Pakistani ulema played an equally important role as they supported the legitimacy of bin Laden’s political agenda. Perhaps the most important allies of bin Laden were the Pakistani ulema and political leaders: men with religious authority who could give legitimacy to bin Laden’s calls for jihad against the United States and political leaders who had large, popular appeal and could incite the Muslim masses to support bin Laden’s cause. Moreover, they were in a position to undermine those who opposed bin Laden and his agenda. Bin Laden sought the support of Pakistani ulema from an early stage of his campaign against the U.S. military presence in Saudi Arabia.56 The most prominent scholar who supported bin Laden was Mufti Nizamuddin Shamzai, the leader of Binori Town in Karachi.57 Shamzai supported the February 1998 fatwa in which bin Laden and three other militant leaders declared war on the United States. In November 1998, al-Hayat reported that bin Laden had sent a letter to Shamzai, praising the leader for his stance “supporting the Islamic right to confront the Crusaders and Jews.”58 Abu Jandal, bin Laden’s bodyguard, recalled that bin Laden’s fatwa was “supported by many scholars inside Afghanistan and Pakistan.”59 However, the Taliban regime refused to endorse the fatwa and even questioned its validity. Mufti Shamzai’s support was crucial, as it gave bin Laden’s political statements a veneer of religious legitimacy among the Deobandi networks in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Shamzai was highly respected by the Deobandi militant groups in Pakistan as well as the political party Jamiat-e-Ulema Islam (JUI). He was a patron and ideological leader of the Pakistani militant group Harakat ul-Mujahidin (HUM), originally formed in 1989 by Masood Azhar to fight in Kashmir. After 1999, Shamzai was allegedly a member of the Shura of the HUM splinter group, Jaysh-e-Muhammed, also led by Masood Azhar. Moreover, he was a member of the Shura of JUI, a Deobandi religious party led by Maulana Fazlur Rehman.60 These networks gave crucial ideological, but also financial and military support to the

55 Ahmad Muwaffaq Zaydan, “qada midaniyyun andharu taliban bi al-insihab idha sallamat ibn Laden,” Al-Hayat, 22 January 2001. 56 He received such support in both 1996, when he declared war on the United States forces in Saudi Arabia, and in 1998, when he declared war on Americans in general. In 1996 and 1997, Afghan and Pakistani scholars issued two separate fatwas calling for the ejection of Americans from the Arabian Peninsula. According to bin Laden, the fatwa issued by the Afghan scholars was the same fatwa that was issued by the Saudi scholars Sheikh Salman al-‘Awdah and Sheikh Safr al-Hawali, “eight years ago when these forces entered the country.” AQ-MCOP-D-000-919, “Various Statements of Osama bin Laden, Committee for Advice and Reform,” April 1994–May 1998, Conflict Records Research Center, Washington, D.C. 57 Mufti Nizamuddin Shamzai was a Pakistani scholar born in Swat in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, formerly known as the North-Western Frontier Province (NWFP), in northwestern Pakistan. In October 2001, Mufti Shamzai was one among several high-ranking religious leaders who issued fatwas declaring jihad against U.S. troops in Afghanistan. He was assassinated in 2004. 58 Ahmad Muwaffaq Zaydan, “Taliban: ahatat al-liqa’ bi-ajwa’ min al-takattum. ibn Laden istaqbal wafdan min ulama’ al-yaman,” al-Hayat, 30 November 1998. 59 Khalid Al-Hammadi, “musalsal tanzim al-qa‘ida … ala lisan abu jandal [Nasir al-Bahri],” Al-Quds al-‘Arabi, March 2005, http://paldf. net/forum/showthread.php?t=130244, part 3, last accessed 29 February 2012. 60 Khaled Ahmed, “The Great Banuri Town Seminary,” 25 February 2004, Sunni Forum, http://www.sunniforum.com/forum/ showthread.php?10176-Binori-Town-Ulema, last accessed 29 February 2012.


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Taliban.61 Bin Laden’s standing in these networks is likely to have influenced his relationship with the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. The historical roots of bin Laden’s relationships to the Pakistani ulema are somewhat unclear, but it appears that it was bin Laden who initiated the contact. Fadil Harun recalled bin Laden was actively reaching out to ulema in Pakistan to get religious support for his declarations of war against the United States. In late 1998: [Bin Laden] met with ulama from Sindh, India, and Afghanistan to issue the famous fatwa about the infidel forces in the Arabian Peninsula, and they issued fatwas stating that [the presence of U.S. forces in Saudi Arabia] was forbidden. The strongest supporter of the fatwa was the martyr shaykh, Mufti Shamzai Alim al-Sindh, in addition to ulama from Baluchistan.62 In his book The Exoneration from 2008, Zawahiri recalled bin Laden’s personal relationship with Shamzai. [Mufti Nizamuddin Shamzai] was a supporter of Shaykh Usama bin Ladin, may God preserve him and his friends. He visited him frequently in Kandahar and as a sign of his endorsement, signed the letter that Shaykh Usama issued with an introduction of his own under the title “Inciting the Nation to Jihad To Liberate the Kaaba and Al-Aqsa Mosque: A Message from the Muslim Ulema and the Leaders of Islamic Action.” The letter was signed by a large number of Pakistani ulema. [Shamzai] was influenced by Shaykh Usama’s call to liberate the Muslim countries from the crusader and Jewish military presence.63 Zawahiri asserts that Shamzai was influenced by bin Laden’s political ideas to such a degree that: ...after one of [Shamzai’s] meetings with Shaykh Usama, during which [Osama] showed him the distribution of crusader and Jewish forces on a map of the Islamic world, [Shamzai] gave a similar lecture in Islamabad to a number of politicians and opinionmakers explaining the same information on a similar map.64 The exact nature of their relations is hard to confirm. However, Shamzai continued to express his support for bin Laden in public. Another prominent, Pakistani scholar, who allegedly supported bin Laden’s 1998 fatwa, was Maulawi Abdullah, former head of the Lal Masjid madrasa in Islamabad. He was the father of Sheikh Abdul Rashid Ghazi, who was killed during the siege of Lal Masjid by Pakistani security forces in 2007 (an event that was strongly condemned by Zawahiri). According to Zawahiri: [Maulawi Abdullah] visited us in Kandahar with his son and a delegation of his school’s ulama and teachers and spent a whole day with us. One of them read a poem in Arabic in praise of Shaykh Osama, may God preserve him. The martyr Maulawi Abdullah loved and backed Shaykh Osama. [Afterwards, Shaykh Osama] asked him to gather the ulama’s

61 In addition to their ideological and moral support, the ulema networks in Pakistan also provided the Taliban with fighters. For example, one Harakat ul-Mujahidin militant said in December 2001 that he and his group had come to Afghanistan to fight for the Taliban because Mufti Rashid Ahmad [founder of al-Rashid Trust and head of Dar ul-Ulum wa al-Ifta in Karachi, Pakistan] had advised them to go. “HuM vows fight against India, Northern Alliance,” The Daily Excelsior, 17 December 2001, http://www.jammu-kashmir. com/archives/archives2001/kashmir20011217c.html, last accessed 29 February 2012. 62 Fadil Abdallah Muhammad, Al-harb ala al-islam: Qissat Fadil Harun (Place and publisher unknown, 2009), posted on Shabakat ansar al-mujahidin on 26 February 2009, http://www.as-ansar.com/vb/showthread.php?t=1463, p. 381, last accessed 29 February 2012. 63 Ayman al-Zawahiri, The Exoneration (Place and publisher unknown), English translation on file by author, courtesy Brynjar Lia, p. 49. 64 Ibid.


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signatures on a fatwa urging jihad against the Americans to drive them out of the Land of the Two Mosques, Palestine, and the rest of the Muslim countries. The Maulawi promised to do that.65 Bin Laden was well aware that the networks of religious clerics and madrasas in Pakistan were among the Taliban regime’s most important non-state supporters. These networks provided the Taliban with both religious legitimacy, and an almost inexhaustible pool of new recruits: taliban (religious students) from the many madrasas controlled by the clerical network, in addition to more seasoned fighters from the Pakistani militant groups that had been established in the 1990s. While bin Laden resided in Afghanistan under the Taliban, he skillfully exploited the internal dynamics of the Taliban movement in order to strengthen his sanctuary in Afghanistan.

Conclusion This paper has argued that the relationship between al-Qaeda and the Taliban cannot simply be explained in terms of mutual interest, ideological similar, or personal friendship. The Taliban’s policies toward al-Qaeda were influenced by the local and regional environment in which al-Qaeda was operating. Two aspects are of particular importance: Al-Qaeda’s role within the broader foreign fighter community in Afghanistan, and bin Laden’s historical and personal ties to key personalities within the Taliban’s local and regional support networks. Captured documents from Afghanistan, like those at the CRRC and posted by the CTC, shed new light on al-Qaeda’s military role in Afghanistan. Al-Qaeda’s fighters were in many cases a liability rather than an asset to the Taliban’s army. This strengthens the notion that the Taliban hosted foreign fighters in Afghanistan due to ideology, rather than expediency. On the other hand, ideology cannot fully explain the Taliban’s policies toward al-Qaeda. Over time, the Taliban favored some militant groups in Afghanistan while marginalizing others. In this process, al-Qaeda was empowered, but it was not due to a particular “ideological affinity” between al-Qaeda and the Taliban; rather, it was part of a larger effort by the Taliban to get the foreign fighter community in Afghanistan under control. In addition, bin Laden exploited the internal dynamics of the Taliban movement to strengthen his own standing within the Taliban. Bin Laden had powerful friends among eastern Afghan field commanders, and among politicians and ulema in Pakistan. He actively nurtured these ties after 1996, knowing that he could use them to put pressure on Mullah ‘Umar and the rest of the Taliban leadership. In sum, these findings may inform the current debate on the “War on Terror” and U.S. and NATO policies in Afghanistan. U.S. and NATO forces are planning to withdraw from Afghanistan by 2014 and the Afghan regime has stepped up its efforts at reaching a compromise solution with the Taliban, possibly allowing for the movement to return to power in one form or another in the future. In order to prevent Afghanistan from being a future base for terrorists, it is vital to understand the fundamental driving forces behind the Taliban’s past alliances to al-Qaeda.

65 Ibid., p. 51.


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The 80% Solution: The Defeat of bin Laden’s al-Qaeda and South Asian Security Dr. Thomas F. Lynch III1 National Defense University Introduction With the death of Osama bin Laden in May 2011, the United States and Western governments scored a major but still underappreciated victory in the nearly decade and a half war against al-Qaeda. Bin Laden’s death did not eliminate all of the features of al-Qaeda that make it dangerous as a factor in international terrorism. Its role in assisting local jihadi groups’ terrorist strikes and inspiring “lone wolf” would-be martyrs in tragic acts of violence will remain with us for many years to come. Yet the manner in which U.S. intelligence and military operatives found and eliminated bin Laden in Abbottabad, Pakistan was devastating to three of the five most critical features of al-Qaeda: »»Its legitimacy as a core group capable of choreographing truly catastrophic global terrorist events; »»Its “branding rights” as the ultimate victor should any of its loosely affiliated Salafi jihadi regional movements ever achieve success in a local insurgency; and, »»Its ability to claim victory — or even to reestablish a credible unfettered training area for global jihad — in the area most critical to its own mystical lore: Afghanistan and western Pakistan. Bin Laden’s demise also eroded the fourth and fifth elements of al-Qaeda’s essence — its role as a “vanguard” of a wider network of Sunni Salafi groups and its ability to serve as a key point of inspiration for the “lone wolf,” terrorists around the globe. As a consequence, the death of bin Laden has produced an 80% solution to the problems posed by this terrorist organization for Western policymakers. This 80% solution has globally important dimensions. Yet the most immediate implications matter to the trajectory of U.S. policy in South Asia. Bin Laden’s demise fundamentally alters the current framework of U.S. and Coalition strategy in Afghanistan and severely challenges the underpinnings of U.S. policy toward Pakistan. This paper will highlight the degree to which al-Qaeda’s relevance to South Asian security has diminished in the aftermath of bin Laden’s “martyrdom.” It will demonstrate that al-Qaeda’s receding relevance in Pakistan and Afghanistan requires different thinking — indeed different analytical priorities — from America and our allies. It will demonstrate why America’s counterinsurgency strategy for Afghanistan must become less focused on preventing any regeneration of safe haven for al-Qaeda and more focused upon arresting the prospect of an intensified proxy war in Afghanistan between Pakistan and India. It will demonstrate why U.S. policy with Pakistan must become less focused on the counterterrorism task of “demolishing” an al-Qaeda core leadership that save one individual — Ayman Zawahiri — is already broken. And, it will argue that U.S. policy must become more focused on simultaneous missions of slowly enabling a reluctant Pakistani military to improve its own internal counterinsurgency capacity while simultaneously enhancing social interactions

1 Dr. Thomas F. Lynch III is a Distinguished Research Fellow for South Asia and the Near East at the Center for Strategic Research, part of the National Defense University’s Institute for National Strategic Studies. The views expressed here are his own and do not reflect the official policy or position of the National Defense University, the Department of Defense, or the U.S. government.


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within Pakistan society and between Pakistanis and nearby cultures in India and across South Asia in a manner that can best arrest and then reverse the growing influence of jihadism now confronting Islamabad. It will also comment on the importance of the documents and records picked up at the bin Laden compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan during the May 2011 raid, arguing that many of these should be made available to outsider researchers as soon as possible, in the way that the Conflict Record Research Center (CRRC) makes earlier records available.

Defining the Essence of al-Qaeda Since at least 2003, scholars have understood al-Qaeda to consist of five critical dimensions: 2 »»A core organization dedicated to planning, recruiting, training and organizing catastrophic global terror events against American, Western, and Zionist crusaders, especially in their homelands; »»A vanguard for organizing and coordinating regionally-focused jihadi groups toward acts of violence against American and Zionist crusaders in the Muslim lands where their presence defiles Islam; »»An inspiration to disaffected individual Muslims worldwide to act on their frustrations with violence against the symbols of American and Zionist oppression of Islam; »»A brand name representing the ideology of successful violence against crusader governments and officials where the most senior leaders of the jihad enjoy impunity; and, »»The base for the inevitable conquest of Afghanistan (and western Pakistan) in the name of global jihad. One might reflect on the manner in which bin Laden’s death impacts this essence. While it affects each element, it is the core, brand name, and base for the inevitable Afghanistan conquest where bin Laden’s passing is most significant. These specific impacts require a thorough revisit of American counterinsurgency and counterterrorism strategy for South Asia.

The Death of bin Laden and al-Qaeda’s Vanguard Role with Regional Jihadi Groups Bin Laden’s death seems unlikely to have immediate impact on the activity of the many Salafi jihadi networks in Muslim countries. Most of these have been in decline since 2002. So too has the capability of Salafi jihadi groups on the periphery to contribute to al­- Qaeda’s aim to inflict catastrophic global terror on its enemies. In the past decade, important groups from Indonesia to the Philippines and Saudi Arabia have lost their leadership and seen an end to unfettered access to alQaeda’s training camps for catastrophic global terrorism that once infested eastern Afghanistan and western Pakistan. Gone are the days of the late 1990s and early 2000s when those al-Qaeda affiliates were carrying out sophisticated domestic and international terror attacks. The al-Qaeda affiliate in Yemen (al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula or AQAP) appears to be the only major exception. It seems to be capable of preparing attacks with global import, though it cannot always carry them out successfully.3 2 Among the early works best defining the true nature of al-Qaeda and the policy implications is Defeating the Jihadists: A Blueprint for Action, The Century Foundation, 2004. The Century Foundation task force responsible for this report referred to al-Qaeda’s three critical elements in a construct of nested concentric circles. The small, interior “core” circle as the core group of al-Qaeda’s vanguard with some 200-4,000 people; the next, affiliated Salafi jihadi movements circle with an estimated 50,000 to 200,000 people; and the third ring featuring Muslim sympathizers to the al-Qaeda message of jihad against those perceived as oppressing Muslims of some 200-400 million all nested in the wider world of 1.8 billion Muslims. See especially pp. 14-20. 3 Here see the insightful characterization of the failed, AQAP generated “underwear bomber” (or “jihadi jockstrap”) plot by Nigerian Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab against a Detroit bound airliner in December 2009 by Daniel Byman and Christine Fair in “The Case for Calling them Nitwits,” The Atlantic (July/August 2010), http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2010/07/the-case-for-calling-themnitwits/8130/, last accessed 29 February 2012.


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Some of what has been made available in the public domain from the haul of documents found in the bin Laden Abbottabad compound seems to reinforce the difficulty experienced by al-Qaeda’s core leadership in cajoling regional Salafi jihadi groups toward participating in international terrorist activity. Information found in the compound shows bin Laden himself as having been heavily focused on corralling and redirecting fragile relationships with regional and national jihadi groups more oriented on their own local agendas than on that emanating from al-Qaeda. 4 Instead, al-Qaeda’s greatest prospect for successful terrorism today — and into the foreseeable future — rests with the violence promulgated by those in Salafi jihadi regional and national-level networks. A recent review of the major international terrorism plots in 2010 revealed that three of the 20 recorded against all Western nations and two of the six against America originated with regional “franchise” groups (see Appendix A). Compared to the aspirations of al-Qaeda’s core plots in earlier years, these paled in ambition and potential consequence — one underwear bomber in a single airplane and two bombs placed in ink cartridges in a cargo aircraft pale as plots of significance versus a half dozen simultaneous airliner explosions or a massive bomb blast geared to collapse a major bridge or tunnel during an urban center rush hour. In addition, these networks may be al-Qaeda inspired or aligned in ideological view, but few if any have been directly linked to al-Qaeda in terms of interactive planning or operational direction. Those with similar ideologies are most concentrated today in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region, Yemen, and Somalia.5 This is a far cry from the extensive networking between groups in 2000-2001 with both regional and global terror aspirations that had critical nodes in locations stretching through an arc from the Philippines, Indonesia, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and the Sudan. The formal linkages between these groups waned long before bin Laden’s death. Yet without direct interaction with al-Qaeda’s longstanding hierarchy, none have pursued catastrophic terrorist actions against Western targets as a first priority. There is evidence that Tehrik-i-Taliban-Pakistan (TTiP) promised to attack American targets as revenge for American targeting of its leadership — notably Baitullah Meshud who was killed in a western Pakistan explosion in 2009;6 evidence that the peculiar combination of Guantanamo Bay (GTMO) alumni al-Qaeda leaders and Anwar al-Alawki have undertaken amateurish (and far from catastrophic) failed efforts. All have been a far cry from the bone chilling professionalism seen in al-Qaeda plots during the late 1990s and early 2000s.7

4 See Mark Mazzetti and Scott Shane, “Data Show Bin Laden Plots; C.I.A. Hid Near Raided House,” The New York Times, 5 May 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/06/world/asia/06intel.html, and “Secrets of the squalid lair: Bin Laden WAS still directing Al Qaeda terror attacks up until his death, claims U.S.,” Mail Online [UK], 8 May 2011, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1384596/ Osama-bin-Laden-directing-al-Qaeda-operations-right-death.html. Also see reference to bin Laden’s critical role in directing al-Qaeda’s international operations and strategy in “Statement by the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency David H. Petraeus to Congress on the Terrorist Threat Ten Years After 9/11,” Central Intelligence Agency, 13 September 2011, https://www.cia.gov/ news-information/speeches-testimony/speeches-testimony-archive-2011/statement-on-the-terrorist-threat-after-9-11.html, last accessed 2 March 2012. 5 For a detailed discussion of the names and anti-Saudi motives of the key members of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), see Christopher Boucek, Carnegie Guide to the Saudi Eleven, http://carnegieendowment.org/2011/09/07/carnegie-guide-to-saudieleven/519s, last accessed 7 September 2011. 6 It is now widely understood that this revenge motive inspired the documented interaction between failed May 2010 Times Square bomber Faizal Shazad and some members of TTiP near Peshawar in western Pakistan sometime in late 2009. His limited time there, however, wasn’t enough to get him beyond construction of a crudely assembled bomb and quickly fizzled plot. Also see Byman and Fair. 7 Again, see Byman and Fair in “The Case for Calling them Nitwits.”


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The Death of bin Laden and al-Qaeda’s Role Inspiring Disaffected Muslim Individuals Long before the death of bin Laden, al-Qaeda and other jihadist groups worked to inspire covert operatives and aspiring jihadist “grassroots” operatives or “lone wolves” like Fort Hood shooter Nidal Hasan. This trend has been increasing and is likely to continue without bin Laden. His persona was generally supportive of, but not a catalyst to, Salafi jihadi radicalization of individual or small groups toward violence in non-Muslim countries. In 2010, this type of Salafi jihadi-incited “grassroots” terrorism accounted for 15 of the 20 major events or plots recorded (see Appendix A). Al-Qaeda’s role encouraging this kind of Salafi jihadi inspiration to terror has a long history despite the fact that it was not directly involved in these specific plots. The growing prevalence of wider Salafi jihadi mass and social media cites inciting “lone wolf” or “grassroots” terrorism is both a bad news and good news story. The bad news is that grassroots operatives can be hard to identify, especially if they operate alone. The good news is two-fold. First, their activities tend to be sporadic.8 Second, these small groups and individuals tend to be far less capable than well-trained, more “professional” terrorist operatives. This means they are more likely to make critical mistakes that will allow their attacks to be detected and thwarted. Phrased in a slightly different manner by Daniel Byman and Christine Fair: The difference between a sophisticated killer like Mohamed Atta and so many of his hapless successors lies in training and inherent aptitude. Atta spent months learning his trade in Afghanistan and had the help of al-Qaeda’s senior leadership — a fact that underscores the importance of rooting out al-Qaeda havens in Pakistan.9 The ascendance of “grassroots” terrorism as a main threat from Islamist militants poses a major intellectual challenge to risk-averse policymakers. This was true before bin Laden’s death, but is more evident now. The policymaking challenge is that some terrorist attacks must eventually succeed. Terrorism is a tactic; so, as long as the ideology of jihadism with its emphasis on violent acts survives, its adherents will pose a threat. But when these “attacks” devolve to relatively simple ones that look a lot like non-Islamic attacks by deranged individuals rather than those of a far more complex and spectacular 9/11-style operation, do they constitute a casus belli for expansive bureaucracies, extended encroachment on civil liberties, and lavish expense? If the public will recognize that terrorist attacks are part of the human condition like cancer or hurricanes, it can take steps to deny the practitioners of terrorism the ability to terrorize.10

The Death of bin Laden and al-Qaeda’s Core Organization for Catastrophic Global Terror The influence of bin Laden and Zawahiri on al-Qaeda’s “core” and “branding” functions stand in stark contrast to the immediate impact from his death in the al-Qaeda “vanguard” and “inspiration” roles. Al-Qaeda’s core organization as a catastrophic and globally-focused Salafi jihadist terrorist entity owed entirely to the mid-1990s combination of bin Laden’s inspiration and Arab financial connections in combination with Zawahiri’s cadre of well-practiced and capable Egyptian and Libyan terror veterans from the group known as Egyptian Islamic Jihad (EIJ). This combination led to the rapid ascent of an organization capable of planning, funding, training, and launching truly catastrophic global terror events.

