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A RECENT HISTORY OF AL-QA'IDA

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  14 August 2014

R. KIM CRAGIN*
Affiliation:
RAND Corporation
*
1200 S. Hayes Street, Arlington VA, 22202, USAcragin@rand.org

Abstract

Scholars, journalists, and government officials have tried to understand al-Qa'ida and its predecessor, Maktab al-Khidamat, since the early 1980s. These efforts increased significantly after the 11 September 2001 attacks against the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon. Yet, despite this attention, questions remain unanswered. What factors have influenced al-Qa'ida leaders over time as they have made and executed strategic decisions? How have they defined their relationship with affiliated groups in the context of these decisions? This present article utilizes private al-Qa'ida documents, captured by United States Navy Seals during a raid on Osama bin Laden's compound in Pakistan, and recently released to the public, to answer these questions. In doing so, it casts doubt on some of the conventional explanations for al-Qa'ida's trajectory between 2004 and 2013.

Type
Articles
Copyright
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2014 

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References

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28 This backlash was reported widely at the time. The increase in Iraqi violence also corresponded with the July 2005 bombings in London. So it is difficult to separate out what series of events had a bigger impact on public opinion. Sheikh Yusef al-Qaradawi, for example, well known for his support for suicide attacks against Israeli targets, was less-than-supportive of the same tactic in Iraq, . ‘Full al-Qaradawi Transcript’, BBC News, 8 July 2004Google Scholar.

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30 Jonathan Finer and Naseer Mehdawi, ‘Bombings kill over 50 at three hotels in Jordan’, Washington Post, 10 Nov. 2005.

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36 Letter from unknown person to Usama bin Laden, 14 September 2006, released by West Point CTC on 1 May 2012, document number SOCOM-2012–0000018-HT, p. 2.

37 Ibid., p. 5.

38 Abu Musab al-Suri, The responsibility of the people of Yemen to participate in jihad in the Arabian Peninsula, SITE Intelligence Group, 1 Feb. 2007, document number 2007020105.

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41 Osama bin Laden, ‘Today there is a conflict between world heresy under the leadership of America on the one hand and the Islamic nation with the Mujahideen in its vanguard on the other', Dec. 2004; see also Chris Zambelis, Terrorism Monitor, 6 (17), 4 Sept. 2008.

42 Apology from ISI to Sheikh Abed Lufan al-Hadeb, exact date unknown, released by West Point CTC, document number NMEC-2007–657736.

43 Al-Qa'ida in the Islamic Maghreb denies attack on leader of the socialist forces Front Party in Algeria, posted 18 Feb. 2008, released by SITE Intelligence Group, 18 Feb. 2008, document number 2008021801.

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47 Letter from Usama bin Laden to Shaykh Mahnud [`Atiyya Abdul Rahman], May 2010, released by West Point CTC, 1 May 2012, document number SOCOM-2012–0000019, p. 3.

48 Ibid., p. 5.

49 This argument can be found in Rassler, Koehler-Derrick, Collins, al-Obaidi, and Lahoud, Letters from Abbottabad.

50 Letter from Usama bin Laden to Shaykh Mahnud, May 2010.

51 Letter from ‘Zamarai’ [Usama bin Laden] to Mukhtar Abu al-Zubayr [leader of Harakat al-Shabab al-Mujahidin], 7 August 2010, released by West Point CTC, 1 May 2012, document number SOCOM-2012–0000005, p. 2.

52 Ibid., p. 3.

53 Letter from unknown person [possibly Ayman al-Zawahiri] to Osama bin Laden on Merger with al-Shabaab, December 2010, released by West Point CTC, 1 May 2012, document number SOCOM-2012–0000006, p. 2.

54 Ibid., p. 1.

55 Glad tidings by the two Sheikhs, Abu al-Zubayr and Ayman al-Zawahiri, posted by as-Sahab Foundation and the Global Islamic Media Front, Feb. 2012, video transcript available online at http://archive.org/details/Abu_al-Zubayr-al-Zawahiri, last accessed 14 Sept. 2012.

56 Letter from Abu `Abdallah (Usama bin Laden) to Shaykh Mahmud (`Atiyya), 26 April 2011, released by West Point CTC, 1 May 2012, document number SOCOM-2012–0000010.

57 Ibid., p. 3.

58 Ibid., p. 7.

59 Al-Zawahiri, ‘Move forward O Lions of Sham’.

60 See, for example, the discussion on the blog ‘jihadology’ dissecting this potential relationship. This discussion can be found online at jihadology.net/2012/02/11/as-saḥab-media-presents-a-new-video-message-from-al-qaidahs-dr-ayman-al-ẓawahiri-onward-oh-lions-of-syria, last accessed 29 Sept. 2013; see also Rita Katz and Adam Raisman, ‘Special report on the power struggle between al-Qa'ida branches and leadership’, SITE Intelligence Group, 1 July 2013; and Jim Muir, ‘al-Nusra pledges allegiance to al-Qa'ida’, BBC News, 10 Apr. 2013.

61 ‘ISI leader rebrands ISI and al-Nusrah Front as “Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant”’, posted 8 Apr. 2013, translated and released by SITE Intelligence Group, 16 Apr. 2013, document number unavailable.

62 Muir, ‘al-Nusra pledges allegiance to al-Qa'ida’; see also Katz and Raisman, ‘Special report on the power struggle’.

63 Muir, ‘al-Nusra pledges allegiance to al-Qa'ida’; and Stephanie d'Arc Taylor, ‘Jabhat al-Nusra's Rising Stock in Syria’, al-Jazeera News, 19 May 2013.

64 Ibid.

65 See, for example, ‘Himam news video shows al-Nusra fighters distributing food in Homs’, posted and translated by SITE Intelligence Group, 16 Aug. 2013.

66 Hussein Jemmo, ‘Al-Qaeda's internal divide grows in Syria’, al-Hayat, 12 Aug. 2013, trans. and re-posted by al-Monitor, 19 Aug. 2013.

67 Ayman al-Zawahiri, ‘Letter to Sheikh Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi al-Husseini and Abu Mohammed al-Jawlani’, 23 May 2013, trans. Aymenn Jawwad al-Tamimi, 9 June 2013, available online at www.aymennjawwad.org, last accessed 10 Sept. 2013.

68 Ibid.

69 Ibid.

70 Abu Mohammed al-Adnai, ‘So leave them alone with their fabrications’, posted 19 June 2013, trans. and released by SITE Intelligence Group, 19 June 2013; see also Jemmo, ‘Al-Qaeda's internal divide grows in Syria’, al-Hayat, 12 Aug. 2013.

71 ‘Belmoktar unites al-Mulathameen with Taheed and Jihad in West Africa’, SITE Intelligence Group, 22 Aug. 2013; and Jemmo, ‘Al-Qaeda's internal divide grows in Syria’.

72 Ayman al-Zawahiri, ‘Guidelines for the work of a jihadi’, released by as-Sahab Media on 14 Sept. 2013.

73 Ahmed Rashid, ‘Al-Qa'ida's new tactic: prison breaks’, Financial Times, 5 Aug. 2013.

74 Ibid.; see also ‘Interpol issues global security alert’.

75 Koehler-Derrick, Rassler, al-Obaidi, Collins, and Lahoud, , Letters from Abbottabad; and Fishman, ‘Using the mistakes of al-Qaeda's franchises’, pp. 4654Google Scholar.

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