Saturday, October 08, 2005

al-Qaeda and Iraq

Somewhat lost over the past couple of days with the NYC subway terror threat, has been much discussion of the letter from al-Qaeda number 2 Ayman al-Zawahiri to al-Qaeda in Iraq number 1 Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. That letter was, according to the Counterterrorism Blog, captured in a counterterrorism operation in Iraq.

Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, of the Counterterroism blog, notes 2 significant aspects of the letter:

"First, the letter shows the al-Qaeda leadership's increasing sensitivity to public opinion. Zawahiri writes of the importance of popular support for al-Qaeda, and rebukes Zawahiri for the Iraq insurgency's "brutal tactics -- noting that hostages can just as effectively be killed with bullets rather than by beheading." I've written before (most recently in the Weekly Standard) of al-Qaeda's increased efforts to tailor their message to appeasement-minded Westerners. Apparently, Zawahiri has also given some thought to how he can bolster al-Qaeda's image in the Muslim world.

"Second, the letter shows Iraq's current importance to al-Qaeda's jihad. Officials have said that Zawahiri's letter outlines al-Qaeda's four stage plan:

The letter of instructions and requests outlines a four-stage plan, according to officials: First, expel American forces from Iraq. Second, establish a caliphate over as much of Iraq as possible. Third, extend the jihad to neighboring countries, with specific reference to Egypt and the Levant -- a term that describes Syria and Lebanon. And finally, war against Israel. US officials say they were struck by the letter's emphasis on the centrality of Iraq to Al Qaeda's long-term mission.

This letter further confirms that we shouldn't withdraw from Iraq prematurely. If we were to do so, the country could collapse into a state of chaos that would allow al-Qaeda to gain a foothold and perhaps establish something similar to pre-9/11 Afghanistan: a geographic area where the group could train terrorists and plan attacks against the West."
I agree.

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