8 Dennis C. Blair, Annual Threat Assessment of the US Intelligence Community’, Testimony before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, February 2, 2010, http://www.dni.gov/testimonies/20100202_testimony.pdf, p. 12, last accessed 29 February 2012. 9 See Byman and Fair, “The Case for Calling Them Nitwits.” 10 Scott Stewart, “Why al-Qaeda is Unlikely to Execute Another 9/11,” STRATFOR, 1 September 2011, http://finance.townhall.com/ columnists/stewartscott/2011/09/03/why_al_qaeda_is_unlikely_to_execute_another_911/page/full/, last accessed 29 February 2012.


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The efforts of the U.S. government and its allies against the core al-Qaeda group since late 2008 have left it badly damaged and have greatly curtailed its ability to conduct transnational attacks. Al-Qaeda’s core has been marginalized on the physical battlefield for a couple of years. Bin Laden’s critical role in hatching plots, attracting financial support, and inciting catastrophic global terror activities was not easy to detect during recent years. Nevertheless, early insights from the material taken from Abbottabad indicate that bin Laden was vital in this role until the very end — albeit with severely limited payoff.11 Bin Laden’s death puts al-Qaeda’s core group firmly on the ropes. His demise pushes its central organization past the “tipping point” cogently summarized by former U.S. Director of National Intelligence (DNI), Dennis Blair, in early 2010: Counterterrorism efforts against al-Qa’ida have put the organization in one of its most difficult positions since the early days of Operation Enduring Freedom in late 2001. However, while these efforts have slowed the pace of anti-US planning and hindered progress on new external operations, they have not been sufficient to stop them….We assess that at least until Usama Bin Ladin and Ayman al-Zawahiri are dead or captured, al-Qa’ida will retain its resolute intent to strike the Homeland. We assess that until counterterrorism pressure on al-Qa’ida’s place of refuge, key lieutenants, and operative cadre outpaces the group’s ability to recover, al-Qa’ida will retain its capability to mount an attack.12 Proof of this downward al-Qaeda trend was evident throughout the year that began with DNI Blair’s testimony. Only one of the 20 major terrorist plots against American and Western targets in 2010 traced back to al-Qaeda’s core leadership in western Pakistan (see Appendix A). Preliminary indications are that this 2010 trend held true for 2011. Save for Zawahiri, none of al-Qaeda’s central group poses a credible possibility to re-build the group’s core mission as the pre-eminent international terrorist threat.13 What is left of the core group simply does not have the operational capability in terms of international travel and the ability to transfer money that it had prior to the 9/11 attacks. Al-Qaeda has been doing its utmost to attack the United States and has not pulled any punches. But it failed repeatedly before the Abbottabad raid and should be expected to fail consistently now that bin Laden is dead. Even as al-Qaeda’s leadership continues to project an image of being in control, its operatives in Pakistan resemble a driver holding a steering wheel that is no longer attached to the car.14

The Death of bin Laden and al-Qaeda’s Brand Name Resonance Al-Qaeda’s brand name resonance since 9/11 has emanated from two critical factors — both of which have withered badly. 11 For discussion of this emerging evidence, see “Secrets of the squalid lair: bin Laden WAS still directing Al-Qaeda terror attacks up until his death, claims U.S.,” Mail Online [UK], 8 May 2011, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1384596/Osama-bin-Ladendirecting-al-Qaeda-operations-right-death.html, last accessed 29 February 2012; and, “7/7 London bombings ‘were Osama bin Laden’s last successful operation,’” The Guardian [UK], 13 July 2011, http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2011/jul/13/7-july-bin-laden-lastoperation, last accessed 29 February 2012. 12 Dennis C. Blair, Annual Threat Assessment of the US Intelligence Community, Testimony before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (2010), p. 9. 13 For this reason, I think it justifiable to agree with the thrust of the recent assertion by Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence, Michael Vickers that “…there are perhaps four important al-Qaeda leaders left in Pakistan, and 10 to 20 leaders over all in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia,” while simultaneously questioning as a bit overly cautious his conclusion that, “Even if the United States kills them all in drone strikes…You still have Al Qaeda, the idea… You’re never going to eradicate that, but you want to take away their ability to be this global threat,” he said. “So yes, it is possible. It will take [more].” Vickers as quoted in Elisabeth Bumiller, “Soldier, Thinker, Hunter, Spy: Drawing a Bead on al Qaeda, New York Times, 3 September 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/04/ world/04vickers.html?_r=1&ref=elisabethbumiller, last accessed 29 February 2012. 14 This image drawn from Mark Mazzetti, “Al Qaeda Affiliates Growing Independent, The New York Times, 29 August 2011, http:// www.nytimes.com/2011/08/30/world/asia/30qaeda.html?_r=1&ref=osamabinladen, last accessed 29 February 2012.


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First, al-Qaeda’s ability to plan and execute a spectacular strike against targets on American soil gave its core leadership iconic status. The spectacular nature and setting of the 9/11 strike set al-Qaeda’s core apart from the many regionally based and focused Sunni jihadi organizations. From 2002 to 2005, al-Qaeda operatives planned, executed, or claimed credit for spectacular strikes against Western targets in Bali, Madrid, and London. Yet its run of truly spectacular successes against the “far enemy” subsequently stagnated. Foiled strikes against Heathrow originating airliners in 2006, U.S. military bases in Germany in 2007, New York bridges in 2009, and Denmark landmarks in 2010 — each of which originated with al-Qaeda’s central cell in western Pakistan — diminished alQaeda’s predominance in executing its chief calling card. Subsequent international media attention to planned (and often failed) acts of international terrorism sponsored by regional Salafi jihadi groups from Yemen and Somalia have further eroded the exclusivity of al-Qaeda’s branding on spectacular international terrorism — the kind posing a true strategic threat. Al-Qaeda has remained resonant despite this declining capacity for spectacular strikes against American and Western nations due to the survivability of bin Laden (and to a lesser extent Zawahiri) in the face of an intense global man-hunt — adding a character of impunity to the al-Qaeda brand. After almost a decade, bin Laden seemed beyond the reach of the vast might of Western intelligence and military organizations — much to the delight of a generation of Muslims who had grown weary of the violence bin Laden’s acolytes sponsored against them, but admired his resilience. The mystique of al-Qaeda core impunity came to a crashing end on 2 May 2011. The swiftness and the finality of bin Laden’s demise reverberated sharply across the Muslim world. Denials and conspiracy theories remain — and will remain — the staple of many skeptics. But for most of his longtime admirers, bin Laden’s dramatic and complete end exploded the myth of invincibility and impunity.

The Death of bin Laden and al-Qaeda’s Base for the Inevitable Conquest of Afghanistan Longstanding tensions and points of divergence between the Afghan Taliban and al-Qaeda’s core leadership were papered over by the personal history between bin Laden and key Afghan Taliban figures and the mystical history attached by bin Laden to Afghanistan as the cradle for an Islamic Emirate-cum-Caliphate.15 Discussed by regional experts and Taliban chroniclers for over a decade, including by bin Laden’s Pakistani biographer Hamid Mir,16 the policy relevance of these fissures was constrained by two factors. First, deposed Emir Mullah ‘Umar steadfastly refused to renounce ties to bin Laden or al-Qaeda’s vision of global jihad. Second, bin Laden remained at large with a hyperinflated aura of invincibility and an intact bay’a (personal oath) to Mullah ‘Umar.17 For these reasons, bin Laden was uniquely critical to aligning an Afghan Taliban movement mostly focused on its nationalist agenda with his al-Qaeda focus on a globally oriented jihad. With bin Laden’s death, the glue papering over these fissures is gone. His bay’a to Mullah ‘Umar has no analog with Zawahiri or the cohort of Egyptians and Libyans at the helm of al-Qaeda’s remaining core elements in Pakistan. It has absolutely no relevance to al-Qaeda major leaders elsewhere around the globe. Bin Laden’s longstanding ties to the late Yunis Khalis and Jalullidin Haqqani are now totally

15 See Michael Semple, “Osama bin Laden’s death gives peace a chance in Afghanistan,” The Guardian, 7 May 2011, http://www. guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/may/07/osama-bin-laden-death-peace-afghanistan, last accessed 29 February 2012. 16 See Bergen’s account of Hamid Mir on the tense relations between many in the Afghan Taliban and bin Laden. Peter L. Bergen, The Osama bin Laden I Know (New York: Free Press, 2006), p. 236. 17 A bay’a is a powerful construct in Islam where one person swears an oath to render obedience to another. This oath connotes the swearing party’s acceptance of Allah’s appointment of that recipient person’s presence as a Devine representative on earth. Against the advice of some of his senior lieutenants, including Zawahiri, bin Laden swore such an oath to Mullah ‘Umar in the late 1990s.


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severed in the aftermath of Abbattobad.18 Thus, the Haqqani network’s role in facilitating al-Qaeda global propaganda that went counter to Mullah ‘Umar’s country-focused jihad (and angered ‘Umar) is fundamentally altered. The Haqqanis need now, more than ever, to adhere to the wishes of the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence Agency (ISI) that they not be engaged in activities construed as global jihad. Al-Qaeda may continue to drape itself in the Taliban flag and proclaim allegiance to Mullah ‘Umar, but with bin Laden’s death the Afghan Taliban faces one stark certainty: while it shares an ideological credo with al-Qaeda, it remains strategically dependent on all manner of support for its insurgency from Pakistan. Mullah ‘Umar, Haqqani, and even Gulbiddin Hekmatyar (another long-time Afghan Taliban faction leader), must calculate their futures based upon this dominant reality. As they do, al-Qaeda’s ability to claim ultimate credit for a defeat of the United States in Afghanistan or any important role in successes the Afghan Taliban yet may have in carving out political space in Afghanistan will wither rapidly. More importantly, so too will the risk that a serious safe haven for al-Qaeda plotting and training catastrophic global terror can return to Afghanistan.19 Absent the onset of a stark proxy war between India and Pakistan in Afghanistan, Pakistan’s military and intelligence leadership will have no interest in seeing al-Qaeda’s brand of international jihadism again set up a shop from which to wage a campaign of catastrophic international terrorism and will utilize the tools at their disposal to constrain this possibility.

Reassessing al-Qaeda in South Asia in the Context of Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India The post-May 2011 circumstances in South Asia are fundamentally different than the one at the middle of the last decade — a time when far too many U.S. Government officials prematurely declared that alQaeda was dead or on the road to termination. 20 From 2005-2008 al-Qaeda’s core operations were on the rebound. Al-Qaeda’s core had unfettered sanctuary in Pakistan’s western frontier, where a critical mass of its main surviving pre-9/11 alumni had gathered and were actively plotting, training, and sending off

18 For a discussion of Yunis Khalis, leader of the Hezbi-e-Islami-Khalis; his patriarchal control of mujahidin and Taliban factions in North Waziristan, Paktia, Paktika, and Khost provinces from the early 1980s to his death in 2006; his mentor role with Mullah ‘Umar during the anti-Soviet mujahidin fight; and, his featured role in facilitating bin Laden’s return to Afghanistan in 1996 and enabling many of bin Laden’s major moments in pre-9/11 global jihad, see Bergen, The Osama bin Laden I Know, pp. 105, 158-159; Steve Coll, Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and bin Laden, From the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001 (New York: Penguin Press, 2004); and Vahid Brown and Don Rassler, “The Haqqani Nexus and the Evolution of al-Qa’ida,” Combating Terrorism Center, 13 July 2011, http://www.ctc.usma.edu/ posts/the-haqqani-nexus-and-the-evolution-of-al-qaida, pp. 14-17, last accessed 2 March 2012. For Yunis Khalis’ important personal role in calling for jihad against U.S.-led foreign forces in Afghanistan in October 2003, see Michael Scheuer, Imperial Hubris: Why the West in Losing the War on Terror (Dulles, Virginia: Brasseys: 2004), p. 45. The reader will note that I take issue with Brown and Rassler’s conclusion about the dangers of the Haqqani Group’s role in global jihad. While their paper makes a strong case for the relative importance of Yunis Khalis and Jalullidin Haqqani in facilitating bin Laden’s global terror agenda when compared to the role of Mullah ‘Umar or Gulbiddin Hekmatyar, it does not account for three important factors that matter to Western policy moving forward: (1) Neither Khalis or Haqqani ever personally endorsed bin Laden’s “far enemy” priorities for jihad; (2) Khalis’ death cut the most personal ties with bin Laden and bin Laden’s death severs the ties with Haqqani; and, most importantly, (3) the Haqqani Group’s parallel but increasing reliance as a favorite irregular militia group for use by Pakistani ISI against Indian interests in Afghanistan is of exceedingly increasing importance to the resilience and capability of the Haqqanis and critically constrains the degree to which Haqqani leadership can or would actively support, much less assertively practice, acts of international terrorism that would be of grave concern to Pakistani handlers. 19 In the aftermath of bin Laden’s death, I now share the assessment made by Vahid Brown in a piece he wrote a year before bin Laden’s demise. See Brown, “The Facade of Allegiance: Bin Ladin’s Dubious Pledge to Mullah Omar,” Combating Terrorism Center, 13 January 2010, p. 1, http://www.ctc.usma.edu/posts/the-facade-of-allegiance-bin-ladin%E2%80%99s-dubious-pledge-to-mullah-omar, last accessed 2 March 2012. 20 See the relevant cautions thrown out in early 2008 by Daveed Gartenstein-Ross and Kyle Dabruzzi in “Is Al-Qaeda’s Central Leadership Still Relevant?” Middle East Quarterly, Spring 2008, pp. 27-36, http://www.meforum.org/1875/is-al-qaedas-central-leadershipstill-relevant; and, the degree to which more focused, deliberate intelligence was exploding the myth of al-Qaeda core irrelevance based upon its ongoing activities in western Pakistan and leading U.S. intelligence officials like Admiral Michael McConnell (DNI) and General Michael V. Hayden (CIA Director) to testify to that effect at Mark Mazzetti, “Intelligence Chief Cites Qaeda Threat to U.S.,” The New York Times, 6 February 2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/06/washington/06intel.html?n=Top/Reference/Times%20Topics/ People/M/McConnell,%20John%20Michael?ref=johnmichaelmcconnell, last accessed 29 February 2012.


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operatives for spectacular attacks in Germany, the United Kingdom, and the United States. 21 Bin Laden’s reputation as an untouchable escape artist remained intact. It took the focused attention of U.S. military and intelligence organizations from late 2008 through 2011 to arrest these negative trends and to establish a serious network of agents and operatives necessary to severely attrit al-Qaeda’s key core elements in western Pakistan and kill bin Laden. This critical counterterrorism victory has unmasked longstanding, but largely ignored, challenges in South Asian security and Afghanistan instability that are require far more focused American policymaking attention.

The Ideology of Jihad, Irregular Formations, and Proxy War in South Asian Security Bin Laden’s demise is the “80% solution” to the challenges from catastrophic global terrorism and is the critical element in disentangling al-Qaeda’s core’s catastrophic global terrorism aims from those of the Afghan Taliban insurgency. The regional dynamics of the Afghan Taliban insurgency and metastasizing Islamist radicalism in Pakistan remain pervasively at work and are now more important than ever. As they have for over thirty years, Pakistan’s intelligence services — especially the ISI — retain a critical if far from omnipotent role in guiding the multiple factions of the Afghan Taliban insurgency. Pakistan’s aims in sponsoring the Afghan Taliban do not align completely, and have never aligned, with those of the Taliban itself. First and foremost, Pakistan aims to neuter Indian influence in Afghanistan and blunt what Islamabad fears would be hegemonic encirclement by New Delhi in league with the government of Kabul. Pakistani military and intelligence services view the Afghan Taliban as the most effective agents to secure this objective, with some components of it like the Haqqani Network as having conspicuous talent in neutralizing Indian agents and activities in Afghanistan. Pakistan also seeks to ensure that militant Pashtun groups do not coalesce around a vision for “greater Pashtunistan” that would threaten a move toward autonomy in almost 50% of Pakistani territory where Pashtuns constitute the majority ethnic group. With bin Laden dead and the critical mass of the al-Qaeda core in western Pakistan eliminated or severely compromised, the essential dynamics of the Afghanistan war are those with regional rather than international import. Fundamentally, the war in Afghanistan is an Indo-Pakistan proxy war in which NATO is a bit player. America’s ability to help wind down the violence will be compromised without a sober evaluation of how its enhanced diplomatic and reduced military presence can dampen prospects for a war between India and Pakistan — two nuclear armed states that have fought a series of wars since 1947. From Pakistan’s perspective, Afghanistan under President Karzai has unfairly favored India. Islamabad believes that India has established increasing effective political and economic influence in its neighbor to the west by leveraging American naiveté, non-Pashtun northern Afghan ethnic group historic hatred of Pakistan, and economic assistance amounting to some $1.4 billion, with another $500 million promised. 22 Pakistani suspicions grow despite the fact that less than 3,600 Indians live or work in Afghanistan; almost all of them are businessmen and contract workers. Yet the horror of being squeezed in an Indian nutcracker has led the Pakistan’s intelligence services to persist in

21 For a summary of these plots and a reminder of the degree to which U.S. hyperbole about the imminent demise of al-Qaeda’s core was exposed as false by this confluence, see Daveed Gartenstein-Ross. “Al-Qaeda on the Brink: The Intelligence Assessments have Been Wrong Before,” National Review Online, 28 July 2011, http://www.nationalreview.com/articles/272920/al-qaeda-brinkdaveed-gartenstein-ross, last accessed 29 February 2012. 22 See Nabizada, “$500m Indian Aid to Afghanistan,” Khaama Press, 13 May 2011, http://www.khaama.com/500m-indian-aid-toafghanistan, last accessed 29 February 2012.


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keeping the Afghan Taliban in play as a Pakistani security proxy — with Taliban leadership under the watchful eye of ISI operatives across western Pakistan. 23 The degree of ISI influence over these Afghan Taliban groups has long been suspected, but it became increasingly clear in the past couple of years. Important 2010 reports by Matt Waldman at the Carr Human Rights Center at Harvard University, Anand Gopal, Mansur Khan Mahsud and Brian Fishman at the New America Foundation (NAF), and Jeffrey Dressler the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) chronicled these intimate relationships in some detail. 24 Waldman’s work, based upon his interviews with ten mid-level Taliban commanders from south and east Afghanistan, established that Afghan Taliban mid-level commanders understood the role of Pakistan’s ISI as indispensable to their insurgency. 25 One Taliban commander explained why this pervasive role was not more widely known by outsiders: Every commander knows about the involvement of the ISI in the leadership but we do not discuss it because we do not trust each other, and they are much stronger than us. They are afraid that if they say anything against the Taliban or ISI it would be reported to the higher ranks — and they may be removed or assassinated...Everyone sees the sun in the sky but cannot say it is the sun. The leadership of the ISI is in the hands of the Taliban…or we would not be able to meet in Pakistan. 26 The NAF work by Gopal and co-authors along with that by ISW’s Dressler established the especially important role of the Haqqani network in advancing Pakistani interests against Indian “agents and provocateurs in Afghanistan,” establishing the Haqqani Network as among the most favored insurgent militias among those that support Pakistani security aims in Afghanistan. 27 This is not to suggest that Afghan Taliban leaders do not resent ISI manipulation. Waldman’s interviews confirm reports by Michael Semple and others with contacts in the Afghan Taliban that its leadership deeply resents ISI pressure. 28 Largely, this is because Pakistan’s second critical security aim in managing Afghan insurgent groups is to constrain Taliban abilities to affect an independent “Pashtunistan” or a “greater Afghanistan” that could usurp Pakistani territory west of the Indus River — endangering the very construct of Pakistan since 1971. Here, Pakistani management techniques exploit Taliban fissures and favor those Pashtun sub-groups deemed less likely to pursue agendas contrary to Pakistani security interests. ISI managers have a record of bias against Afghanistan’s southern Popalzai Durrani sub-tribes due to their history of support for the idea of “Pashtunistan” as well as the fact that President Karzai is a Popalzai. Longtime Quetta Shura member Mullah Berader, a Popalzai, was picked-up by Pakistan security services in early 2010 when rumors of his outreach to President Karzai began to circulate. Berader remains under house arrest. Conversely, a competing Pashtun tribe, the Panjpai Durrani, has benefitted from ISI preferences. One of its sub-tribes, the Alizai, has gained significantly during Berader’s forced absence. Two of the Alizai number — Mullah Zakir and Mullah Raof — have been rising in prominence within the Afghan 23 See Blair, Annual Threat Assessment of the US Intelligence Community’, Testimony before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (2010), p.19; and William Dalrymple, “Why the Taliban are wining in Afghanistan,” The New Statesman [UK], 22 June 2010, http://www.newstatesman.com/international-politics/2010/06/british-afghanistan-government, last accessed 29 February 2012. 24 See Matthew Waldman, The Sun in the Sky: The Relationship Between Pakistan’s ISI and Afghan Insurgents, Crisis States Research Centre Discussion Papers — London School of Economics, June 2010; Anand Gopal, Mansur Khan Mahsud, and Brian Fishman, The Battle for Pakistan: Militancy and Conflict in North Waziristan (Washington, D.C.: New American Foundation, April 2010); and, Jeffrey Dressler, The Haqqani Network: From Pakistan to Afghanistan — Afghanistan Report 6 (Washington, D.C.: Institute for the Study of War, 2010). 25 Waldman, The Sun in the Sky, p. 4. 26 Ibid., p. 6. 27 See Gopal et. al, Militancy and Conflict in North Waziristan, pp. 12-13; and Dressler, The Haqqani Network, pp. 33-35. 28 See Michael Semple, “Pakistan and Afghanistan: Interdependent, Distrustful Neighbors,” The Guardian Online, 24 July 2010, http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/jul/27/history-distrust-overcome, last accessed 29 February 2012.


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Taliban since Berader’s departure. Increasing Panjpai Durrani representation on the Taliban Shura helps to strengthen the authority of the Taliban movement, given Afghanistan’s long tradition of Durrani rulers, and gives Pakistan more leverage in any possible Afghanistan peace negotiations. 29 Pakistan’s intelligence services also have a reputation for favoritism toward the Haqqani Network. Waldman’s interviews with Haqqani leaders apprehended in Afghanistan in 2009 indicated that all had been trained by the ISI, claiming that, “The ISI is hard to recognise; we could tell, but we kept it secret.”30 An increasing body of evidence confirms that while Pakistan’s ISI remains active with a constellation of Pashtun militants and Afghan Taliban groups astride eastern and northeastern Afghanistan, the ISI has designated the Haqqani Network as a preferred “strategic asset,” affording its operatives special assistance.31 The network has moved beyond its reputation for local antigovernment operations in the Paktia, Paktika, and Khowst provinces of eastern Afghanistan to successful high-profile strikes like the July 2008 and October 2009 attacks on the Indian Embassy compound in Kabul, coordination of the September 2011 suicide truck bombing in Wardak province that killed five Afghan civilians and injured 77 U.S. military personnel, another strike that month in Kabul that included a 20-hour commando-style attack on International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) headquarters and the U.S. Embassy, and a suicide car bombing in the capital in October that killed 13 U.S. personnel.32 Thus, while it is important to understand that Taliban commanders say the only people they hate more than Americans are ISI members, one must keep this information in context. The key role played by Afghan militants in Pakistan’s security strategy for Afghanistan and the essential role played by ISI and parts of the Pakistani military in sustaining Afghan Taliban groups as Pakistan’s proxy against India in Afghanistan makes it clear that real military progress against the Afghan insurgency, or political engagement with it, requires Pakistani support. Understood since the death of bin Laden, the war in Afghanistan — which has long been viewed by American leaders as a struggle to empower a government in Kabul that could resist any return of al-Qaeda’s core group of global jihadis — is best reconsidered as it has always been viewed in Afghan, Pakistani, and Indian circles: a Pakistani-supported Pashtun rebellion against a Tajik, Uzbek, and Hazara-dominated regime with links to New Delhi and Tehran, which has only a fig leaf of Pashtun window-dressing in the person of Karzai, who is mistrusted in Pakistan as too cozy with India. Bin Laden’s departure from the South Asian scene must encourage a sober American and Afghan coalition revisit of its presence in context of the narrative that matters most in the region. In this narrative, American and Western forces are seen as taking sides since 2001 in a regional proxy war between 29 See Waldman, The Sun in the Sky, p. 10. For additional evidence of Pakistani ISI mistrust of the Durrani Pashtuns of Afghanistan, see the discussion of ISI preferences in the 1990s found in Coll, Ghost Wars, pp. 280-282. 30 Waldman, The Sun in the Sky, p. 10. Again, Waldman’s interviews corroborated longstanding Pakistani ISI Pashtun sub-tribal preferences dating back decades. For a discussion of Pakistani military and intelligence special care and feeding of the madrassa Haqqania that began during the anti-Soviet jihad in Afghanistan and got another boost during the mid-1990s, see Coll, Ghost Wars, pp. 284-285. 31 See the discussion of then-Pakistani President Musharraf’s reference to Jallauddin Haqqani as a “strategic asset,” in Catherine Philp, “Pervez Musharraf was Playing a ‘Double Game’ with U.S.,” The Times [London], 17 February 2009. 32 For a review of these Haqqani Network attacks, see Bill Roggio, “Suicide Attack Kills 17 Outside Indian Embassy in Kabul,” The Long War Journal, 8 October 8 2009, http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2009/10/suicide_attack_kills_2.php, last accessed 29 February 2012; David Alexander, “Haqqani Network behind Afghan truck blast: Pentagon,” Reuters, 12 September 2011, http:// en.infoanda.com/link.php?lh=BlkGVF9TA1BW, last accessed 29 February 2012; “U.S. Blames Haqqani Network for Kabul Attacks,” Al Jazeera English Online, 14 September 2011, http://www.aljazeera.com/news/asia/2011/09/201191418433383511.html, last accessed 29 February 2012 ; and Sami Yousafzai and Ron Moreau, “Taliban Boast of Kabul Embassy Attack,” The Daily Beast, 14 September 2011, http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2011/09/14/taliban-embassy-attack-in-kabul-afghan-insurgents-tell-of-secret-warroom-haqqani-alliance.html, last accessed 29 February 2012. It also is important to note that Waldman’s interviews with Haqqani commanders suggested that their trainers were all Pakistan ISI  – and that training was in military tactics: attacks, ambushes, IEDs – but not suicide bombers. They reported that this training was separate, very specialized, and under the tutelage of outside groups like Arabs and Chechyns apparently preying on uneducated 13-15 year old boys. See Anthony Lloyd, “Terror link alleged as Saudi millions flow into Afghanistan war zone,” The Times [London], 31 May 2010.


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India and Pakistan that began with the collapse of the Najibullah regime in 1992. NATO forces have been biased by favoring northern Afghans with India ties against the southern Afghans Pashtuns viewed in Islamabad as a buffer against Hindu encroachment. Western influence has unfairly tilted against southern Pashtun and Pakistani interests by encouraging a political construct in Afghanistan without sufficient political or military guarantees that those conservative, largely rural Pashtuns were not discriminated against in a post-2003 Afghan government that allowed for too little regional representation and too much Indian encroachment. With its links to al-Qaeda broken with the death of bin Laden, the Afghanistan Taliban must be reconsidered for what they are in terms of a dangerous proxy war in Afghanistan — a repugnant but resilient insurgent constellation with unwavering Pakistani support yet that is in many ways an authentic voice for disenfranchised rural Pashtun conservatism in Afghanistan.33 In this light, a critical mass of the Afghan Taliban must be better enfranchised in Afghanistan’s fledgling polity in a manner that overcomes its present political isolation and without accelerating a decline toward proxyfunded civil war. Armed with this understanding, U.S. diplomats need to sponsor quiet but serious talks between Pakistani and Indian representatives to craft a set of mutually acceptable rules for this enfranchisement of the Taliban into an Afghan policy and for the residual U.S./coalition or U.N. military stabilization forces necessary to stay on for the rest of the decade, enforce the agreement, and serve as a bolster against descent into the chaos of a proxy war between two nuclear-armed neighbors. On 17 June 2011, in a major step forward, the UN Security Council accepted a U.S. request to treat al-Qaeda and the Taliban separately in relation to a list of global terrorists the United Nations has maintained since 1998, a motion to which India acquiesced.34 Since December 2011, there are now two separate lists and UN sanctions on al-Qaeda members will not necessarily apply to the Taliban making it easier to take the Taliban off the list. As Pakistani journalist Ahmed Rashid noted shortly after, this was a major boost for the Afghan political reconciliation dialogue process.35 However, much more work must be done to craft a durable process to mitigate against the principal risk of future proxy war in Afghanistan.

The Death of bin Laden, al-Qaeda’s Core, and the Threats in and from Pakistan Much as bin Laden’s demise opens the door to better American understanding of the fundamental security narrative that U.S. policy must address to chart a serious course to attenuate violence in Afghanistan, bin Laden’s passing requires a revisit of the narrative most critical to U.S.-Pakistan relations. The Abbottabad raid that capped-off highly successful American-dominated efforts to kill al-Qaeda core leaders and disrupted al-Qaeda operations across Pakistan began in late 2008. By May 2011, these efforts had already led to the death or capture of almost half of the known key leaders of al-Qaeda believed to be operating from Pakistan (see Appendix B). In the months after the bin Laden raid, the dominant American narrative driving policy toward Pakistan featured a single-minded focus on unilateral counter-terrorist actions geared to “break the

33 See both Dalrymple and Semple. 34 See U.N. Security Council Press Release of 7 July 2011 announcing the split of UNSCR 1267 (1999) al-Qaeda listing into UNSCR 1988 (2011) an Afghan-Taliban listing and UNSCR 1989 (2011) an al-Qaeda listing found at http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs//2011/ sc10312.doc.htm, last accessed 29 February 2012. Then see UNSCR 1989, reissued on 1 July 2011 at http://www.un.org/ga/search/ view_doc.asp?symbol=S/RES/1989 (2011), and UNSCR 1988 (2011) at http://daccess-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/N11/379/01/ PDF/N1137901.pdf?OpenElement, last accessed 29 February 2012. 35 Ahmed Rashid, “The truth behind America’s Taliban talks,” Financial Times Online, 29 June 2011.


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back” of al-Qaeda’s core leadership holed-up in that country.36 This narrative remained dominant despite two factors that suggest it lacked proper focus or a reasonable prospect for success. First, the cadre of remaining al-Qaeda leaders in Pakistan — with the exception of Zawahiri — appeared ill-suited as credible core leaders for al-Qaeda. Despite his reputation for divisiveness, Zawahiri’s qualifications for credible leadership of a global catastrophic terrorist movement dwarf those of anyone left in the worldwide movement and all of those believed to be in Pakistan. Among those left there, only Abu Yaya al-Libi and Sulieman Abu Ghaith have resumes with anything resembling the kind of vision, organizational skill, and leadership quality for globally-focused terrorism necessary to resuscitate an al-Qaeda core already badly shattered (see Appendix B). Second, the documented success of the American drone program in western Pakistan makes it unlikely that Zawahiri would risk presence there. He is far more likely to be in asylum in or near urban areas in Pakistan where drone strikes risk unacceptable collateral damage to innocent Pakistanis; and, where his apprehension or elimination will require some level of Pakistani cooperation. Thus drone strikes since the death of bin Laden play directly into a Pakistani narrative of American hubris and unworthiness as a moral arbiter in the battle aganst terrorism. The strikes also appear to be a self-defeating tactic. Each additional strike stirs up an ever-more critical mass of animosity toward American across Pakistani society in a fashion now encouraging what David Kilcullen calls “accidental guerillas.”37 Young Pakistani males ordinarily content to remain detached from violence are becoming ever-more charged with participatory zeal to join the fight in Afghanistan. By mid-2011, a growing number believed that killing American and NATO soldiers there constitutes righteous jihad to avenge innocent Pakistani Muslim victims of drone strikes. This narrative of Pakistani animus for American unilateral counterterrorism action has huge implications for America’s counterterrorism aspirations in Pakistan and for the many other security challenges active in Pakistan. First, Zawahiri’s death or apprehension will likely require Pakistani cooperation. Pakistan’s focus on the hunt for this most dangerous residual al-Qaeda figure would seem both prudent and necessary. Second, Pakistan’s reported August 2011 dressing-down by Beijing, which alleged links between a Muslim terrorist attack in the western Chinese province of Xinjiang and terrorist organizations in western Pakistan, provides the United States with an opportunity to parallel the Chinese pressure with more of its own.38 Third, Pakistan’s own threat from internal Islamist militants (see Appendix C), while not portending an imminent take over, will continue for a long time and require Pakistan’s military and intelligence services to seek outside assistance. Finally, 36 This view that United States is “within reach” of defeating al-Qaeda and is targeting 10 to 20 leaders who are key to the terrorist network’s survival derived from statements by former CIA Director Leon Panetta, former General David Petraues, and Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence Michael Vickers. See Craig Whitlock, “Panetta: U.S. Within reach of Defeating al Qaeda,” Washington Post, 9 July 2011, http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/panetta-us-within-reach-of-defeating-al-qaeda/2011/07/09/ gIQAvPpG5H_story.html, last accessed 29 February 2012; and Bumiller, “Soldier, Thinker, Hunter, Spy.” 37 This assessment stands in marked contrast to the interview comments made by U.S. Counterterrorism Director John Brennan in Kimberley Dozier, “U.S. Counterterror Chief: Al Qaida now on the Ropes,” Associated Press, 1 September 2011, http://www.foxnews. com/politics/2011/09/01/us-counterterror-chief-al-qaeda-now-on-ropes/, last accessed 29 February 2012. For an articulation of this construct whereby otherwise non-violent, ideologically disinclined individuals turn to violence to avenge perceived violent wrongs done to them or their primary association group, see David Kilcullen, The Accidental Guerilla: Fighting Small Wars in the Midst of A Big One (London: Oxford University Press, 2009). 38 On China’s growing frustration with Pakistan’s inability to control Islamic extremists training there for attacks in China’s western regions, see “Xinjiang attack masterminded by terrorists trained in Pakistan,” Dawn [Pakistan], 1 August 2011, http://www. dawn.com/2011/08/01/xinjiang-attack-masterminded-by-terrorists-trained-in-pakistan-china.html, last accessed 29 February 2012. One must be careful to recognize that this frustration does not mean Beijing will exert clear and consistent pressure on Pakistan to halt relationships with Islamic militant groups, much less collaborate with Washington or other international actors to goad Pakistan in this direction. China’s concerns about militants remain dwarfed by the common Chinese-Pakistani strategic cause against India and China’s more pressing security issues with nations like the United States, Russia, and India. This unique approach toward policy with Pakistan greatly constrains Beijing’s willingness to partner with regional or international efforts to pressure Islamabad. For a useful review of these limitations, see Andrew Small, “China’s Caution on Afghanistan-Pakistan,” The Washington Quarterly (July 2010), pp. 86-87, and Isaac B. Kardon, China and Pakistan: Emerging Strains in the Entente Cordiale (Washington, D.C.: Project 2049 Institute, March 2011).


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Pakistan’s growing nuclear arsenal — much of this growth focusing on smaller, more accurate, and shorter range weapons — will play into an eventual crisis between India and Pakistan that will require American intervention. Indeed the potential for India-focused groups militant groups in Pakistan to carry out a strike in India that exceeds the one in Mumbai in November 2008 is one of the most serious threats to U.S. interests in the Subcontinent.39 All four of these critical security scenarios require more, not fewer, open lines of communication and coordination (even if not full cooperation) between Islamabad and Washington. Single-minded American pursuit of drone strikes against lesser al-Qaeda figures and middling Afghan Taliban insurgent leaders puts these essential AmericanPakistani lines of communication at risk; and, sets up an undesirable long-term future of isolation and miscommunication. A multi-faceted, forward-looking American policy toward Pakistan must assess the risk-reward outcomes from a failure to think beyond the framework of counterterrorism dominated drone strikes as policy for this critical and multifaceted bilateral relationship.

Future Research on al-Qaeda and Salafi Jihadism: A Post-bin Laden Re-Calibration There are as many Western perspectives on the meaning of bin Laden’s death as there are definitions of al-Qaeda. Far too many analysts rely on opinion, not fact. The trove of information reportedly picked up at the Abottabad scene of bin Laden’s death points the way to factually-based analyses of the residual threat from al-Qaeda along its five major dimensions. Researchers should seek out access to as much of the bin Laden compound haul as possible as soon as possible in search of how his role impacted these five major dimensions. The DNI, in keeping with the spirit of the Obama Administration’s policy of minimal necessary secrecy, should work rapidly to declassify and release to the public domain as much of the bin Laden Abbottabad collection as possible. Release to an entity like the CRRC at the National Defense University (NDU) that already responsibly manages a collection of al-Qaeda primary documents, would make imminent sense, and should be encouraged. Armed with this fresh original information, researchers can focus on the key questions relevant to al-Qaeda’s recent evolution and its remaining relevance as a leading organ of international terrorism. Among these research questions, several stand out: »»Was bin Laden’s inspiration, charisma, and fundraising ability as fundamental to al-Qaeda’s core functions as many believe? »»Did bin Laden and his closest confidants face an increasingly difficult challenge in managing the disparate Salafi jihadi groups that al-Qaeda aimed to serve as its vanguard? What was the balance between collaboration and tension in relations between those in the al-Qaeda core and the groups perceived to be its major “franchisees”: AQAP, al Shabaab, and al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM)? »»What was bin Laden’s role, if any, in encouraging the wider Salafi jihadi movement toward inspiration of “grassroots” or “lone wolf” attacks against Western interests using Western media and social networking services? What opinions did bin Laden hold about the efficacy of such smaller, less reliable attacks in line with his scheme of forcing Western powers to abandon presence in Islamic countries? »»How did bin Laden, especially in his later years, conceive of the importance of the al-Qaeda brand name? How important did he perceive himself to be a part of this brand? 39 For a discussion of this and related security risks inherent in the exceedingly tense and nuclear-weapons fueled rivalry between Pakistan and India, Michael Krepon and Nathan Cohn, eds., Crises in South Asia: Trends and Potential Consequences (Washington, D.C.: Stimson Center, September 2011), especially pp. 35-38 and pp. 77-99; and, Steve Coll “House Testimony: The Paradoxes of al Qaeda,” Posted to The New Yorker, 27 January 2010, http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/stevecoll/2010/01/house-testimony-theparadoxes-of-al-qaeda.html, last accessed 2 March 2012.


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»»How had bin Laden, himself and in contrast to his coterie of Arabs, Egyptians, and Libyans, mattered to the mystical al-Qaeda affinity for Afghanistan? What was bin Laden’s ongoing relationship with key Afghan Taliban figures and how did that matter to the way in which he viewed an eventual outcome to the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan?

Conclusion In a strategic or global sense, one can make the case that al-Qaeda seems well along in a process of defeating itself. Its growing political isolation in the Muslim world was joined by a renewed focus by America and allied governments to largely destroy central al-Qaeda’s leadership along the AfghanPakistan border; and the May 2011 death of bin Laden has drawn an end to the destabilizing narrative of hunt-and-escape that elevated the reputation of bin Laden (and to a lesser extent Zawahiri) to living legend status for so long. Indeed, bin Laden’s demise has been an “80% solution” to the essential challenges from al-Qaeda. Now, it is important to allow the group’s self-isolation to better inform the framework for U.S. counterterrorism policy in general and America’s policy approach toward Afghanistan, Pakistan, and South Asia, in particular. The most effective U.S. counterterrorism approach globally will be to call attention to al-Qaeda’s inherent contradictions and weaknesses, through Muslim proxies — governmental and nongovernmental — as much as possible, while taking no action that might ease al-Qaeda’s ability to reclaim its former political, financial, and recruiting support. To prevail in Afghanistan on the timetable announced by the Administration, American policy must change tack in the wake of bin Laden’s death. We need to understand that the risks of a devastating proxy war between India and Pakistan now dwarf the risks of al-Qaeda’s return to unfettered sanctuary and recalibrate our diplomatic energies and military priorities accordingly. This will require earnest and difficult negotiations with the Pakistanis, Indians, Taliban, and northern ethnicities in Afghanistan. In Pakistan, we must eschew the intemperate approach of unilaterally attacking al-Qaeda’s remaining core leaders, and work to recalibrate the always difficult but supremely important relationship with Pakistan so that Islamabad will do more in a bilateral effort to eliminate international terrorist presence from the country; and, to help it work quietly with India to find the necessary accommodation in Afghanistan that will inhibit the possibility of a reckless proxy war between two nuclear armed states.


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Appendix A

Major Terrorist Plots against “Far Enemy” Targets: 2010

2010 Jihadist Attacks and Plots in North America40 May 1, 2010

R

At John F. Kennedy International Airport, Faisal Shahzad, affiliated with the Pakistani militant group Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, was arrested after his attempt to bomb Times Square failed.

August 26, 2010

R

In Ottawa and London, Ontario, Canadian police arrested three individuals for allegedly planning a terrorist attack in Canada. The individuals were suspected of being grassroots jihadists.

October 27, 2010

R

A Pakistani-born individual with no known jihadist connections was arrested for plotting to conduct a bombing attack against the Washington metro system. The man was suspected of being a grassroots jihadist.

October 29, 2010

R

In Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and Midlands, United Kingdom, two bombs hidden inside printer cartridges being shipped to the United States were discovered in separate cargo planes. Authorities suspect at al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula of responsibility for the plot.

November 26, 2010

R

In Portland, Oregon, a Somali-born man was arrested during a FBI sting operation for attempting to detonate an explosive device at a crowded Christmas tree lighting ceremony downtown. The man was suspected of being a grassroots jihadist.

December 8, 2010

R

In Baltimore, Maryland, a Muslim man was arrested in a FBI sting operation for plotting to blow up a military recruitment center. The man was suspected of being a grassroots jihadist.

R Grassroots 

   

R Franchise

2010 Jihadist Attacks or Plots in Europe41 January 1, 2010

R

In Aarhus, Denmark, a man armed with a knife and ax broke into the home of cartoonist Kurt Westergaard’s house and was later shot by police. Westergaard was not hurt in the incident. The attacker was linked to al Shabaab.

January 26, 2010

R

In Birmingham, United Kingdom, British police arrested a man on suspicion of possessing material that could be used in an act of terrorism and distributing jihadist publications. The man was suspected of being a grassroots jihadist.

March 9, 2010

R

Irish police arrested seven individuals in connection with a plot to kill Swedish cartoonist Lars Vilks. One of those arrested was an American woman, Jamie Paulin-Ramirex. This plot also involved U.S. citizen Colleen LaRose aka Jihad Jane.

March 29, 2010

R

In Moscow, Russia, two female suicide bombers who were members of the jihadist group Caucasus Emirate orchestrated a double suicide attack on the metro system, killing at least 40 people and injuring more than 100.

April 29, 2010

R

In Italy, two Moroccan students were deported on suspicion of plotting to assassinate Pope Benedict XVI. The students were suspected of being grassroots jihadists.

40 Copyright STRATFOR 2011, www.STRATFOR.com 41 Ibid.


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Appendix A (continued)

Major Terrorist Plots against “Far Enemy” Targets: 2010

2010 Jihadist Attacks and Plots in Europe (continued) May 11, 2010

R

In Uppsala, Sweden, cartoonist Lars Viks was assaulted during a presentation oat Uppsala University. It is not believed that the attackers were affiliated with any jihadist organization.

May 14, 2010

R

In East London, a grassroots jihadist inspired by al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, Roshonara Choudhry, stabbed British lawmaker Peter Timms in the abdomen. Timms survived the attack.

May 14, 2010

R

In Nyamnslage, Sweden, the home of cartoonist Lars Vilks was damaged in an arson attack. Police suspect grassroots jihadists committed the crime.

July 8, 2010

R

In Oslo, Norway, police arrested three men allegedly affiliated with al Qaeda in Pakistan for planning a terrorist attack in Norway. The attack was planned to be similar to the September 2009 plot to bomb the New York subway system by Najibullah Zazi.

September 10, 2010

R

In Copenhagen, Denmark, a Chechen man with residence in Belgium was arrested after an improvised explosive device (IED) that he had been constructing detonated prematurely in a hotel toilet. Authorities suspect that the case may have a connection to the Jyllands-Posten newspaper cartoon controversy.

December 11, 2010

R

In Stockholm, Sweden, a Middle Eastern man with Swedish citizenship set off an IED hidden in his car and then injured two people in a suicide attack. The man was not known to have any connections to jihadist organizations and was suspected of being a grassroots jihadist.

December 20, 2010

R

In London, Stoke-on-Trent, and Cardiff, United Kingdom, British authorities arrested twelve men who were suspected of plotting an attack in the country during Christmas. The individuals were suspected of being grassroots jihadists.

December 24, 2010

R

In the Netherlands, authorities arrested twelve Somali nationals on suspicion that they were plotting an attack. They were later released for lack of evidence.

December 29, 2010

R

In Copenhagen, Denmark, Danish and Swedish authorities arrested five men who were allegedly involved in planning an armed assault on the offices of the Jyllands-Posten newspaper. The individuals were suspected of being grassroots jihadists.

R Grassroots    R Core    R Franchise


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Appendix B

Major al-Qaeda Core Terrorist Figures Status 2007-2011142 From the Original Shura Majles or Operational Leaders of Significant International Plots

Core Leaders believed to be in Pakistan/Afghanistan Estimated 16 of 32 at large  —  1 ESSENTIAL** and 2 KEY* figures. BOLD denotes a leader who has been captured or killed. Abu Faraj al Yemeni Abu Haris Abu Ihklas al Masri Abu Kasha al Iraqi Abu Khabab al-Masri* Abu Obaidah al-Masri Abu Turab al-Urduni*

Abu Yahya al Libi*

Adam Gadahn Atiyah Abd al-Rahman Ayman al-Zawahiri** Dr. Amin al-Haq Hamza bin Laden Ilyas Kashmiri* Marwan al-Suri Matiur Rehman Mohamed Abul Khair Mohamad Usman Mustafa al-Jaziri Osama al-Kini Qari Mohammad Zafar Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) Qari Saifullah Akhtar Qari Zia Rahman Rashid Rauf Saad al Sharif Sa’ad bin Laden*

Killed in Pakistan, September 2008 (former Pakistani JeM head) Captured in Kunar Afghanistan, April 2011 Killed in Pakistan, July 2008 Deceased in Pakistan, Spring 2008 Jordanian, Zawahiri son in law, many reports say killed in 2001 or 2010 Reported killed in Pakistan, December 2009 - later rescinded (Adam Pearlman), US Killed in Pakistan, August 2011 Egyptian Afghan, Bin Laden security coordinator apprehended/released by Pakistanis in January 2008 Saudi Reported killed (again) in Pakistan, June 2011 Awaiting firm confirmation Syrian, reported killed in gun battle with Pakistani officials, April 2006  —  later doubts Pakistani Saudi, bin Laden bodyguard Killed in Pakistan, Fall 2010 Killed in Pakistan, May 2010 Killed in Pakistan, January 2009 Former head of Pakistan’s banned Reported killed in Pakistan in March 2010 Pakistani  —  HUJI, Reportedly wounded in Pakistan in August 2010 Pakistani, reported killed by Pakistan’s Interior Minister, April 2010  —  later doubts UK of Pakistani Origin, reported killed in Pakistan, November 2008  —  later retracted Saudi Killed in Afghanistan/Pakistan, Spring 2009

42  List derived from and modified by information found in the following sources: UN Security Council Resolutions 1267 (1999) and 1989 (2011) concerning al-Qaeda and associated individuals and entities, http://www.un.org/sc/committees/1267/aq_sanctions_list. shtml, last accessed 29 February 2012; the 2009 compilation on the Long War Journal, http://www.longwarjournal.org/al-qaedaleaders.php#ixzz1WlmckeWX, last accessed 29 February 2012; the Global Security web page al-Qaeda senior leader lists, http://www.globalsecurity.org/security/profiles/generate_members.php?name=Al-Qaeda and at http://www.globalsecurity.org/ security/profiles/al-qaeda_leadership_losses.htm, last accessed 28 February 2012; and Rohan Gunarantna, Inside Al Qaeda: Global Network of Terror (New York: Columbia University Press, 2002), pp. 56-58. Rankings as tabulated by Nathan Cohn in the last table of Michael Krepon and Nathan Cohn, eds., Crises in South Asia: Trends and Potential Consequences (Washington, D.C.: Stimson Center, September 2011) with data corroborated by NCTC Reports, http:// www.nctc.gov/witsbanner/wits_subpage_reports.html, last accessed 29 February 2012.


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Appendix B (continued) Saleh al-Somali Sheikh Sa’id al-Masri* Sulaiman Abu Ghaith*

Thirwat Saleh Shihata Osama bin Laden **** Younis al-Mauritani*

Killed in Pakistan, November 2009 (a.k.a: Mustafa Abu Yazid), killed in Pakistan, May 2010 Kuwaiti, reportedly released by Iran in prisoner exchange, September 2010 Egyptian Killed in Pakistan, May 2, 2011 Reported detailed in Pakistan, September 2011

Major al-Qaeda Core Terrorist Figures Status 2007-2011

Core Leaders believed to be in Yemen with Al-Qaeda of the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) Estimated 6/10 at large, 1 KEY* figure remains alive. BOLD denotes a leader who has been captured or killed. Anwar al-Awlaki

Dual US-Yemeni, killed in Yemen, August 2011 Yemeni, U.S.S. Cole Conspirator, falsely reported killed, October 2009 Hamza Ali Saleh al-Dhayani Surrendered to Yemeni authorities, June 2010 Ibrahim Hassan al-Asiri Saudi, known as the bomb-maker Ibrahim Suleiman al-Rubaish Saudi, 2006 GTMO release and failed Saudi reprogramming Mohammed al-Awfi 2006 GTMO release, failed Saudi reprogramming, AQAP co-founder, surrendered to KSA-2010 Nasser al Wuhayshi* Yemeni, former bin Laden body-guard, 2006 Sanaa jailbreak and AQAP co-founder Othman al-Ghamdi Saudi, 2006 GTMO release and failed Saudi reprogramming Said Ali al-Shihri Saudi, 2006 GTMO release, failed Saudi reprogramming and AQAP co-founder Youssef al Shihri 2006 GTMO release, failed Saudi reprogramming, killed in Saudi Arabia, October 2009 Fahd al Quso

NOTE: AQAP features 11 former Guantanamo Bay (GTMO) terrorism detainees. The relationship between AQAP GTMO alumni figures such as Wahayshi and Rubaish and bin Laden helps explain why AQAP has been the franchise jihadist group that is the closest ideologically to the al-Qaeda core and its global terror aspirations if not its capability to achieve catastrophic terrorism]

Core Leaders believed to be in Iran 7 at large core figures, 1 KEY* figure. In addition Saudi Arabia claims 40 of its most wanted are there Abdullah Ahmed Abdullah Abdullah al-Qarawi Ali Sayyid Muhamed Mustafa al-Bakri Ali Saleh Husain Muhammad Rab’a al Sayid al-Bahtiti Mustafa Hamid Saif al-Adel*

Egyptian Saudi, may have joined AQAP in Yemen during 2010 (aka: Abd al Aziz al Masri) Egyptian Yemeni Egyptian Egyptian Egyptian


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Appendix B (continued) Core Leaders whereabouts Unknown/Uncertain Estimated 5/7 at large, 1 KEY* figure. BOLD denotes a leader who has been captured or killed. Abu Khalaf Abu Ayyub al-Masri

Abu Mus’ab al-Suri* Adnan G. el Shukrijumah* Fazul Abdullah Mohammed Mafouz Ould Walid Sheikh Issa al-Masri

Killed in Mosul Iraq, January 2010 al-Qaeda Emir in Iraq killed there in April 2010 Syrian, believed in Syria since 2006 US of Saudi Ancestry, may be in Pakistan or North Africa Killed in Somalia, Summer 2011 (aka Abu Hafs al-Mauritani) In Iran or North Africa (aka Abu `Amr `Abd al-Hakim) Suspected in Syria since 2009

Core Leaders believed held in Guantanamo Bay 6 KEY* figures of 171 remaining detainees. All BOLDED because captured and in detention. Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri* Abu Faraj al-Libi*

Abu Zubaydah* Hambali* Khalid Sheikh Mohammed* Tawfiq bin Attash*

Saudi, apprehended in UAE, 2002 Arrested Pakistan 2005 to GTMO in 2006 Pearl killing, Musharaff and 2006 airliner plot Saudi, arrested in Pakistan, 2002 Indonesian, arrested in Thailand, 2003 Pakistani, arrested in Pakistan, 2003 Yemeni, arrested in Pakistan, 2003


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Appendix C

Ten Countries Most Afflicted By Catastrophic (a.k.a.: Mass-Casualty) Terrorism From July 2007 – April 2011 Acts of violence that resulted in five or more fatalities according to the Worldwide Incidents Tracking System of the National Counterterrorism Center, which catalogs incidents of terrorism globally. 43 Country

Deaths

Attacks

Iraq Pakistan Afghanistan Somalia Congo, Democratic Republic India Sudan Sri Lanka Russia Iran

9,087 4,825 3,882 3,092 2,781 1,281 887 385 274 271

556 256 394 206 91 77 40 27 19 12

43  Rankings as tabulated by Nathan Cohn in the last table of Michael Krepon and Nathan Cohn, eds., Crises in South Asia: Trends and Potential Consequences (Washington, D.C.: Stimson Center, September 2011) with data corroborated by NCTC Reports, http:// www. nctc.gov/witsbanner/wits_subpage_reports.html, last accessed 29 February 2012.


Ten Years Later: Insights on al-Qaeda’s Past & Future through Captured Records   169

The Development of al-Qaeda’s Media Strategy and its Role in Mobilizing Western Muslims Mr. Alexander Meleagrou-Hitchens International Centre for the Study of Radicalism Introduction An effective communications and media apparatus gives a global movement like al-Qaeda the opportunity to instill within a given target audience a sense of grievance and injustice, while also convincing it that a change is possible and to provide the ideological, strategic and operational materials required to mobilize individuals.1 As will be demonstrated below, among al-Qaeda strategists there has long been a desire for the organization to use media more effectively so that it can expand its propaganda, recruitment, and mobilization efforts far and wide. Thanks, in part, to the work of these strategists, in the ten years since the 9/11 attacks al-Qaeda and its affiliates and sympathizers have developed a sophisticated online media network which disseminates the ideological, strategic and tactical works of the movement far and wide, making them accessible to anyone with an internet connection. This network has ensured that jihadi propaganda is now available in numerous languages, with different media centers targeting specific geographical locations for recruitment. Among the most prolific are those which target English-speaking audiences, and the media wing of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Penisula (AQAP), al-Malahem, has seen significant success in its efforts at targeting Western Muslims between 2010 and 2011. This center has also acted as a useful platform for Anwar al-Awlaki, a charismatic ideologue who had long used new media to spread his message and successfully translate ideas that were originally meant for an Arab or South Asian audience so that they may appeal to Western Muslims. Through a brief analysis of the history and development of the jihadist media strategy, the first part of this paper will show how jihadi media has reached its current stage and what factors influenced its formation. In the second section, I will analyze a number of important primary sources in order to demonstrate how this strategy has targeted Western Muslims.

From Abu Hafs to al-Suri: The Emergence and Development of al-Qaeda’s Media Strategy Abu Hafs al-Masri

In the Spring of 1990, in Peshawar, Pakistan, an Egyptian al-Qaeda commander named Abu Hafs al-Masri (Mohammed Atef) authored a document which was to forever change the mobilization and recruitment strategy of a budding al-Qaeda organization. Entitled “On the jihadi media, how to communicate to the public,” it was obtained by U.S. military forces in Kandahar after the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan. In the 17-page document, Abu Hafs lays out his vision for the future of al-Qaeda’s messaging efforts, in particular, as they related to spreading ideology and appealing to a wider audience. Despite his involvement in the early years of al-Qaeda, Abu Hafs was beginning to

1 For more on this see for example: Ron Eyerman and Andrew Jamison, Social Movements: A Cognitive Approach (University Park: Polity Press, 1991) and Lauren Kessler, The Dissident Press: Alternative Journalism in American History (Beverly Hills: Sage, 1984).


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think beyond the constraints of a formal and tightly knit organization. Instead, he saw the entire ummah (global Islamic nation) as a recruiting ground and sought to formulate a strategy that would reach as much of it as possible. Portraying the jihad as a movement, the essay begins with Abu Hafs’ view on the importance of jihadi media as a way to communicate with and mobilize followers and potential recruits: The jihad media is an important communication means between the Jihad movement and Muslim population; it is a part of the political effort of the movement and a tool to mobilize the population. 2 Abu Hafs understood that in order to achieve a significant level of mobilization in favor of the jihad movement, jihadi media had to play a leading role in elucidating for Muslims “the reasons of this war between the Mujahidin [holy warriors] and the idol, as well as the goal of this war.”3 Even at this early stage in al-Qaeda’s development, Abu Hafs recognized that if the jihadi movement was to win its war against secularism and unbelief, success on the battlefield would only be part of the equation. Of equal, if not larger, significance was what might be referred to as the “battle of ideas”: The essence of the conflict between the Mujahidin and the idol authority is a conflict between atheism and belief, and the spirit and mind of people is the real space of this conflict. 4 In addition, it was the role of jihadi media to influence “the Muslim population at the moral, psychological and intellectual level, convincing it of the necessity to oust the idol regime, and giving the practical example of the possibility to do so.”5 Through this approach, Abu Hafs wanted jihadi media to offer followers and potential recruits a clear explanation of the problems faced by the ummah as well as motivate them to act on the practical solutions posed by jihadi groups. Thus, the jihadi movement had to create cadres of devoted media specialists, wholly separate in terms of personnel from the military leadership, but working in tandem with military operations to achieve maximum propaganda impact. Abu Hafs placed a high premium on this relationship, claiming that “the success of the enemy in paralyzing the media action of the Mujahidin is as significant as the capability of the enemy to paralyze the military action itself.”6 Western media was not to be trusted; not only did Abu Hafs deem it to be working with Western governments in order to destroy Islam, but he also thought that it deliberately provided false information about mujahidin tactics and goals. Thus, Abu Hafs recognized the importance of creating trusted alternative media sources to the mainstream media. Particularly since the advent of the printing press, social movements have sought to create their own media which allows them to provide alternative narratives. Lauren Kessler, among others, has observed how the creation of alternative media allows a social movement to reach its target audience and provide it with the requisite information that will help attract new recruits as well as strengthen the resolve of existing members by providing them a conduit through which they can interact with more senior and respected individuals.7

2 AQ-SHPD-D-001-157, “Jihad media document, regarding means of communication with the population and the importance of slogans and truthfulness,” (circa 1990), Conflict Records Research Center, Washington, D.C. 3 Ibid. 4 Ibid. 5 Ibid. 6 Ibid. 7 Kessler, The Dissident Press.


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Abu Hafs also listed what he believed to be the best means of communication for jihadi media but because he was writing before the internet had become one of the world’s primary modes of communication, he restricted these resources to technologies such as audio and video cassettes, radio, and television. Having seen its effectiveness in helping Ayatollah Khomeini’s Iranian revolution eleven years earlier, Abu Hafs wrote of audio cassettes that “this tool is considered the most…popular communication tool and the least dangerous for the jihad movement.”8 Highest praise, however, was reserved for radio, which due to its wide reach among every social class was “the most comprehensive public communication means.” He also expressed the hope that jihadi groups could soon found their own radio stations. Abu Hudaifa

It seems, however, that Abu Hafs was ahead of his time, and little progress was made in the following years towards creating a functioning media network for the movement. A decade later, in June 2000, Abu Hudaifa, another al-Qaeda strategist, wrote a lengthy letter to Osama bin Laden which contained many similar arguments to those of Abu Hafs, as well as criticism of what he saw as a failure on the part of the movement to use alternative media to its advantage. Written in the form of a nasiha (a sincere criticism to a figure of power and authority), the text is polite, yet stern. One of Abu Hudaifa’s strongest critiques was reserved for the failure to capitalize on the disastrous U.S. military effort in 1993 to capture clan leaders linked to local warlord Mohammed Aidid in Mogadishu, Somalia. In that incident, 18 American soldiers were killed at the hands of an assorted group of militia men supportive of Aidid’s claims to the Somali presidency, some of whom Osama bin Laden later claimed were trained by al-Qaeda9 Referring to it as an event which did not receive “adequate informational and political coverage,” Hudaifa wrote that: If we go back a little (to the events in Somalia) and carefully think of this situation, we will recognize the extent at which we fell short in the informational and political efforts. We did not invest these events politically to serve the jihad program. Most of the people inside [the country] are unaware of the great effort the mujahidin made against the American forces.10 He believed that a properly functioning media network would be able to use such an event to “motivate and encourage the [Islamic] nation.”11 It would, he argued, contribute towards overcoming the “barrier of fear” and the unknown faced by potential recruits and give them “a live and actual example of the recent experiment in which the mujahidin succeeded in achieving the target and driving the enemy away.”12 Another missed opportunity, according to Abu Hudaifa, was the dual bombings by al-Qaeda in 1998 of the U.S. embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam. He wrote in despair to his leader of the atrocious “informational and political shortfall regarding these events,” bemoaning that the identities of the “heroes of this magnificent undertaking” remained unknown for far too long, thereby squandering the attack’s propaganda value to the terrorist network.13 To this end, he suggested that al-Qaeda follow the example of HAMAS, which by then had begun filming living wills of suicide bombers before their operations against Israel: 8 AQ-SHPD-D-001-157. 9 Peter Bergen, Holy War Inc. (New York: Free Press, 2001). 10 AQ-SHPD-D-000-035, “Letter from Abu Hudaifa to Osama bin Laden regarding request to publicize al-Qaeda’s goals and accomplishments in the media to rally public support and invigorate al-Qaeda’s mission in Saudi Arabia,” 20 June 2000, Conflict Records Research Center, Washington, D.C. 11 Ibid. 12 Ibid. 13 Ibid.


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How nice it would be if in the future the executor of an operation is videotaped while he is giving an inciting speech to the nation and then his speech is published after the operation is carried out successfully similar to what Hamas is doing.14 Such so-called “martyrdom videos” are now a staple of any al-Qaeda affiliated suicide attack. It is also very likely that the videos which the 9/11 hijackers filmed of themselves explaining their background and motivations before the attack were created specifically on the basis of Abu Hudaifa’s recommendation. What is required, therefore, in order to make the most of such events is an “apparatus of information,” according to Abu Hadaifa, which would “quickly to [sic] arouse the nation and affirm the Movement’s credibility to the people.”15 Not content with simply using this apparatus for spreading news about alQaeda’s operations, he also wished to see it used to elucidate certain key aspects of al­- Qaeda’s ideology. Among the most important for Abu Hudaifa is tawheed (the unity of God), which in the Salafi jihadi interpretation calls for the sole worship of Allah alone and often leads to violence against followers of other faiths. He wrote that “this concept should be present in all statements of the Movement,” and saw great potential for jihadi media to spread these teachings.16 To achieve maximum impact, the letter suggested setting up both political and informational “sections,” which would work together to spread the word around the globe. The role of the political section would also be to formulate convincing arguments for a global Muslim audience, and provide the al-Qaeda interpretation of important geopolitical events such as “the alleged peace efforts with the Jews” as well as related peace summits in the Arab world.17 The informational section would then cover the technical side, creating videos and other types of media for the political section to spread in targeted areas of the globe. This worldwide distribution of jihadi analyses of global events would, he hoped, lead to the “awakening the Muslim masses.”18 In order to make the best use of developments in technology and media, Abu Hudaifa suggested that the political section make use of email  —  “a very fast method for sending the product of the informational section” — and data storage websites.19 He also recommended to bin Laden that he create a website that would carry all of his statements and media appearances, something which is now a basic requirement for any leading public figure but in 2000 was still a very novel idea. Similar to Abu Hafs, Abu Hudaifa recommended that the informational and political cadres not only work together, but also in close partnership with the operational, military wings of al-Qaeda. This would, he argued, ensure that all wings acted “together harmoniously to serve the ancestral jihad plan without dominance of one on the other.”20 Abu Musab al-Suri

Abu Hafs and Abu Hudaifa’s ideas for a media strategy were among the first of their kind for al-Qaeda, but the most extensive work on this was to come in Abu Musab al-Suri’s 2004 treatise,

14 Ibid. 15 Ibid. 16 Ibid. 17 Ibid. 18 Ibid. 19 Ibid. 20 Ibid.


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The Call of Global Islamic Resistance. 21 Al-Suri, who is now believed to be in the custody of the Syrian government, remains one of the most important living strategic thinkers on global jihad, and his work has contributed significantly to the current direction of the worldwide jihadi movement. 22 Among other things, this work updated and refined the ideas of his predecessors, bringing them into the twenty-first century. Al-Suri wrote in great detail about the importance of jihadi media while also looking beyond the constraints of formal group organization, echoing much of what Abu Hafs had observed over a decade earlier. Indeed, al-Suri devotes a paragraph in his work to praise Abu Hafs and Osama bin Laden, for their strategic vision: These two believed that the time of local and regional organizations had passed, and would be inappropriate for the coming stage. They believed that the duty was: Mobilizing the Ummah toward confrontation with the external enemy as represented by America, with a focus on the slogan of expelling them from the Arabian peninsula, incorporating this into the struggle against the Jews concerning Palestine and al-Aqsa, and repelling the American assault against all Muslims. 23 The struggle against the West was to be executed, according to al-Suri, on a global scale, and the jihad movement required a detailed strategy to pursue this. Like Abu Hafs, he sought to include the entire ummah: I am convinced that victory is in the hands of God, and the primary prerequisites for this are: Working to transform this confrontation into an Ummah-wide battle, after the Ummah has been ignited by the jihadist elite. [Emphasis in the original]24 While the global jihad had to maintain an intellectual and operational elite with a coherent strategy, this could be done without reliance upon a formal organization. Instead, the 1,600-page document called for a radical restructuring of global jihadism. Al-Suri, having observed that the post-9/11 era was distinctly uncharitable toward organized and hierarchical jihadi groups, wanted to transform al-Qaeda into a diffuse international movement connected mainly through Islamic solidarity and ideology: The Call for Global Islamic Resistance is not a political party, or an organization, or a specific limited group. It is an open call. The goal of the call is to stand in the face of the attack of the colonizing Crusade and Zionist forces in their aggression against Islam and Muslims. The call welcomes any organization, group, or individual who believes and is committed to its agenda and its goals to join it directly or indirectly. 25 Accordingly, he now recommended that al-Qaeda increase its efforts to project its ideas and solutions around the globe. By encouraging this new, decentralized version of al Qaeda, al-Suri sought to spark the creation of numerous “self-starter” individuals and terrorist cells with no organizational connections to the group. This “school of individual jihad” as he referred to it, could be free from the constraints of conventional warfare. 26 It could also effectively subvert the military superiority of the 21 Abu-Musab al-Suri, The Call to Global Islamic Resistance, CENTRA Technology, Inc, trans. sponsored by the DCIA Counterterrorism Center, Office of Terrorism Analysis, 2004, p. 513, linked from Open Source Center, Jihadist Ideology and Strategy Community Page, https:// www.opensource.gov/public/content/login/login.fcc?TYPE=33554433&REALMOID=06-ee663d18-3fd5-1009-806c-8348feff0cb3&GU ID=&SMAUTHREASON=0&METHOD=GET&SMAGENTNAME=webdmz&TARGET=-SM-http%3a%2f%2fwww%2eopensource%2ego v%2flogin%2findex%2ehtml, last accessed 4 March 2012. 22 For a comprehensive analysis of his life and work see: Brynjar Lia, Architect of Global Jihad: The Life and Times of Abu Musab al-Suri (London: Hurst, 2007). 23 Abu Musab al-Suri, The Call of Global Islamic Resistance, 2004. 24 Ibid. 25 Ibid. 26 Ibid.


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West on the battlefield while also avoiding the dangers of being arrested while travelling to epicenters of jihad in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere. Unlike his predecessors, al-Suri was operating in a time when the Internet had begun opening avenues far beyond what Abu Hafs or, to an extent, Abu Hudaifa, could have imagined. Referring to what he defined as the “informational resistance,” al-Suri wrote that this element of the conflict must be “conducted through the use of modern technology of all forms, especially satellite and the internet, to promote the resistance and entice people to action.”27 It is no coincidence that his treatise first appeared in online jihadist forums because he was among the first global jihadists to make such effective use of the Internet. In addition to updating the means of the movement’s messaging and media, al-Suri also envisioned an expansion in its scope. The jihadi “resistance” against idol worship and Western aggression could be implemented by small groups or individuals anywhere in the world, and jihadi internet media was to be the cornerstone of this approach: It [the global jihad] considers the battlefield of every Mujahid and combatant to be where that Mujihid lives, where he moves, where his performance is more productive, and more beneficial and worse to the enemies of God. 28 This also applied to Muslims living in the West, for whom al-Suri provided two options: migrate to Muslim majority lands, or carry out attacks within their host nations. Al-Suri’s preferred option was the former — that Western Muslims perform a hirjah (migration) so that they may be allowed to properly practice their religion and fight against occupying forces or un-Islamic regimes. However, for those who did choose to remain in the West, they had to fulfill their Islamic obligation to fight jihad and target political, economic and military institutions. Indeed, these Muslims were identified by al-Suri as having a distinct advantage over other potential mujahidin in that they were best placed to facilitate attacks within their host Western nations: The Call for Resistance reminds every Muslim living in the West even those who are authentic [Western] citizens, that the obligation of Jihad against these infidel governments, who are in alliance with America and Israel, is a specific obligation upon them, similar to any other Muslim anywhere. His compliance is easier than that of the Mujahidin who do not live there, and who visit such country to deter its governments from attacking Muslims. 29 Despite this, jihad in Muslim majority countries deemed to be under occupation remained “the primary jihad and defense battlefield” and held the exalted status of fard al-ayn (obligatory individual duty for all Muslims), with attacks within Western nations deemed only to be a fard-khifaya (duty incumbent only on some Muslims).30 Building on predecessors’ concepts of small specialist jihadi media cadres, al-Suri called for the creation of “clandestine incitement brigades...made up of one to three members, who are well-versed in Shariah, politics, and letters and possess media expertise, knowledge of activism, and expertise in using the Internet and electronic communication networks.”31 One of the primary utilities of such a group would be to help foment the individual jihad by providing jihadi media consumers with the requisite ideological, strategic, and operational materials required to carry out attacks within their 27 Ibid. 28 Ibid. 29 Ibid. 30 Ibid. 31 Ibid.


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host nations. Working tirelessly to prove that the West is at war with Islam and Muslims, it would also provide all of the theological justifications for a violent, global response along with weapons and bomb manuals. In addition, each group would tailor its material based on the region it was targeting for recruitment; but for al-Suri’s strategy to work in the West it required an effective interpreter.

Al-Suri’s Vision Realized? Anwar al-Awlaki, Inspire Magazine and “Homegrown” Terrorism Until September 2011, this interpreter role was being filled by al-Awlaki, the now deceased YemeniAmerican preacher who operated as an English-language ideologue for Yemen’s AQAP. This section will look at a selection of his work, which is aimed at mobilizing Western Muslims, and offer case studies of individuals who were radicalized, in part, by the ideologue’s output.32 As has been well documented, al-Awlaki was among the most popular English-language al-Qaeda ideologues. He even ran a blog that, until it was shut down in November 2009, enjoyed a large Western Muslim readership. The question in many cases is not whether or not al-Awlaki successfully conveyed both the “war on Islam” narrative and the religious imperative to react with violence, but rather how he achieved this. He was one of the ideological leaders of what can be described as the Western wing of the global jihadist movement, which seeks to give more resonance to the Salafijihadi ideology among Western Muslims. Along with another U.S. citizen, Samir Khan, al-Awlaki oversaw the creation and publication of the English-language Inspire magazine, which is produced under the banner of AQAP’s al-Malahim media. Although not a pure strategist in the mold of al-Suri or Abu Hafs, al-Awlaki is the embodiment of the type of Islamic preacher, ideologue, and media figure they had envisaged; he used different forms of media to effectively spread the Salafi jihadi ideology as well as offer convincing explanations of the problems faced by the ummah and the practical solutions to solve them. Even before his official affiliation with AQAP and al-Malahim, he was a media organ unto himself; producing his own materials, and then posting them online, while also giving live sermons on jihadi internet chat forums.

The Dust Will Never Settle Down In May 2008, al-Awlaki gave an online sermon on “Paltalk,” a live Internet chat forum popular with British based Salafi jihadis. Entitled, “The Dust Will Never Settle Down,” it addressed the on-going controversy of the Prophet Mohammed cartoons in Europe and the United States, and in particular the cartoons drawn in Sweden. The depictions of Mohammed are framed as yet another aspect of the war on Islam, which now included defaming and ridiculing Muslims and Islam. The publicity for the sermon, which appeared on a number of popular Islamic Internet forums, promised that al-Awlaki would give listeners the required information on “what is the ruling of sharia on such incidents [insulting the Prophet] and how did the Sahaba (companions of the Prophet) deal with such people and what do our scholars say about them.”33 The talk focused on figures from Islamic history who had shown great devotion to the Prophet, and al-Awlaki held them up as examples for Western Muslims to follow. Referring to the original fiasco triggered by the Danish cartoons, al-Awlaki proudly stated that “the Muslim world was on fire,” yet the reaction to the subsequent Swedish cartoons was unacceptably lethargic because “our enemies 32 Parts of this section also appear in a pamphlet by the author, As American As Apple Pie: How Anwar al-Awlaki Became the Face of Western Jihad (London: International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation, 2011). 33 This promotion of al-Awlaki’s live online lecture appeared, among other places, on an Islamic online chat forum called “Sunni Forum,” http://www.sunniforum.com/forum/showthread.php?34423-Live-lecture-by-Imam-Anwar-al-Awlaki-on-PalTalk, last accessed 29 February 2012.


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have successfully desensitized us.”34 Unlike the sahaba before them, Western Muslims were not displaying sufficient love and devotion for Mohammed, and this had to change. The solution, he said, was to “go back [to the time of the Prophet and Sahaba] and see how things were then...that is the way we should follow, the way of the Sahaba.”35 Retelling the story from a Sahih Bukhari Hadith about Ka’ab ibn al-Ashraf — a poet and Jewish tribal leader in pre-Islamic Mecca who wrote poems insulting the Prophet and lamenting the victory of the Muslims over the Quraish in the Battle of Badr — alAwlaki informed listeners that Mohammed sanctioned his murder. Muhammad ibn Maslama, a follower and the man tasked with al-Ashraf’s assassination, was praised for his zeal and devotion to Mohammed, but what of modern-day, Western Muslims? How concerned are you? How concerned are we when it comes to the honor of Rasool, when it comes to the honor of Islam, when it comes to the book of Allah? How serious do we take it?...We want the spirit of the Sahaba.36 It is difficult to read this message as anything less than a call to kill those deemed to have ridiculed or insulted the Prophet, particularly when al-Awlaki followed this up by referring to Mohammed’s passionate justification for violence taken from an account given in Ibn Taymiyya’s book, As-Saram Al-Maslool `Ala Shatim Ar-Rasul (The Drawn Sword and the One Who Curses the Messenger): He [al-Ashraf] spoke against us. He spoke against me and he defamed me with his poetry. And then he made it clear to the Jews — if any one of you, you the Yahood [Jews], or the Mushrikeen [polytheists], if any one of you try to defame me through your words, this [the sword] will be the way we deal with you. There is nothing between us and you except the sword. There will be no dialogue, there will be no forgiveness, there will be no building of bridges, there will be no attempts of reconciliation, there will only be the sword between me and you.37 The Mohammed cartoons are an obvious and useful example to which al-Awlaki can point to as proof of the war on Islam, and al-Awlaki’s lecture has helped mobilize Western Muslims who would have been well aware of the controversy. After the airing of an episode of American animated TV series, South Park, in which Mohammed and the controversy surrounding his depiction were given the usual satirical treatment by its producers, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the death threats that followed owed much to al-Awlaki. Zachary Adam Chesser (also known as Abu Talhah al-Amriki), who was involved with the English Salafi jihadi website www.revolutionmuslim.com, used the lecture to legitimize a posting on the group’s site in which he claimed: We have to warn Matt and Trey that what they are doing is stupid and they will probably wind up like Theo Van Gogh [film director murdered after making a film criticising Islam] if they do air this show…Join us in this campaign to let Matt Stone & Trey Parker know that…the dust will never settle down.38 Chesser included in this posting a video entitled, “South Park: The Dust Will Never Settle Down,” in which pictures from the episode were accompanied by the audio of Awlaki’s description of the demise

34 Anwar al-Awlaki, “The Dust Will Never Settle Down,” May 2008. 35 Ibid. 36 Ibid. 37 Ibid. 38 This blog has since been removed from the Internet. Copies are in the author’s possession.


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of Ka’ab ibn al-Ashraf. Chesser would later be convicted in the United States for providing material support to terrorists, communicating threats, and soliciting others to threaten violence.39

“44 Ways to Support Jihad” In an August, 2008 blog posting about establishing the Caliphate, al-Awlaki also lays out his vision of jihad as a supposedly Clausewitzian “total war,” writing: Jihad here is not just picking up a gun and fighting. Jihad is broader than that. What is meant by Jihad in this context is a total effort by the ummah to fight and defeat its enemy. Rasulullah [Mohammed] says: Fight the disbelievers with yourself, your wealth and your tongues. It is what Clausewitz would refer to as ‘total war’ but with the Islamic rules of engagement. It is a battle in the battlefield and a battle for the hearts and minds of the people. 40 The various ways of pursuing this total war were laid out by al-Awlaki some months later in “44 Ways to Support Jihad.” In this work, al-Awlaki continues in a similar vein to Abu Hafs and al-Suri when he stresses the importance of jihadi media in both offering an alternative to mainstream Western media, and “spreading the writings of the mujahideen and their scholars.”41 In essence, this document is a collection of all of the various solutions and approaches al-Awlaki can offer to Muslims who wish to fight for the survival and expansion of the ummah. Written originally in English, it is aimed primarily at his Western followers, but not exclusively so. For Westerners, in addition to partaking in violent jihad, he placed much emphasis on the so-called “financial jihad,” which provides the movement with the fiscal resources required for its survival: “Probably the most important contribution the Muslims of the West could do for Jihad is making Jihad with their wealth….”42 The Western media, a long-time target of al-Awlaki’s ire, is an enemy which is imperative to resist as well as provide an alternative to. As he had stated many times previously, Western media outlets are directly involved in the ideological aspect of the war on Islam. Muslims must therefore take it upon themselves to raise awareness of this among their co-religionists and “encourage them to be careful and critical of the Western media.”43 Part of this fight should also include providing Muslims with alternative media sources that not only counter the Western media’s messaging, but also provide information about “the mujahidin and their scholars.”44 This is most effectively done, he suggested, through the creation of websites that publish Salafi jihadi texts and lectures.

39 Carol Cratty, “Man who threatened “South Park” creators gets 25 years in prison,” CNN, 24 February 2011, http://www.cnn. com/2011/CRIME/02/24/virginia.terror.sentence/index.html, last accessed 29 February 2012; ‘Abu Talhah Al-Amrikee: An Extensive Online Footprint’, Anti-Defamation League, 25 February 2011, http://www.adl.org/main_Terrorism/abu_talhah.htm, last accessed 29 February 2012. 40 Anwar al-Awlaki, “A Question About the Method of Establishing Khilafa,” 29 August 2008, www.anwar-alawlaki.com, last accessed 29 February 2012. It should be noted here that, despite sounding rather convincing, al-Awlaki misreads (or intentionally misrepresents) Clausewitzian theory, which has no concept of “total war.” Rather, this derives, depending on the sources, from the Napoleonic Wars and World War I, and was later developed in the 1930s. In On War, Clausewitz writes about the theory of “absolute war,” an entirely different philosophical concept of a war which is unaffected by common constraints such as politics and geographical location. 41 Anwar al-Awlaki, “44 Ways to Support Jihad,” Victorious Media, 2009. 42 Ibid. 43 Ibid. 44 Ibid.


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The key to this text is that it offers Western Muslims who desire to be a part of the global jihadist movement the various options that are available to them, many of which do not necessarily require being in any physical danger or even leaving the comfort of one’s bedroom. In “You too can be Awlaki!,” Jarret Brachman and Alix Levine explain how al-Awlaki wanted to give as many Muslims as possible the opportunity to feel they are contributing to the global jihad by lowering “the expectations of what it means to be a member of al-Qaeda.”45 They also suggest that, through encouraging more online participation, he attempted to create a larger pool from which to recruit fighters by narrowing “the distance between non-violent propagandist and violent al-Qaeda activist.”46

Inspire Magazine As its name suggests, Inspire’s main focus was to encourage al-Awlaki’s audience to “wage their individual jihad” against the West. The contributors explain that it is not only the scale of the attack that matters, but its impact on society and its potential to inspire yet more Muslims to follow this example. In what is effectively the latest incarnation of Abu Hafs and al-Suri’s vision, it is no coincidence that the second issue, which focuses particularly on self-starters, reproduces a section from al-Suri’s book devoted specifically to “the school of individual jihad and small cells.”47 Along with the usual ideological and strategic advice, Inspire also includes detailed tactical suggestions. For example, the second issue suggests attaching butcher blades to the front of a pick-up truck, near the headlights so that “the blades strike your targets at the torso level or higher,” and driving through large crowds of people. 48 It also appears that the magazine’s producers took heed of Abu Hudaifa’s suggestions about using media to capitalize on the propaganda value of jihadi operations. In November 2010, they released a “special edition” issue, which contained detailed coverage of AQAP’s attempt to detonate explosives packed in ink cartridges on international cargo planes bound for the United States. 49 Referring to the attempt as “Operation Hemorrhage,” the authors claimed it as a victory despite the bombs not having detonated, and explained the purpose of the operation: The operation was to be based on two factors: The first is that the packages pass through the latest security equipment. The second, the spread of fear that would cause the West to invest billions of dollars in new security procedures.50 Clearly intending to mask the failure of the attack, the author hails it as a blow to the ailing American economy, which would be forced to invest in yet more advanced technologies to keep air passengers safe. Further, in a clever piece of propaganda, the front cover of the online magazine was emblazoned with the figure “$4,200,” referring to how little such an attack costs the terror network, especially when compared to the money spent by Western governments to prevent such efforts.51

Case Study: Antonio Martinez In December 2010, an FBI affidavit concerning the ongoing trial of Baltimore resident Antonio Martinez, who in January 2012 pleaded guilty to plotting to detonate a weapon of mass destruction 45 Jarret Brachman and Alix Levine, “You Too Can Be Awlaki!” The Fletcher Forum of World Affairs, 35:1, 2011. 46 Ibid. 47 Inspire, Issue 2, October 2010. 48 Ibid. 49 For more on this see Robert. F. Worth, “Yemen Emerges as Base for Qaeda Attacks on U.S.,” The New York Times, 29 October 2010. 50 Inspire, Special Edition, November 2010. 51 Ibid.


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outside a Maryland military recruitment center, revealed the young convert’s admiration for his “beloved Sheikh” al-Awlaki. Martinez expressed the encouragement he drew from al-Awlaki to an undercover FBI agent and also posted on his Facebook account, “I love Sheikh Anwar al-Awalki [sic] for the sake of ALLAH. A real insperation [sic] for the Ummah, I don’t care if he is on the terrorist list!”52 Just as al-Suri had hoped for, Martinez envisioned a plan that had no connections to any other individuals or organizations, telling the FBI agent whom he thought was his co-conspirator: “I guess I’m gonna have to do it myself…we’re just gonna have to do it ourselves…I’m okay with that.”53

Case Study: Rajib and Tehzeeb Karim54 In late February 2011, British Airways employee Rajib Kareem was convicted in Britain for conspiring with al-Awlaki to assist in orchestrating an attack on an airliner, as well as pass along critical information on airport security measures.55 In the days immediately following the trial, Scotland Yard released transcripts of sections of Karim’s email correspondence with both his Yemen-based brother, Tehzeeb, who was helping him contact the ideologue, and with al-Awlaki himself. These provide a rare and valuable insight into the mind of an al-Awlaki disciple. Upon reading the messages, his and Tehzeeb’s reverence for the “Sheikh” who they consider to be a spiritual leader is beyond doubt, as is the fact that their resolve to assist in, or carry out an attack was immeasurably strengthened after making direct contact with him. In a message to al-Awlaki, Tehzeeb describes how they see him as a legitimate interpreter of God’s will: …it fills our heart with happiness to be in direct communication with you. only allah [sic] knows what we feel about you. and this is from the honor which allah [sic] bestows on those who honor his words and his deen [religion] and its sanctities.56 Similarly, Rajib tells al-Awlaki of how much “respect and love” he has for him, and that hearing directly from him was a “blessing from allah [sic]” that “gave me hope.” Upon offering to take a job as a flight attendant, he informs al-Awlaki of his concerns about having to take part in activities that are haram (forbidden) in Islam, such as serving alcohol and non-halal food. In what is an illustration of how much emphasis he placed on gaining religious sanction for his actions, as well as what sort of role al-Awlaki plays for individuals such as he, Rajib asks the preacher if he could provide him with a daleel (Islamic scriptural evidence), which proved that taking this job was acceptable for a Muslim if undertaken in pursuance of “the jihadi cause.” The emails also provide researchers with useful information on what particular elements of alAwlaki’s message resonated with Rajib who, unlike his brother, lived in the West. In another of al-Awlaki’s most influential works, his translation of Yusuf al-Uyayree’s Constants in the Path of Jihad, his primary concern is twofold: to make the global war on Islam a reality for Western Muslims, and to prove that violent jihad or hijrah (migration) are the only possible and religiously acceptable responses.57 He argues that the situation in which Muslims find themselves in the West is identical to that faced by Mohammed and his followers in pre-Islamic Mecca, where they were persecuted 52 Criminal Complaint in the case of The United States of America vs. Antonio Benjamin Martinez (a.k.a. Muhammed Hussain), 8 December 2010, filed in United States District Court for the District of Maryland, Case Number: 10-4761 JKB. 53 Ibid. 54 Alexander Meleagrou-Hitchens, “Anwar al-‘Awlaqi’s Disciples: Three Case Studies,” CTC Sentinel, Vol. 4, Issue 7, July 2011. 55 “Terror plot BA man Rajib Karim gets 30 years,” BBC News, 18 March 2011. 56 The transcripts of the emails between al-Awlaki and the Karim brothers were released by the Metropolitan Police in February 2011. They have been reproduced here in their original syntax, including all spelling and grammatical errors. 57 Anwar al-Awlaki, Constants in the Path of Jihad, 2005, http://www.hoor-al-ayn.com/Books/constants.pdf, last accessed 4 March 2012.


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and forced to make the hijrah to Medina and subsequently fight jihad. Thus, any Muslim who lives peacefully in the lands of the “enemies of Islam” is a munafiq (religious hypocrite), as he has rejected jihad, instead choosing to “customize” the religion to suit a particular geographical location. Proclaiming that “Mohammed did not customize Islam based on his location…he customized the location based on Islam,” al-Awlaki frames attempts by both Western governments and many Western Muslim organizations to reinterpret jihad along more non-violent lines as part of the concerted effort to destroy “pure” Islam, and therefore an ideological element of the multifaceted war on the religion and its followers.58 Alongside this teaching is also the doctrine of wala’ wa’l-bara’a (loyalty and disavowal), which calls for Muslims to reject non-Muslim practices and avoid relationships with unbelievers.59 Described by al-Awlaki in “44 Ways to Support Jihad” as a “central element of our military creed,” he argues that this doctrine is crucial to the success of jihad in the West.60 Without a proper grasp of both their globally conscious Islamic identity and the hatred they must harbor toward their non-Muslim neighbors and colleagues, Western Muslims cannot achieve the goals of the global movement. The stark choices of either flight or violence offered by al-Awlaki clearly had an impact on Rajib Karim, who on 29 January 2010 wrote to him describing his fears of becoming a munafiq due to his having coexisted peacefully with non-Muslims in Britain for so long: Dear shaykh…I always write to my brother saying how depressed I am living in Britain and how I hate myself for not making hijrah and also not being able to do anything here…from the moment I entered this country my niyah [intention] was to do something for the deen [religion], it was not to make a living here and start enjoying life in this country. As month after month and then slowly years went by without anything happening and also not being able to have any concrete plans to do anything here, my iman [faith] was getting affected. I started feeling like a real munafiq [hyprocrite]. It has been three years that I have been living here away from the company of good brothers and spending a good part of my working day with the kuffar [non-Muslims]. Karim’s emails demonstrate that, for a small number of Western Muslims, the tension between fulfilling the required criteria laid out by al-Awlaki and al-Qaeda for being a “true” Muslim and living peacefully among non-Muslims in a country run by a secular democratic government can become overwhelming, obliging them to seek out ways to counterbalance their situation.

Case Study: Faisal Shahzad61 In the months following Faisal Shahzad’s arrest for attempting to detonate a truck bomb in Times Square in May 2010, a video was released by his patrons in the Pakistani Taliban showing him offering explanations for his actions while training in the mountains of Waziristan. Among the inspirations he is reported to have cited to interrogators was the work al-Awlaki, and a close analysis of this video certainly suggests this to be the case.62 Indeed, during his address he takes a moment to

58 Ibid. 59 For more on this doctrine see for example: Mohamed S. al-Qahtani, Al-Wal’a wa’l-Bara: According to the Aqeedah of the Salaf (Al-Firdous UK Ltd., 1993); Joas Wagemakers, “The Transformation of a Radical Concept: al wala’ wal bara’ in the ideology of Abu Muhammed al-Maqdisi,” in Roel Meijer, ed., Global Salafism: Islam’s New Religious Movement (London: Hurst, 2009). 60 “44 Ways to Support Jihad.” 61 Alexander Meleagrou-Hitchens, “Anwar al-‘Awlaqi’s Disciples: Three Case Studies,” CTC Sentinel, Vol. 4, Issue 7, July 2011. 62 See for example: “Times Square bomb suspect had links to terror preacher,” Daily Telegraph, 7 May 2010; “Sources: Shahzad Had Contact With Awlaki, Taliban Chief, and Mumbai Massacre Mastermind,” ABC News, 6 May 2010.


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thank “those Sheikhs who are spreading da’wah in English…talking about jihad, out loud,” claiming that “it’s because of those Sheikhs that I’m probably here today.”63 His justifications for violence appear very closely related to those found in another of al-Awlaki’s most important works, his translation of Constants in the Path of Jihad, in particular al-Awlaki’s interpretation of jihad as a fard (duty) equal to, if not above, the more common Islamic practices of prayer, fasting and the Hajj pilgrimage. Quoting Quran 2:216 and 2:183, al-Awlaki argued: Allah says, “Fighting has been prescribed upon you and you dislike it, but it is possible that you dislike a thing which is good for you and you love a thing which is bad for you. But Allah knows and you know not.” This ayah [verse] says that fighting is prescribed upon you, so it is a fard, it’s an instruction from Allah…They [jihad and fasting] are both in Surah al Baqarah. Fighting is prescribed upon you and fasting is prescribed upon you; so how come we are treating them differently? 64 As with many of his other arguments, this is by no means an original concept, yet he is aware that the conceptualization of jihad is one of the defining debates being had by Muslims in the West — both among themselves and with wider Western society. As different Islamic organizations and sects vie for influence among young Western Muslims, al-Awlaki seeks to provide ideological ammunition for the minority of Salafi-jihadi followers. He also uses this argument as further proof of the war on Islam, claiming that by preventing and working against jihad, Western nations are actively preventing Muslims from carrying out their duties to both the defense and spread of their religion as ordained by God. This interpretation of jihad was clearly not lost on Shahzad, who uses the same Quranic references as al-Awlaki (which refer to the ordained obligations of jihad and fasting respectively) to make the very same point about jihad: One of the most prominent things in Islam...when I came to it, is jihad. People do prayer, they...give zakat [obligatory charitable donations], they do fasting, they go to Hajj, but they follow part of it [Islam], but they don’t follow the other part of it, which is fighting in the cause of Allah…I don’t understand why people follow one of the commandments, but they don’t follow the other commandment...they are equally important.65 Like Rajib Karim, he is also conscious of the ultimatum offered by Awlaki to Muslims living peacefully in the West as supposed munafiqeen,66 and sees two options available for the “true” follower: I urge my brothers and sisters and all the Muslims living abroad to either immigrate, migrate as soon as possible to the Muslim nation or if you die you will die in kufr…But today, alhamdulillah [praise God], I am among them [the non-Muslims] and planning to wage an attack inside America.67

63 “Faisal Shahzad Martyrdom Video: Arab TV Airs Alleged Clip Of Failed Times Square Bomber,” Associated Press, 14 July 2010, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/07/14/faisal-shahzad-video-arab_n_646002.html, last accessed 4 March 2012. 64 Al-Awlaki, Constants in the Path of Jihad. 65 Faisal Shahzad video address. 66 Plural of munafiq. 67 Faisal Shahzad video address.


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Conclusion When analyzing the history of the al-Qaeda media strategy, it becomes clear that the post 9/11 explosion in jihadi media outlets and websites was not only a reaction to the global jihad’s newfound popularity. It was also the product of many years of thought and discussion, during which jihadi strategists developed a framework that would allow them to compete with the mainstream media for the hearts and minds of the world’s Muslims. It could be argued, in fact, that were it not for the ideas of Abu Hafs, Abu Hudaifa and, most importantly, Abu Musab al-Suri, the global jihad movement would have failed to spread as extensively as it did after the initial success of the 9/11 attacks. Unlike after previous successes such as the U.S. embassy bombings, the group capitalized on the global attention and recognition it received following the attacks. In the years immediately following, the world saw a significant rise in the establishment of regional sections of al-Qaeda as well as other, separate, jihadi terrorist groups. Along with this growth in the number of affiliates, jihadi media has also succeeded in inspiring and mobilizing individual Muslims who, with no prior affiliation to any terrorist groups, have carried out so-called “lone wolf” attacks within their home nations. With the death of al-Awlaki and his media savvy sidekick, Samir Khan, AQAP may have lost its ability to produce media specifically for Western Muslim consumption. This is not to say, however, that the effort to recruit from among America and Europe’s Muslims is over, and there is evidence to suggest that Somalia’s al-Shabaab, the al-Qaeda aligned Islamist militia, is beginning to focus more of its media and recruitment efforts on Westerners. Through its media wing, al-Kataib, and the work of an American al-Shabaab fighter named Omar Hammami, the group is making clear efforts to take the English-language jihadi mantle from AQAP. Using slickly produced videos, it aims to inspire Western Somalis (and Western Muslims more generally) to either join their fight in sub-Saharan Africa, or contribute to the cause by carrying out attacks within their host nations. The future of the global jihad is heavily dependent on its capacity to continue producing its own media; were its loose media network to crumble, it could be a fatal blow to the movement. As yet, however, there is little evidence to suggest that this is happening, and it would be wise to seriously consider strategies focused on unraveling or shutting down this media network.


Keynote Address III

A Call for Further Research and Analysis Ms. Suzanne Spaulding, Esq.


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A Call for Further Research and Analysis Ms. Suzanne Spaulding 1 Bingham Consulting Group I want to reinforce and underline some of the themes that we heard during this conference, but bring the perspective of a consumer of intellectual products produced by the Intelligence Community and from the academic community. The first point that I want to stress is that, when bringing academics and practitioners together, studies have to be relevant. These issues are so critical today, and it is important not just to pursue things that are intellectually interesting and leave it at that. I understand the tension there. Having spent years working in and with the Intelligence Community, I understand how important it is for the kind of intellectual thinking and research and analysis that you are doing to be independent, to not be linked directly to a desired policy outcome, in order to maintain the credibility and legitimacy of your work. The Intelligence Community is very much aware of that. The analysts understand that they are not policymakers. They are informing policymakers, and that is a line that is important to observe very carefully. Having said that, there is a role that academia can play in a way that intelligence analysts cannot: doing independent work, letting the facts lead where they lead, doing independent analyses, and then taking the next step to think about how that applies to the challenges that policymakers face, particularly helping to identify what is still relevant about the historical perspective they have brought to bear, what is different about the environment the policymakers face today, and what are the implications of that for how this should influence decision-making. For example, Anne Stenersen has done a lot of work looking at the relationship between the Taliban and al-Qaeda over the years. In the end, she makes the pivot to how this is relevant to al-Qaeda’s ability to find safe havens today. That is the kind of pivot that is critically important. Another critical function for analysts in the Intelligence Community and in academia, is not just to answer the questions that are asked by policymakers, but to help them think about what the right questions are — what questions have they not thought about yet but should be asking. This was a function of intelligence analysis that came under intense pressure after the 9/11 attacks. There had been a huge emphasis on simply answering the questions that policymakers asked and not spending resources outside that narrow realm. The emphasis on looking over the horizon, on looking peripherally, and thinking about the questions that have not been asked, are not being asked, and that should be asked was something that had really atrophied in the Intelligence Community. I hope this is something that will be very much on your minds as you pursue these issues. Another issue is how to avoid groupthink that, particularly in the bureaucracies of government, tends to take over. One of the ways to do that is by encouraging thinking “outside the box” and encouraging outliers. One of our speakers said the he thought that young people were particularly well suited, having not yet been captured by the bureaucracy, to be thinking in these terms. One of the ways to encourage that without putting their careers too much at risk, is to encourage them to think about the questions that should be asked. Academics and researchers, on the outside, are in the best position to do that. 1 Ms. Spaulding was named Deputy Under Secretary, National Protection and Programs Directorate, at the Department of Homeland Security following this conference. The views expressed in her address are her own and do not represent the views of the Department of Homeland Security or the U.S. Government.


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Asking the right question is so important. My own experience really drove this home for me. When I was on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence with Congresswoman Jane Harman in early 2004, we talked to the authors of the Iraq Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), trying to figure out what went wrong, what went right, and how it developed the way it developed. 2 We met with the leaders in each of the fields — nuclear, chemical, and biological — who supervised the writing of this NIE. You may not remember the history of the NIE, but it was originally prompted by a question from Congress during their consideration of whether to authorize the use of force in Iraq. Members asked for this NIE, to understand whether the nature of the Iraqi WMD threat justified going to war. What we heard from the drafters of the NIE was fascinating. They had not viewed themselves as answering a question from Congress. In the interim, they had gotten a request from the Executive Branch to write an estimate. They were answering a different question from the Executive Branch. This is what they told us: the decision to go to war had basically already been made. The question they were answering was, “Should our commanders be prepared to face chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons when they go in?” Think about the dramatic difference between these questions just in terms of the burden of proof. If you are in doubt, which way are you going to come down? So the question from Congress was: Does Iraq have WMD? This would inform the decision to go to war, so you would be pretty careful before you would say, “Yes, they have a nuclear program or chemical or biological weapons,” because you would know the consequences would be huge. Now think about the question they thought they were answering from the White House instead: Should our commanders be prepared to face WMD? You would be pretty careful before you would say, “No, they do not have it,” and have people sent in who were not prepared to encounter those kinds of weapons. In this case, you are more likely to err in favor of saying yes. It makes a dramatic difference how you ask the question and whether you are asking the right questions. That is a point that is critically important. Asking the right questions is also important for challenging consensus. Juan Zarate, Brian Fishman, and others talked about, for example, looking at China as a target for terrorist activity based on their changing role in the world. Those are the kinds of questions that are not getting serious consideration in the government right now but need to be asked. We have heard the Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and CIA Director David Petraeus say that the strategic defeat of al-Qaeda is within sight. This prompted a lot of debate in Washington on whether this is an exaggeration or not. Beyond that debate, somebody needs to be thinking about whether if the strategic defeat of al-Qaeda does happen, then what? What is next? Where does terrorism fit in the constellation of national security issues for the United States and the U.S. interests? Another point is that this is not really about predicting the future. Jeff Cooper at SAIC says he thinks trying to predict the future, which I see analysts asked to do all the time, is really a fool’s errand and cannot be done.3 We should focus instead on being able to really understand the current environment — sensing and making sense of what is going on today and how we can be agile enough to adapt to changing circumstances as we sense changes. So the key is to have all our sensors out there to sense what is happening and to understand, as different scenarios develop, how we should be moving so that we have the agility to address changing circumstances. 2 The 2002 Iraq NIE posited that Saddam Hussein had WMD and helped support the congressional resolution to authorize the use of force which the Bush Administration used to invade Iraq and overthrow the Saddam Hussein regime. 3 Mr. Cooper is Chief Information Officer; Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Group at SAIC (Science Applications International Corporation).


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Part of this is choosing the future we want. Analyzing possible outcomes is important, but also important for policymakers particularly and they need help from scholars in fleshing this out is figuring out what future we want, what future best moves us toward our objectives. Again, I would cite Juan Zarate and his colleagues, Tom Sanderson and Dave Gordon, at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) who have just come out with a very interesting study of al-Qaeda and associated movements, playing out five or six possible outcomes — scenarios for what alQaeda and associated movements might look like in 2025 and the factors that will drive each scenario. 4 They are not trying to predict which of these outcomes will ultimately emerge, but what the possible scenarios are, and deciding what factors will drive them. As we are sensing and making sense of our current environment, we can better understand which of these outcomes we may be closest to. The last scenario they describe envisions the kind of outcome they would like to see. If that is the future we want, how do we get from here to there, and how can we evaluate where we are on that pathway? Part of choosing the future you want is to focus not just on threats and risks as we tend to do in the practitioner community. Equally important is to focus on opportunities — an area that I would encourage you to consider delving into. How are events developing today? Along those lines, I would encourage you to read the “Mr. Y” article.5 It was done by a couple of really smart guys who had been asked to step out of their day-to-day world and do some thinking for the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. It is very unconventional thinking though, and they could not quite get released by the Pentagon. So, they took it to the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars (WWICS) and published it there. One of the things they talk about is this notion of thinking about opportunities. Another theme that I want to emphasize that was mentioned during this conference is the notion of the trees and the forest. Cindy Storer talked about it when she was talking about one of the reasons why she thinks the analysts in this area of counterterrorism tended to be women. She talked about the importance of being able to see both the trees and the forest. This is important, obviously, across the board in so many of the areas that have been discussed. One of the areas where this is critically important is in analyzing the Arab Spring: the impact, the implications, the potential outcomes — looking on a very granular basis at various players, emerging groups, emerging individuals, trends, and forces. What are the participants’ objectives? How will they drive home their agendas? Who are their enemies? In a very granular way, we need to look at those trees. But then, equally important, is to step back and ask, “Now we have looked at those aspects, and how are broader trends going to affect those individual players? How will those broader trends disrupt what is happening? How will they reinforce the kinds of things we are concerned about — the opportunities that are presented, both for us and for our adversaries?” Seeing both the forest and the trees can be particularly challenging in academic research. I have sensed this from some of the panelists who have made their presentations and accessed these very fascinating captured records maintained by the Conflict Records Research Center (CRRC). The natural tendency is to bore in, really get down into the granularity and the details and get absorbed in those documents. So, again, it is important to step back and think about how the details fit into the broader global trends.

4 Rick ”Ozzie” Nelson and Thomas M. Sanderson, contributors: Amrit Bagia, Ben Bodurian, and David A. Gordon, A Threat Transformed: Al Qaeda and Associated Movements in 2011, 8 February 2011, CSIS, http://csis.org/files/publication/110203_Nelson_ AThreatTransformed_web.pdf, last accessed 28 February 2012. 5 “Mr. Y,” A National Strategic Narrative, 2011, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, http://www.wilsoncenter.org/ sites/default/files/A%20National%20Strategic%20Narrative.pdf, last accessed 29 February 2012.


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There is one last area that I would encourage somebody to look at. Brian Fishman talked about how our actions and policies are perceived as infringing on civil liberties or notions of equality, freedom, and justice. I have argued for years, since before 9/11, that our traditional concept of balancing national security and civil liberties is fundamentally misleading, because it implies they are mutually exclusive objectives, and if you take away from one, you add to the other and vice versa. My own view is that in fact, they are mutually reinforcing. Many intuitively understand why security is essential for the preservation of civil liberties, but less obvious is understanding the ways in which preservation of civil liberties and our system of check-and-balances reinforce our national security. An example I use often is that relationship of trust with communities, that relationship between the governed and the government that is so essential for sustaining public support for policies. Today, with concerns about threats that will emerge from within our communities, having that relationship of trust with those initial sensors — the governed — is really important. It is family members, friends, religious leaders, and others in communities who are most likely to sense a problem. Their ability and inclination to respond effectively depends at least in part, on a relationship of trust — trust that the system is fair and just, for example. Finally, I would conclude where I started: research needs to be relevant. They must find ways to interact with the Intelligence Community and with policymakers. For those in academia, it is such an important interaction, for all the reasons that have been talked about at this conference. I understand the sensitivity, particularly for scholars, about interacting with the Intelligence Community, but again, I would commend some of the work that CSIS has done with their Trusted Information Network, or TIN projects, where they have been able to bring in civilian scholars to work on some of these issues and act as a go-between — between academia and the Intelligence Community. Scholars must find ways to reach out to help people who are struggling with these issues day-in and day-out to understand the relevance of this work and the implications of it.


Conclusion Dr. Mark E. Stout


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Conclusion Dr. Mark E. Stout Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Advanced Governmental Studies On 13-14 September 2011, Johns Hopkins University and the National Defense University (NDU) co-sponsored a conference entitled “Ten Years Later: Insights on al-Qaeda’s Past & Future through Captured Records.” In addition to allowing for an exchange of views of many of the leading scholars in the field of jihadist studies, the conference also highlighted the rich and growing collection of primary source captured documents from al-Qaeda and its affiliates that are available at NDU’s Conflict Records Research Center (CRRC). In his memoirs, former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara attributed the debacle, which was the protracted Vietnam War, in part to the lack of experts on Southeast Asia.1 This conference made clear that Washington can have no such grounds to complain about a lack of expertise in the government or out of it on al-Qaeda and other Sunni jihadists. Experts on al-Qaeda and associated movements (AQAM) can contribute to national security policy and strategy. The conference was remarkably fruitful in an academic sense, but the only coverage that it garnered in the media was for a speech given by the Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence, Michael Vickers. He said that, “assuming sustained CT [counterterrorism] operations against the group, within 18 to 24 months, core al-Qaeda cohesion and operational capabilities could be degraded to the point that the group could fragment and exist mostly as a propaganda arm and power could devolve to regional affiliates.”2 This may have been important news to the outside world, but inside the conference the speech seemed less dramatic, merely an affirmation from the government regarding conclusions that the jihadist studies community was also reaching. In fact, the sense of these scholars was that al-Qaeda specifically, and the Sunni jihadist community more broadly, is in serious trouble. There was certainly no mood of triumphalism. Nevertheless, the two broad messages from the conference were: first, that al-Qaeda and the Sunni jihadist movement were deeply wounded and vulnerable; and second, that al-Qaeda and its brethren had actually never been as strong as they appeared.

The Success of Jihadist Studies This conference on the tenth anniversary of a great tragedy provides an opportunity to look back not only at al-Qaeda, but also at the field of jihadist studies. The field has a short but illustrious history. Two papers in the first panel, mine and that of Cynthia Storer, a CIA counterterrorism analyst who had worked the al-Qaeda problem as early as the 1990s, showed that elements of the U.S. Intelligence Community (IC) had developed jihadist studies in its applied form well before 11 September 2001.The attacks that day had been a tactical, but not a strategic surprise, and at least a few people inside the IC had a very sophisticated picture of the adversary the nation faced. The scholarly community was not as quick off the mark. As Dr. Thomas Hegghammer noted in his introduction to the opening panel of the conference, “with the exception of a few scholars like Gilles Kepel, the academy largely missed the rise of al-Qaeda.”3 1 Robert S. McNamara, In Retrospect: The Tragedy and Lessons of Vietnam (New York: Vintage Books, 1995), pp. 32-33. 2 Pam Benson, “US: Al Qaeda in Pakistan Could Be Gone in Two Years,” CNN, 14 September 2012, http://security.blogs.cnn. com/2011/09/14/, last accessed 29 February 2012. 3 Thomas Hegghammer, “Introduction: Panel I: What did scholars and policy-makers know about al-Qaeda and Associated Movements (AQAM) before 9/11?”, in Ten Years Later: Insights on al-Qaeda’s Past & Future through Captured Records Conference Proceedings (Washington, D.C.: The Johns Hopkins University Center for Advanced Governmental Studies, 2012).


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Shortly after the 11 September attacks, however, the jihadist studies community began to establish itself in the non-governmental world. Many scholars were attracted by a nearly virgin field of study (they were largely unaware, of course, of government findings on the subject) that was of great intellectual interest and great policy import. The scholars who took up jihadist studies came from many different backgrounds including history, political science, anthropology, sociology, religious studies, communications, and strategic studies, not to mention government intelligence analysis and journalism. The field has also benefited from a great abundance of primary source materials. A few people in the field have interviewed jihadists — Peter Bergen, Scott Atran, Jessica Stern, Quintan Wiktorowicz, and Ken Ballen — though it must be admitted that the murder of Daniel Pearl looms large over such efforts. Similarly, the jihadist studies community is blessed by the fact that the jihadists themselves are prolific in numerous media and, as befits the vanguard members of a would-be global movement, they disseminate their words broadly and in many languages. In addition, the U.S. government has done a great favor to the field by making available substantial and growing numbers of document captured from the jihadists. These have come particularly through the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, more recently, through the already larger collection available at the CRRC. This availability of primary sources and the willingness to let a thousand methodological and analytical flowers bloom has borne fruit. Brian Fishman notes in his paper that “scholars…have focused intensely on understanding al-Qaeda’s ideology — and parsed it effectively.”4 Dr. Mary Habeck’s paper on al-Qaeda’s grand strategic vision as of 11 September illustrates the truth of the claim.5 Fishman notes also that “experts in the field now converse fluently about classical and global jihadism and can make at least informed assumptions about how those ideas impact the ability of terrorist organizations to operate.”6 Scholars have also made inroads into understanding jihadist radicalization, and the many vulnerabilities of the jihadist movement. For instance, they also “appreciate how jihadis apply the doctrine of takfir, which is used to justify violence against Muslims and understand not only how that stands in contrast to mainstream Islamic practice, but also the differing interpretations of takfir within the jihadi community itself.” Fishman’s list could have gone on and on. One of the reasons that the jihadist studies community has been so successful is that it has largely eschewed politics and polemics. While the community has its own rivalries and debates, its members have generally declined to engage with those who like to argue about who is an Orientalist, racist, Zionist neocon, apologist, or useful idiot. Rather, the community has kept its focus on the jihadists themselves. Scholars have gone where the evidence and the interesting questions have taken them, and in the process they have been of substantial help to policymakers. Along the way, with researchers’ use of primary sources, their focus on the world view of the jihadists themselves, and their emphasis on the role of states in shaping the jihadist movement, they have also managed to sidestep a great many, though certainly not all, of the criticisms of traditional terrorist studies made by scholars in the new field of critical terrorist studies. So where has the evidence taken the jihadist studies community? The community tends to believe on the one hand that there is a real threat posed by terrorists who are Muslims and who are acting in the name of their faith, but that on the other hand, al-Qaeda does not represent Muslims generally. These scholars believe that the jihadists have a message that has some features that are attractive to many 4 Brian Fishman, “The Counterterrorism Research Agenda Ten Years After 9/11,” in Ten Years Later: Insights on al-Qaeda’s Past & Future through Captured Records Conference Proceedings. 5 Mary R. Habeck, “Blessed September: Al-Qaeda’s Grand Strategic Vision on 9-11,” in Ten Years Later: Insights on al-Qaeda’s Past & Future through Captured Records Conference Proceedings. 6 Fishman.


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Muslims (such as skepticism about the intentions of the United States) but other features that are attractive to very few (such as the commitment to wanton violence). They believe that the movement is adaptive and evolving, but also deeply vulnerable. These findings are both interesting and should be useful to policymakers.

Al-Qaeda’s Past was Not so Rosy If that is the past and present of the jihadist studies community, what do the past and present of the jihadists themselves look like? Several speakers at the conference argued that al-Qaeda’s past was not so rosy when it first appeared. Even Alexander Meleagrou-Hitchens’ paper on al-Qaeda’s communication strategy, perhaps the most bullish on the jihadist movement in this collection, notes that senior members of al-Qaeda critiqued the group for poor media efforts during the 1990s.7 Jessica Huckabey took the jihadists’ failures as the topic of her paper on “jihads in decline.”8 Drawing primarily on captured documents, she gives numerous examples of pre-9/11 problems and outright failures on the part of the jihadists. Of course, she gives attention to the debacle that was the Armed Islamic Group in Algeria in the 1990s, rightly saying that “this was a jihad…in a death spiral.” She also highlights the jihadists’ utter failure in Syria in the early 1980s, the subject of a 900-page tome by Abu Musab al-Suri with the evocative title of “Lessons Learned from the Armed Jihad Ordeal in Syria.” She summarizes al-Suri’s lessons pertaining to failures of leadership, failures of strategy and planning, failures to explain goals, failures in recruitment, failure to unify, failures of trust, and failures of security. One might reasonably ask what else the Syrian jihadists could possibly have failed at. These were merely the most dramatic jihadist failures in the past and Huckabey mentions many others and the shortcomings that gave rise to them. To this effect, she quotes al-Suri from a 1999 document as having scathing opinions of just about every jihad of recent decades: Most movements and arenas suffered great and grave defeats: The killing and imprisonment of most of the heads and scholars of the jihad awakening; the scattering of the remainders of its symbolism, its leaders, its intellectuals, and its cadre; chasing them from one place to another all over the world; campaigns of turn-ins, and kidnappings reach the youth of the jihad movement and their supporters.9 Al-Suri is renowned for being cantankerous and contrarian, but Huckabey and other speakers in the conference made clear that his criticisms were echoed by other jihadists. For instance, Huckabey’s presentation touches on a theme some other conference speakers did, as well, namely that Sunni jihadists have had a tendency to put the “military cart before the political horse,” as one anonymous jihadist put it in a captured document.10 This and other failures amounting to a lack of organization have caused the jihadists to repeatedly suffer “huge losses.” As the anonymous jihadist concluded, “a quick look at the results of the Islamic guerrilla wars proves it.”11 Similarly, prominent jihadist leader Abu Walid al-Masri was quite willing to talk about the chaos that prevailed in pre-9/11 Afghanistan.

7 Alexander Meleagrou-Hitchens, “The Development of al-Qaeda’s Media Strategy and Its Role in Mobilizing Western Muslims,” in Ten Years Later: Insights on al-Qaeda’s Past & Future through Captured Records Conference Proceedings. 8 Jessica M. Huckabey, “Jihads in Decline: What the Captured Records Tell Us,” in Ten Years Later: Insights on al-Qaeda’s Past & Future through Captured Records Conference Proceedings. 9 Ibid. 10 AQ-SHPD-D-000-982, “Historical perspectives of guerrilla war and their relation to jihad and fight against the Soviet occupation,” undated (circa 1980s), Conflict Records Research Center, Washington, D.C. 11 Ibid.


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The Afghans, like the Arabs, lacked organizational skills, and this combined with the presence of numerous Arab factions in the country, resulted in “a tragic scene of microscopic groups that hate each other and the exceptions are rare.”12 Anne Stenersen expands this tale of jihadist woe even farther by bringing the Taliban into the discussion.13 It is all too easy to look backward and see the Taliban as at one with the Arab mujahidin who came to Afghanistan and bin Laden as having had a close personal relationship with Mullah ‘Umar. This narrative does not stand up to scrutiny, however, as she makes clear. In fact, Stenersen writes that “there was a lack of trust between the Taliban and the Arabs, and that the Taliban to some extent saw the Arabs as a liability rather than an asset.” These negative assessments were reciprocated: “reports from Arab commanders serving on the Taliban’s frontlines paint a rather grim picture of the quality of their relationship with the Taliban.” The Arabs, she writes, found the Taliban government to be disorganized and their soldiers unimpressive having, among other shortcomings, lost their “will to sacrifice.” She quotes a biting passage from a letter from an Arab commander, “We need to understand the fighting methods of the Taliban, which is that they often run away from battle.”14 Moreover, the Taliban supported some jihadist individuals and groups that were at odds with alQaeda, such as al-Suri, who routinely criticized bin Laden. She concludes that the Taliban only offered al-Qaeda sanctuary and primacy among the Arab groups (which they maintained in the face of many provocations) because al-Qaeda could have posed a threat to the regime if provoked, and because furthermore, only al-Qaeda had the stature to bring the squabbling Arab groups, some of which actually opposed the Taliban, under some degree of control. Dr. Nelly Lahoud piled on the topic, this time through the eyes of an individual prominent jihadist, Fadil Harun, a Comorian and long-time member of al-Qaeda who was a principal planner of the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania.15 In her presentation, Dr. Lahoud described how Harun’s autobiography focuses less on the shortcomings of al-Qaeda itself and more on the jihadists who have been inspired and mobilized to follow al-Qaeda’s path. She quoted Harun to the effect that since the overthrow of the Taliban regime in late 2001, a “new generation of young men” have “dispersed around the world” and these men are “in the habit of striking in random fashion at unlawful targets without consulting anyone.”16 Harun criticized these men for “purposely causing innocent casualties, be they Muslims or non-Muslims,” reminding them that “this is not our method.” Among the specific targets of Harun’s frustration was al-Shabaab, which he accused of “political immaturity.”

Al-Qaeda’s Present is not so Good One striking feature about these internal criticisms of the Sunni jihadist movement — and the conference did not even touch on all of them — is their consistency over time. Given these weaknesses and the unrelenting pressure that governments have brought to bear upon the jihadists all around the world, it is not surprising that the jihadists’ tangible record of success has been modest since 9/11. 12 AQ-SHPD-D-000-291, “Chat from the top of the World Series, evaluating the Islamic jihad experience against the Soviets in Afghanistan and a brief description of Osama bin Laden’s financial support network including two of bin Laden’s colonels,” 1995, pp. 221-222, Conflict Records Research Center, Washington, D.C. 13 Anne Stenersen, “The Relationship between al-Qaeda and the Taliban: Insights from Captured Documents,” in Ten Years Later: Insights on al-Qaeda’s Past & Future through Captured Records Conference Proceedings. 14 “Notes from Abd al-Hadi,” document no., AFGP-2002-000091, CTC’s Harmony Document Database, http://www.ctc.usma.edu/ posts/notes-from-abd-al-hadi-original, last accessed 5 March 2012. 15 At the time of publication, Dr. Lahoud’s paper was not available to be included in this volume. 16 Dr. Nelly Lahoud, “Transcript of Ten Years Later: Insights on Al-Qaeda’s Past and Future through Captured Records, Panel 2,” 13 September 2011, National Defense University, http://www.ndu.edu/inss/docuploaded/PANEL-2.pdf, p. 4, last accessed 5 March 2012.


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Certainly, they have numerous tactical successes to brag about, though most of them have been in their own backyard, not in Europe or North America, which ought to be an embarrassment for that part of the movement which prioritizes striking the “far enemy.” However, the jihadists have been quite unable to string these tactical successes together to achieve strategic goals. Hence, they lost Afghanistan, the one country whose government they approved of; they were defeated in Iraq and brutally suppressed in Saudi Arabia; Jemaah Islamiyah in southeast Asia has been reduced to a shadow of its former self; the Abu Sayyaf Group has descended into largely non-Islamic thuggery; the movement has failed to ignite any significant effort in Palestine; the Tehrik-i-Taliban was driven out of Pakistan’s Swat Valley; the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group has withered and largely turned away from al-Qaeda; alQaeda in the Islamic Maghreb has caused much mayhem, but made no visible progress toward creating an Islamic state; and, several prominent jihadists and jihadist groups have come out with denunciations of al-Qaeda and its methods. The list could go on. What does the movement have to balance the ledger? Ayman Zawahiri is still alive; Mullah ‘Umar’s Quetta Shura Taliban has yet to be finally destroyed and it continues its alliance with the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI); al-Shabaab continues to vie for control of the post-apocalyptic land of Somalia; al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula shows no sign of being rooted out of Yemen; and Moscow has been unable to eliminate the jihadists in the North Caucasus who have declared a Caucasus Emirate, even if it is more virtual than actual. What is interesting to note is that these “successes” are mostly of the “not defeated yet” variety. The old saw, of course, has it that insurgents win by not losing, but it is worth remembering that the jihadists do not seek merely to cause death and destruction (at least the reflective, strategically minded ones among them do not), but actually to create something: an Islamic state and ultimately a Caliphate. They do not seek accommodation with the governments they are fighting. Rather, they seek their overthrow and thus some tangible progress is necessary eventually. Clearly that time has not come. Alexander Meleagrou-Hitchens’ paper adds to the list of jihadist successes. He observes that the movement seems to have undergone a learning process in the realm of communications, learning how to exploit modern media to influence and motivate people. He writes: When analyzing the history of the al-Qaeda media strategy, it becomes clear that the post 9/11 explosion in jihadi media outlets and websites was not only a reaction to the global jihad’s newfound popularity. It was also the product of many years of thought and discussion, during which jihadi strategists developed a framework that would allow them to compete with the mainstream media for the hearts and minds of the world’s Muslims.17 Meleagrou-Hitchens describes how this seems to have mobilized some people in the West, including Faisal Shahzad and Antonio Martinez of the United States, and Rajib and Tehzeeb Karim of the United Kingdom. He is right, of course. However, the shortness of the list of people in the West who have been energized to take action under the influence of al-Qaeda’s information effort is striking. Each of these recruitments is a tactical success — though typically their attacks fail — but looked at in their entirety as a population they represent failure. Their ranks are just too thin. One is reminded of the comment in 2011 of Dokku Umarov, the Emir of the Caucasus Emirate, that “today, the Ummah is 1.5 billion in numbers, and we know that even .05% of these numbers of this Ummah do not wage the Jihad, .05% of this Ummah wage the Jihad neither with their souls, nor with their property. Therefore, we see in what miserable condition the Ummah is.”18

17 Alexander Meleagrou-Hitchens, “The Development of al-Qaeda’s Media Strategy and Its Role in Mobilizing Western Nations,” in Ten Years Later: Insights on al-Qaeda’s Past & Future through Captured Records Conference Proceedings. 18 “Appeal by Emir Dokku Abu Usman to Muslims of Caucasus and Russia, ‘‘Fight enemies wherever your hand reaches them,” http://kavkazcenter.com/eng/content/2011/03/03/13715_print.html, last accessed 5 March 2012.


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David Cook adds to this picture of the jihadist movement. He describes the “collapse of the tacit religious support accorded to their methodologies and tactics within the world of Islamic jurisprudence.” He writes that until 2001, the Islamic religious elite remained largely unaware of Salafi jihadism and they did not really mobilize to respond on the theological front until some years after. However, as the focus of jihadi violence has turned during the past ten years more and more away from fighting the “far enemy” to the task of establishing an Islamic state — a process that has involved the use of suicide attacks killing large numbers of Muslim civilians — the general public has become more and more aware of the religious justifications that underlie such violence. This fact has led to the gradual collapse of the religious underpinnings of alQaeda and its ideological affiliates during the past ten years.19 Specifically, important jihadist ideas such as takfir, suicide attacks, and the very loose interpretation of the laws governing the conduct of war (the jihadists’ rules of engagement, one might say) are under counterattack from mainstream Muslim theologians, the general Muslim population, and sometimes even radical Islamists themselves.

A Gloomy Future for the Jihadists The future is a dangerous thing to predict, and I shall not try here. However, conference participants made clear that there are daunting challenges ahead for the jihadist movement. If the religious rationale for the movement is as threatened as Cook says, future members will be those who either care little for, or know little about, any version of the religion of Islam. Juan Zarate, the moderator for the third panel, acknowledges the coming fragmentation, suggesting that: We must rethink our past frameworks to account for the ongoing evolution of a terrorist threat that has grown more diversified, regionally and globally nimble, and less easily categorized. This must be done with an eye toward the explosion and importance of social networking and new technologies that are reshaping how individuals and networks consume and create information and adapt to and affect their environments. 20 Zarate is certainly correct when he says that the jihadist studies community and government as well must take account of social networking and emerging information technologies when considering the future of the jihadist community. In this connection, Meleagrou-Hitchens apparently would agree, given that he points out the evolution that al-Qaeda underwent in its media strategy. Similarly, Fishman describes a basic pragmatism at the core of the jihadist movement. There is every reason to think then, that the process of learning and adaptation will continue. On the other hand, surely by now every Muslim in the world who has the slightest interest in the world around him/her is aware of al-Qaeda, Osama bin Laden, and the violent jihad. It is hard to imagine that technology is going to allow the jihadists to find a way of selling their ideology to a worldwide population of Muslims that does not seem to want it. Zarate is also correct that the Sunni jihadists have grown more “diversified...and less easily categorized,” but it is not clear that this is good news for their cause. Rather, it sounds like a formula for a loss of focus, widespread counterproductive atrocities, and ultimate dissolution. After all, the Sunni jihadist movement is not known for its big-tent approach to the creation of a Caliphate. Worse yet, from a mainstream jihadist perspective, a “diversified…and less easily categorized” 19 Dr. David. B. Cook, “The Collapse of Religious Justification for Global Radical Muslims,” in Ten Years Later: Insights on al-Qaeda’s Past & Future through Captured Records Conference Proceedings. 20 Juan Zarate, “Panel Session III: What should be the focus of AQAM for the future?” in Ten Years Later: Insights on al-Qaeda’s Past & Future through Captured Records Conference Proceedings.


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jihadist movement is one which will engage in more counterproductive violence. One cannot help be reminded of Harun’s complaint about the “new generation of young men” who have “dispersed around the world” who are “in the habit of striking in random fashion at unlawful targets without consulting anyone.”21 The jihadist movement faces a fundamental dilemma: it wishes to be a mass movement in which every member acts but acts prudently and on the plan. This is impossible. One can have a tightly controlled elite organization, as Zawahiri’s Egyptian Islamic Jihad was, or one can have an essentially uncontrolled mass movement that acts and grows organically. Al-Qaeda and the Sunni jihadist movement, then, face two major enemies. The first is themselves and the other members of the Islamic world. The second are the actions of governments. A plurality of the presentations dealt with the jihadists’ own failures of omission and commission. Only two dealt with the actions taken by governments. Dr. Zabikhulla Saipov from the University of World Economy and Diplomacy in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, spoke about efforts aimed at the jihadists by the Government of Uzbekistan in such fields as counter-radicalization campaigns, neighborhood watches, and government-mosque cooperation. 22 Dr. Thomas Lynch, in his paper here, also has negative things to say about the future of the jihadist movement. 23 He suggests that the CIA’s killing of Osama bin Laden in May 2011 amounts to a solution of much, though not all, of the al-Qaeda problem. He argues that post-bin Laden al-Qaeda would now be unable to organize “truly catastrophic” terrorism against the West, claim success should any of the regional affiliates become more successful than presently, or claim victory in Afghanistan or western Pakistan, let alone “reestablish a credible and unfettered training area” in those places. 24 In spite of this bleak picture for jihadists, it is worth remembering that the jihadist movement is very resilient and it learns, as Meleagrou-Hitchens notes in the context of communications. The jihadists trace their own movement back at least a few decades and they have usually been quite forthright about the fact that this history has been marked by repeated failure and yet the movement persists. Accordingly, it may be that al-Qaeda Central is in its death throes. It may also be that none of the present affiliates are on the right track. However, there is little reason to belief that Sunni jihadism will vanish entirely any time soon.

Future of Jihadist Studies Having discussed the future of the jihadists, it is also appropriate to consider the future of the jihadist studies community. If the jihadists are in decline, does that mean that the jihadist studies will decline, too? I do not think so. Certainly some scholars will migrate out of the field in the normal course of things, feeling that they have contributed all they personally can contribute. A few may also leave to chase the newest topic of top national security priority. However, I think the field will remain healthy. There are at least two reasons for thinking this. First, there are still many interesting new questions to be asked and a rather longer list of interesting questions to be answered for researchers and policy makers. Interesting questions attract scholars. Fishman’s paper enumerates just some of the important lacunae in the field. His suggestion that we ought to think about categorizing al-Qaeda strategies, for instance, has significant implications for understanding and even predicting the future of al-Qaeda. So, a jihadist movement that follows the 21 Lahoud, p. 4. 22 At the time of publication, Dr. Saipov’s paper was not available to be included in this volume. Dr. Zabikhulla Saipov, “Transcript of Ten Years Later: Insights on Al-Qaeda’s Past and Future through Captured Records, Panel 3,” 14 September 2011, National Defense University, http://www.ndu.edu/inss/docuploaded/PANEL-2.pdf, p. 7, last accessed 5 March 2012. 23 Dr. Thomas F. Lynch III, “The 80% Solution: The Defeat of bin Laden’s al-Qaeda and South Asian Security”, in Ten Years Later: Insights on al-Qaeda’s Past & Future through Captured Records Conference Proceedings. 24 Ibid.


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way of Abu Musab Zarqawi in saying that all Muslim societies are corrupt might burn itself out in a brief but extraordinarily violent way. On the other hand, a jihadist movement that follows Zawahiri in believing that Muslim society is fundamentally good, but deceived and ill-led, might be a more persistent threat. Second, the field is about due for revisionism, perhaps the rite of passage of any scholarly field. It is well established enough and old enough that it can withstand such challenges. Dr. Flagg Miller’s paper is the only one that would qualify as revisionist in this volume. 25 In it, he argues that much of what we think we know about the early history of al-Qaeda is fundamentally wrong. He may or may not be correct, but his challenge should be welcomed and, inevitably, he will be followed by others who will also ask uncomfortable questions. The field can only benefit from such debate, and this intellectual energy can only contribute positively to national security policymaking and strategy.

25 Flagg Miller, “Re-reading the Origins of al-Qaeda through Osama bin Laden’s Former Audiocassette Collection”, in Ten Years Later: Insights on al-Qaeda’s Past & Future through Captured Records Conference Proceedings.


Biographies Conference Participants


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Biographies Mr. Peter L. Bergen Director, National Security Studies Program at the New America Foundation Peter L. Bergen is a print and television journalist, and the author of Holy War, Inc.: Inside the Secret World

of Osama bin Laden (2001), which has been translated into 18 languages, and The Osama bin Laden I Know: An Oral History of Al Qaeda’s Leader (2006). Both books were named among the best non-fiction books of the year by The Washington Post, and documentaries based on the books were nominated for Emmy Awards in 2002 and 2007. His most recent book is The Longest War: The Enduring Conflict between America and Al-Qaeda (2011). Holy War, Inc. and The Longest War were both New York Times bestsellers. Mr. Bergen is CNN’s national security analyst and a fellow at New York University’s Center on Law & Security. He has written for many publications including The New York Times, The Washington Post, Vanity Fair, Los Angeles Times, The Wall Street Journal, The International Herald Tribune, The Atlantic, Foreign Affairs, Rolling Stone, The National Interest, Time Magazine, Newsweek, The Washington Monthly, The Nation, Mother Jones, The Washington Times, The Times (UK), The Daily Telegraph (UK), and The Guardian (UK). He is a contributing editor at The New Republic and has worked as a correspondent for National Geographic television, Discovery, and CNN. In 2008 he was an adjunct lecturer at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and he worked as an adjunct professor at the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University for several years. He has testified on Capitol Hill on a number of occasions. Mr. Bergen holds a M.A in modern history from New College, Oxford University. As director of New America’s National Security Studies Program, Mr. Bergen leads the Foundation’s analysis of terrorism, counterinsurgency, South Asia’s geopolitics, and other national security concerns.

Dr. David B. Cook Assistant Professor of Religious Studies, Rice University David B. Cook ’s work focuses on the study of early Islam, Muslim apocalyptic literature and movements for radical social change, dreams, historical astronomy, Judeo-Arabic literature, and West African Islam. His most recent books are Understanding Jihad and Contemporary Muslim Apocalyptic Literature. He is currently working on a book on the theme of Islamic martyrdom for Cambridge University Press and has published on the subject of martyrdom operations. In the future, Cook intends to work on the understudied subject of West African Islam, focusing on the vast Arabic literature of sub-Saharan Africa (especially in Nigeria). Other future projects include finishing the trilogy of apocalyptic works (Studies in Muslim Apocalyptic, on classical apocalyptic beliefs; and Contemporary Muslim Apocalyptic Literature being the first two in the series) with a work on the apocalyptic and millenarian foundations of Muslim civilizations. Hopefully, this will be the beginning of the serious study of the role which apocalyptic and radical social movements have played in Islamic history.


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Dr. Lorry M. Fenner Director, Conflict Records Research Center and Senior Research Fellow, Institute for National Strategic Studies at the National Defense University Lorry M. Fenner came to NDU after nearly five years as a Professional Staff Member for the House Armed Services Committee acting as the staff lead for the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee for four of those years.

Retired from the U.S. Air Force after 26 years as an intelligence officer and space operations officer, she held a variety of command and staff jobs worldwide. In addition to assignments as a satellite systems flight commander, signals intelligence squadron commander, deputy group commander, and vice wing commander, she served on Major Command staffs, the Air Staff, the Joint Staff (J-5, Strategy Division), and the Secretary of Defense’s staff. Dr. Fenner also served on the staff of the Scowcroft Commission (NSPD-5, A Comprehensive Review of Intelligence, 2001) and the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States (9/11 Commission; 2003-2004) and as a Fellow at the Supreme Court of the United States (2002-2003). She taught history at the U.S. Air Force Academy (1986-1990 and 1995-1996) and strategic studies at the National War College (1997-1999). She earned a Ph.D. in History from the University of Michigan, an M.S. in National Security Strategy from the National War College at NDU, an M.A. in Central European History from the University of Michigan, and a B.A. in Secondary Education from Arizona State University.

Mr. Brian Fishman Counterterrorism Research Fellow, New America Foundation Brian Fishman is a Counterterrorism Research Fellow at the New America Foundation and a Research

Fellow with the Combating Terrorism Center (CTC) at West Point. He previously served as the CTC’s Director of Research and was a professor in the Department of Social Sciences at West Point. Mr. Fishman is the editor (with Assaf Moghadam) of Fault Lines in Global Jihad: Organizational, Strategic, and Ideological Fissures (Routledge 2011). Mr. Fishman holds a Masters in International Affairs (MIA) from Columbia University and a B.A. from the University of California Los Angeles.

Ms. Jessica L. Goldings Research Analyst, Conflict Records Research Center Jessica L. Goldings is an expert on the Center’s al-Qaeda and Associated Movements (AQAM) collection. She assists the CRRC Director and Deputy Director on operational issues and requirements of the Center. She previously served as an analyst at the Office of the Secretary of Defense, RAND Corporation, and Pew Research Center. Ms. Goldings holds an M.A. in Security Studies from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service and a B.A. in Politics from Brandeis University.

Dr. Mary R. Habeck Associate Professor of Strategic Studies at Johns Hopkins University’s Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies Mary R. Habeck is an Associate Professor in Strategic Studies at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced

International Studies (SAIS), where she teaches courses on military history and strategic thought. Before coming to SAIS, Dr. Habeck taught American and European military history in Yale University’s Department of History from 1994 to 2005. She received her Ph.D. in history from Yale in 1996, an M.A. in international relations from Yale in 1989, and a B.A. in international studies, Russian,


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and Spanish from the Ohio State University in 1987. Dr. Habeck was appointed by President George W. Bush to the Council on the Humanities at the National Endowment for the Humanities (2006-2012), and in 2008-2009 she served as the Special Advisor for Strategic Planning on the National Security Council staff. In addition to books and articles on doctrine, World War I, the Spanish Civil War, and al-Qaeda, her publications include Knowing the Enemy: Jihadist Ideology and the War on Terror (Yale, 2005) and Attacking America: How Salafi Jihadis Are Fighting Their 200-Year War with the U.S. (2011) and forthcoming sequel, Fighting the Enemy: The U.S. and its War against the Salafi Jihadis (2013).

Dr. Thomas Hegghammer Senior Research Fellow, Norwegian Defense Research Establishment (FFI) Thomas Hegghammer is also a non-resident fellow at New York University’s Center on Law and

Security. He has previously been a member of the School of Historical Studies at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton (2009-2010), a fellow and associate at Harvard’s Kennedy School (2008­ 2010), a postdoctoral fellow at Princeton University (2007-2008), and a visiting fellow at King’s College London (2005-2006). Dr. Hegghammer has published widely on various aspects of Islamist militancy. He wrote Jihad in Saudi Arabia (Cambridge University Press, 2010) and co-authored Al-Qaida dans le texte (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 2005). His articles have appeared in academic journals such as International Affairs, The International Journal of Middle East Studies, British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies, The Middle East Journal, Middle East Policy, and Studies in Conflict and Terrorism and Cultures et Conflits. He has also written for the International Crisis Group and Oxford Analytica. He is also the editor of Jihadica, a blog that covers developments on jihadist websites. Dr. Hegghammer regularly advises the U.S., British, and Norwegian governments on matters relating to Islamism and terrorism. He served as an expert witness in parliamentary hearings on anti-terrorism legislation in Canada (2005) and Denmark (2006) and has been frequently quoted in international media.

Ms. Jessica M. Huckabey Adjunct Researcher, Institute for Defense Analyses Jessica M. Huckabey is a research staff member with the Joint Advanced Warfighting Division. In 2010,

she served as the acting director of the newly established Conflict Records Research Center at the National Defense University. She is also an information warfare officer in the U.S. Navy Reserve. She has a B.A. in military history from the Ohio State University and an M.A. in War Studies from King’s College, London. She is currently pursuing a doctorate in history from the University of Leeds. Ms. Huckabey is the coauthor of The Terrorist Perspectives Project: Strategic and Operational Views of al Qaida and Associated Movements (U.S. Naval Institute Press, 2008) and “Al Qaida’s Views of Authoritarian Intelligence Services in the Middle East” in Intelligence and National Security Studies (June 2010).

Mr. C. Michael Hurley, Esq. Deputy and Senior Director, 9/11 Public Discourse Project and Former Officer, Directorate of Operations, Central Intelligence Agency C. Michael Hurley is a career CIA officer who began his work life as a trial attorney and specialist in

appellate advocacy in private practice. He participates in the Barnes Symposium as intelligence practitioner and reform commentator on national security law. He studied European history, political science, and law at the University of Minnesota (B.A. 1977; J.D. 1980), where he was an editor of the Minnesota Law Review. He was the Deputy and Senior Director of the 9/11 Public Discourse Project,


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the follow-on organization to the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States (9/11 Commission). He served on the 9/11 Commission’s staff as a senior counsel and director of its counterterrorism policy investigation. His team drafted substantial portions of the policy chapters of the Commission’s final report. On 11 September 2001, Mr. Hurley volunteered to work in CIA’s Counterterrorist Center and to deploy to Afghanistan. He served three tours in Afghanistan post9/11, leading Agency employees and Special Forces in southeastern Afghanistan. He was one of the Agency’s lead coordinators on the ground for Operation Anaconda, the largest battle against al Qaeda in the campaign in Afghanistan. From 1998-1999, and again in 2000, he was detailed to the National Security Council, where he was director for the Balkans, and advised the National Security Advisor and the President on Balkans policy. Over the past decade he has been a leader in U.S. interventions in troubled areas: Kosovo (1999-2000); Bosnia (1995-1996); and Haiti (during the U.S. intervention, 19941995). Mr. Hurley has held a range of management positions at CIA headquarters and served multiple tours of duty in Western Europe.

Dr. Thomas F. Lynch III Distinguished Research Fellow for South Asia and the Near East, Institute for National Strategic Studies, the National Defense University Thomas F. Lynch III specializes on Pakistan, Afghanistan, India and the Subcontinent, the Gulf Arab

States, and the past and future trajectory of radical Islam. Dr. Lynch joined INSS in 2010 after a 28 year career as an active duty U.S. Army officer, serving in a variety of command and staff positions as an armor/cavalry officer and as a senior level politico-military analyst. During his last six years of commissioned service, he was a Special Assistant to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Deputy Director of the Chairman’s Advisory and Initiatives Group; Commander of the U.S. Army War Theater Support Group in Doha, Qatar; Director of the Advisory Group for the Commander, U.S. Central Command; and Military Special Assistant to the U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan. He spent 42 months from 2004 to 2007 on assignment in the Middle East and South Asia supporting Operations Enduring and Iraqi Freedom. Dr. Lynch holds a B.S. from the United States Military Academy and an MPA, and masters and doctoral degrees in International Relations from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public & International Affairs at Princeton University. He was the U.S. Army Federal Executive Fellow at the Brookings Institution (2007-2008), its Senior Fellow at the Atlantic Council of the United States (2003), and a Council on Foreign Relations International Affairs Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars (1997-1998). Dr. Lynch is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the International Institute for Strategic Studies, the International Studies Association and the Arms Control Association. His recent publications include: “Transnational Movements and Terrorism,” with Mark Stout and T.X. Hammes, Joint Forces Quarterly, Issue 54 (April 2009); “Sunni and Shia Terrorism — Differences that Matter,” Occasional Paper Series Combating Terrorism Center (CTC), West Point, New York (December 2008); “Afghan Dilemmas: Staying Power,” The American Interest, Vol. III, No. 5, (May/June 2008); and “NATO Unbound: Out-of-Area Operations in the Greater Middle East,” Orbis, Vol. 49, No. 1 (Winter 2005).


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Mr. Alexander Meleagrou-Hitchens Ph.D. Candidate in War Studies, King’s College, London, and Research Fellow, The International Centre for the Study of Radicalism Alexander Meleagrou-Hitchens’ primary area of study is the growth and success of English speaking

Salafi-jihadist ideologues in the West. Prior to joining ICSR, Mr. Meleagrou-Hitchens worked as a Fellow at the Policy Exchange and the Centre for Social Cohesion, where he focused on radicalization, “homegrown” extremism, and the far-right. He has contributed to various online and printed publications including, The Daily Telegraph, The Independent, Foreign Policy, Lebanon’s Daily Star, The CTC Sentinel, Standpoint, and NOWLebanon. His work has also been cited in the Weekly Standard, Observer, The Daily Express, and by the BBC. Mr. Meleagrou-Hitchens’ latest publication, “The Making of the Christmas Day Bomber,” was published in the Hudson Institute’s Current Trends in Islamist Ideology journal.

Dr. Flagg Miller Associate Professor of Religious Studies at the University of California-Davis Flagg Miller is the Director of the Middle East/ South Asia program at UC-Davis. His forthcoming book explores the trajectory of Osama bin Laden’s leadership and al-Qaeda as figured through an ethnographic study of audiocassettes formerly deposited in his Kandahar house. His publications include The Moral Resonance of Arab Media: Audiocassette Poetry and Culture in Yemen (2007), the preface to Poems from Guantánamo: The Detainees Speak (2007), “Al-Qa`ida as a ‘Pragmatic Base’: Contributions of Area Studies to Sociolinguistics,” Language and Communication (2008), “Listen, Plan and Carry Out ‘al-Qa`ida’”: Theological Dissension in Usama Bin Ladin’s Former Audiocassette Collection,” in Contextualising Jihadi Thought, Jeevan Deol and Zaheer Kazmi, eds. Hurst and Company/Columbia University Press (forthcoming in 2011), and “On the Ethics of Graduated Disclosure in Contexts of War,” in Anthropologists in the Securityscape: A Casebook of Stories in Identity, Practice and Ethics, R. Albro, M. Schoch-Spana, and G. Marcus, L. McNamara, eds. Walnut Creek, CA: Left Coast Press (forthcoming in 2011).

Ms. Suzanne E. Spaulding, Esq. Principal, Bingham Consulting Group Suzanne E. Spaulding has spent nearly 25 years working on national security issues for both Republican

and Democratic Administrations and on both sides of the aisle in Congress. She was most recently of Counsel for Bingham McCutchen LLP in Washington, D.C. Prior to joining the private sector, she served as the minority staff director for the U.S. House of Representatives Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence for Ranking Member Jane Harman, and as general counsel for the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. She also spent six years at the CIA and served as senior counsel and legislative director for Senator Arlen Specter. In 2002, she was appointed by Virginia Governor Mark Warner to the Secure Commonwealth Panel, established after the attacks of 11 September 2001, to advise the governor and the legislature regarding preparedness issues in the Commonwealth of Virginia. After 9/11, Ms. Spaulding also worked with key critical infrastructure sectors including the nuclear power, electricity, and chemical sectors, and served as Security Counsel for the Business Roundtable. In addition, Ms. Spaulding served as the executive director of two congressionally mandated commissions: the National Commission on Terrorism, chaired by Ambassador L. Paul Bremer III, and the Commission to Assess the Organization of the Federal Government to Combat the Proliferation of


Ten Years Later: Insights on al-Qaeda’s Past & Future through Captured Records   207

Weapons of Mass Destruction, chaired by former CIA Director John Deutch. She was assistant general counsel at CIA, which included serving as legal adviser to the Nonproliferation Center, and also spent several years in private practice. In addition to directing national commissions on terrorism and WMD, she h as served commissions on cybersecurity and homeland security, convened and participated in numerous academic and professional advisory panels, and is a frequent commentator in publications, for the media, and before Congress. Ms. Spaulding was a Senior Fellow at the Homeland Security Policy Institute, George Washington University. She is the former Chair of the American Bar Association’s Standing Committee on Law and National Security; and founder of the Cybersecurity Legal Task Force. Ms. Spaulding earned both her law degree and undergraduate degree at the University of Virginia. Ms. Spaulding was named Deputy Under Secretary, National Protection and Programs Directorate at the Department of Homeland Security following this conference. The views expressed in her address are her own and do not represent the views of the Department of Homeland Security or the U.S. government.

Ms. Anne Stenersen Terrorism Research Group Fellow, Norwegian Defense Research Establishment (FFI) Anne Stenersen has an academic background rooted in Middle Eastern studies, Arabic, and Russian.

She has conducted research on militant Islamism, with a focus on chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) terrorism, al-Qaeda’s use of the Internet, and the Taliban insurgency. Her recent publications include: “The Internet: A virtual training camp?” Terrorism and Political Violence 20:2 (2008) and “Chem-bio cyber class: Assessing jihadist chemical and biological manuals”, Jane’s Intelligence Review (September 2007). Ms. Stenersen has a B.A. in Cultural and Social Sciences from the University of Bergen, and an M.Phil. in Asian and African Studies from the University of Oslo. She is currently preparing a doctorate on the Taliban insurgency and al-Qaeda-Taliban relations. She has presented her research findings at various conferences in Norway as well as abroad, and to the media.

Ms. Cynthia Storer Lecturer at Coastal Carolina University, Senior Analyst at Pherson Associates LLC, and former CIA Analyst Cynthia Storer serves as a consultant and instructor, specializing in terrorist organizations. Most of her 20 year career as an analyst at the CIA focused on terrorism. Her original model for understanding terrorism, the Ziggurat of Zealotry, was featured in The New York Times Magazine’s Best Ideas of the Year issue (December 2006). Ms. Storer is as an adjunct professor at the University of Maryland, where she designed and teaches a new Certificate Program in Terrorism under the auspices of the Center for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism. The program’s graduate-level courses focus on issues, such as “Terrorist Motivation and Intent” and “Tools and Methods of Terrorism Analysis.” While at the CIA, Ms. Storer helped develop and teach CIA’s first terrorism analysis course, which has since been adopted by the National Counterterrorism Center. She received an Intelligence Commendation Medal in 1999 for her expertise on terrorist groups. Ms. Storer received an M.A. in International Relations from Catholic University and a B.A. with Honors in Government from the College of William and Mary.


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Dr. Mark E. Stout Lecturer, Center for Advanced Governmental Studies at Johns Hopkins University and Historian at the International Spy Museum Mark E. Stout is a Lecturer for the M.A. in Global Security Studies. He previously worked for thirteen years as an intelligence analyst, first with the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research and later with the CIA. He has also worked on the Army Staff in the Pentagon and at the Institute for Defense Analyses. He has degrees from Stanford and Harvard Universities and a Ph.D. in history from the University of Leeds in the United Kingdom, where he wrote his dissertation on American intelligence in World War I. Dr. Stout is the co-author of three books and has published articles in Intelligence and National Security, Studies in Intelligence, The Journal of Strategic Studies, and Studies in Conflict and Terrorism. His research interests include intelligence history, military history — especially the history of military thought, terrorism, and irregular warfare.

U.S. Congressman Mac Thornberry (13th District of Texas) Vice Chairman of the Armed Services Committee; Chairman of the HASC’s Subcommittee on Emerging Threats; and, member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Mac Thornberry has established himself as a leader on national security, an area in which he continues to be given new responsibilities and opportunities to help advance the nation’s. He has also been tapped in the 112th Congress by the Speaker of the House to lead an initiative on cybersecurity, which will focus Congress’s efforts to combat this growing national security and economic threat.

Six months before 9/11, Congressman Thornberry introduced a bill to establish a National Homeland Security Agency to better protect the country from terrorist attacks. Drawing on the recommendations of the 2001 Hart-Rudman Commission, Congressman Thornberry’s bill served as the foundation for the legislation that established the Department of Homeland Security. In the words of Congressional Quarterly, his efforts “gave Congressman Thornberry an aura of prescience as soon as the World Trade Center’s twin towers were felled and the Pentagon was torn open by hijacked airliners.” Congressman Thornberry has consistently been on the leading edge of critical national security issues, from homeland security and nonproliferation to transformation of the military, nuclear deterrence, and cybersecurity. He was one of the architects that led the creation of the National Nuclear Security Administration, which is charged with ensuring the nuclear weapons complex is properly managed and that the nuclear weapons stockpile remains viable and a part of the strategic deterrent against future adversaries. He has also pushed strategic communications issues, as well as advocating for greater interagency cooperation in the fight against violent extremists. National security watchers consistently praise Congressman Thornberry’s efforts to encourage policymakers and scholars to prevent the spread of terrorism. Defense News called Congressman Thornberry “a smart hawk who’s not afraid to buck the party line,” while DoD Buzz said he is “one of the most consistently thoughtful and effective legislators on the House Armed Services Committee.” Congressional Quarterly recognized him as a “serious student of government management.” National Journal has noted that Congressman Thornberry is “well-regarded in both parties for his thoughtfulness on security issues,” and identified him as a “Republican to watch,” calling him an “E.F. Hutton of Congress” (because when he talks about defense and homeland security issues, people — and his colleagues on Capitol Hill — listen). Esquire says he is “a distinguished thinker on defense issues and foreign affairs” and “an informed, dispassionate expert on national security and intelligence.”


Ten Years Later: Insights on al-Qaeda’s Past & Future through Captured Records   209

Congressman Thornberry has written widely on defense matters and has appeared on CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, PBS, CBS, ABC, and C-SPAN to provide congressional insight on homeland and national security issues.

The Honorable Michael G. Vickers Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence Michael G. (“Mike”) Vickers was nominated by President Barack Obama as the Under Secretary of

Defense for Intelligence (USDI) on 29 September 2010, and was unanimously confirmed by the United States Senate on 17 March 2011. Secretary Vickers served as Acting USDI from 28 January 2011 to 17 March 2011, and as the first and only Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations/LowIntensity & Interdependent Capabilities (ASD SO/LIC&IC) from 23 July 2007 to 17 March 2011. His service has spanned the administrations of both President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama. As the USDI, Secretary Vickers is the principal intelligence advisor to the Secretary of Defense. He exercises authority, direction, and control on behalf of the Secretary of Defense over all intelligence organizations within the Department of Defense, including the National Security Agency, the Defense Intelligence Agency, the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency, the National Reconnaissance Office, and the intelligence components of the combatant commands and military services. Secretary Vickers is the Program Executive for the Military Intelligence Program. He is also dual-hatted as Director of Defense Intelligence in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, and reports to the DNI in this capacity. He is the Department’s principal interface with the Central Intelligence Agency and other elements of the Intelligence Community, and represents the Department on intelligence and sensitive operations at Deputies and Principals Committee meetings of the National Security Council. As ASD (SO/LIC&IC) from 23 July 2007 to 17 March 2011, Secretary Vickers had oversight of global operations, and served as the senior civilian adviser to the Secretary of Defense on counterterrorism, irregular warfare, and special activities. He played a central role in shaping U.S. strategy for the war with al-Qaeda, and the war in Afghanistan. He had oversight of the core operational capabilities (strategic forces, conventional forces, and special operations forces) of the Department of Defense, as well as the functional combatant commands (United States Strategic Command, Special Operations Command, Joint Forces Command and Transportation Command). With the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, he had oversight of the force application (maneuver and fires) joint capability area. From 1973 to 1986, Vickers served as an Army Special Forces Non-Commissioned Officer, Special Forces Officer, and CIA Operations Officer. He had operational and combat experience in Central America and the Caribbean, the Middle East, and Central and South Asia. His operational experience spans covert action and espionage, unconventional warfare, counterterrorism, counterinsurgency, and foreign internal defense. During the mid-1980s, Vickers was the principal strategist for the largest covert action program in the CIA’s history: the paramilitary operation that drove the Soviet army out of Afghanistan. From 1996-2007, Vickers was Senior Vice President, Strategic Studies, at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. Secretary Vickers holds a B.A., with honors, from the University of Alabama, an M.B.A. from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, and a Ph.D. in International Relations/Strategic Studies from Johns Hopkins University.


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The Honorable Juan C. Zarate Senior Adviser for the Transnational Threats Project and the Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Program, Center for Strategic and International Studies Juan C. Zarate is also the senior national security consultant and analyst for CBS News. He advises

companies and organizations on national, homeland, and finance-related security, technologies, and investments. He sits on the Board of Advisors for the director of the National Counterterrorism Center, the Board of Advisors for Regulatory DataCorp, and the Board of Directors for American Charities for Palestine. Mr. Zarate previously served as the deputy assistant to the President and Deputy National Security adviser for combating terrorism from 2005 to 2009. In addition, Mr. Zarate served as the first assistant secretary of the treasury for terrorist financing and financial crimes, where he led the Treasury Department’s domestic and international efforts to attack terrorist financing, building comprehensive anti-money laundering systems, and expand the use of the department’s powers to advanced national security interests. Prior to working at the Treasury Department, he served as a prosecutor in the Department of Justice’s Terrorism and Violent Crime Section, where he worked on terrorism cases, including the U.S.S. Cole investigation.


Supplemental Information


214  Johns Hopkins University Center for Advanced Governmental Studies and Conflict Records Research Center

Supplemental Information Conflict Records Research Center Institute for National Strategic Studies National Defense University The Conflict Records Research Center (CRRC) was established to fulfill the Secretary of Defense’s intent to enable research into captured records with “complete openness and rigid adherence to academic freedom and integrity.” The CRRC’s mission is to facilitate the use of captured records to support research, both within and outside the government on national security policy and strategy. Unclassified electronic copies of records captured in Iraq and Afghanistan reside in a restricted U.S. Government database. The CRRC’s primary purpose is to make copies of a significant portion of these records available to scholars in the CRRC’s researcher database. Digital copies in the original language, along with full English translations, are made available as quickly and responsibly as possible, while taking into account legitimate national security concerns, the integrity of the academic process, and risks to innocent individuals. The Center was established in 2010 at the direction of the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense (Policy) (OUSD(P)). The CRRC researcher database currently consists of two distinct collections: 1) Saddam Hussein’s Iraq; and 2) al Qaeda and Associated Movements (overwhelmingly from Afghanistan). It contains over 1,200 records, constituting over 34,000 pages and 150 hours of audio files. The CRRC researcher database includes software that can search the full breadth of the English-language information sheets and translations. The database will soon allow searches in the original language(s).

National Defense University Fort Lesley J. McNair, Washington, D.C. The National Defense University (NDU) was established in 1976 to consolidate the nation’s defense community intellectual resources, and the Industrial College of the Armed Forces (ICAF) and National War College (NWC) became the first two constituent units of the new institution devoted to Joint military higher learning. Today, NDU is comprised of five colleges. The Joint Forces Staff College (JFSC) was added to the University in 1981 and, a year later, the Department of Defense Computer Institute, now the Information Resources Management College (IRMC), was added. The newest college at the University is the College of International Security Affairs (CISA), which was created in 2002 as the School for National Security Executive Education and renamed in 2008. Although these five colleges lie at the heart of the University’s educational mission, developments in national security have led to growth in the University’s research functions. The Institute for National Strategic Studies (INSS) was established early in the life of NDU as a policy research and applied strategic learning organization. INSS provides timely, objective analysis and gaming events to senior decision-makers and supports NDU Joint Professional Military Education (JPME). Since 1994, the Center for the Study of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) has helped U.S. government agencies to understand the security implications of WMD proliferation, fashion effective responses, and educate emerging leaders on these challenges. The Center for Technology and National Security Policy was established in 2001 to study the implications of technological innovation for U.S. national security policy and military planning. Subsequent to passage of Congressional legislation known as the Goldwater-Nichols Act (1986) and the House Armed Services Committee Skelton Panel Report (1989), the University sought authority to award master’s degrees to graduates of ICAF and NWC. The U.S. Department of Education conducted


Ten Years Later: Insights on al-Qaeda’s Past & Future through Captured Records   215

an extensive review of both programs and, in 1992, recommended to Congress and the President of the United States that NDU have authority to confer the Master of Science degree in National Resource Strategy to graduates of ICAF, and the Master of Science degree in National Security Strategy to graduates of NWC. In addition to receiving this degree granting authority, the University, for quality enhancement purposes, elected to seek regional accreditation of its graduate degree programs. Initial accreditation was granted by the Commission on Higher Education of the Middle States Association on 20 February 1997. In accordance with the Middle States Association policy, those master degrees awarded in academic year 1994-95 and subsequently are accredited. Today, the NDU is authorized to award two additional graduate degrees: a Master of Arts in Strategic Security Studies (CISA) and a Master of Science in Joint Campaign Planning and Strategy (Joint Advanced Warfighting School, JFSC). The mission of The National Defense University is to prepare and support leaders to think strategically and lead effectively across the range of national and international security challenges through interdisciplinary teaching, research, and outreach. To achieve this mission, NDU is committed to excellence in JPME, excellence in defense, interagency, and international security professional leadership education, excellence in enhancing the capacity of our students for strategic leadership and decision making in national and international security, and to sustaining our nation’s leadership position within the global community.

Johns Hopkins University Center for Advanced Governments Studies,Washington, D.C. The Johns Hopkins University Center for Advanced Governmental Studies encompasses a broad set of programs and initiatives designed to enhance understanding of the role, function, and impact of government. Based at the Johns Hopkins Washington, D.C. Center in Dupont Circle, the Center serves as a forum for policy discussions and provides a venue for unbiased efforts to expand knowledge of the various governmental components, how they interact, and how they comply with their mandated accountability in administering the affairs of state. The Center’s mission is to provide a strong foundation of knowledge upon which innovative policy programs and promising leaders can develop. The Center is home to the M.A. in Government, the M.A. in Global Security, and the M.A. in Government/M.B.A. degree programs. These programs bring together theory and practice in the study of government and its impacts domestically and abroad, while preparing individuals for leadership positions in the public and private sectors. The Center also is involved in partnership programs for professional development and policy studies. In its partnerships for policy studies, the Center periodically publishes timely reports of path-breaking work that can better inform ongoing policy debate.


Available online at: tenyearslater.jhu.edu


tenyearslater.jhu.edu

Ten Years Later: Insights on al-Qaeda’s Past & FutureThrough Captured Records  

Conference Proceedings National Defense UniversityFort Lesley J. McNair, Washington, D.C.13-14 September 2011 Edited byDr. Lorry M. Fenner,D...

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