I meant to post on this last week, but for those that might have missed it @abususu has some details on a new al Qaeda document that has been
declassified talked about in Germany (Sorry, a modification as of 1200 EST. @abususu says its not publicly available but people have seen it) . The U.S. provided the document to the Germans in support of their prosecution of Abdeladim el-K. Yassin Musharbash always provides excellent analysis of al Qaeda and his post here is one of the most informative things I’ve read in a while. Great reporting by Yassin – he has been out in front on the story of German prosecutions for several months.
Here are some of the pertinent details Yassin describes (but please check out the original post as it is worth the read):
-The document is a letter by Junis al-Mauretani to Osama Bin Laden, dated March 2010. It is 17 pages in the original Arabic.
-The reason the US shared this particular document with the Germans is that in it, al-Mauretani refers to a Moroccan recruit whose date of birth he gives – and which is the same as the date of birth of one of the defendants in said trial.
-In essence, the letter is a sketch or rather a vision of a comprehensive plot against the West, including maritime, economical and other sensitive targets. There is a certain emphasis on critical infrastructure, as al-Mauretani singles out water dams, underwater gaspipelines, bridges between cities and tunnels connecting countries, as well as internet cables as potential targets.
– He also claims that there is a process in place by which followers would be asked to enter into sensitive jobs, e.g. in the transport business for oil and gas. By this, he suggests, it could become easier to attack targets like airports, love parades (sic!) and highly frequented tunnels.
This document sheds light on the cause for concern in 2010 when there were numerous news reports about a potential attack. From Yassin’s notes, it would seem that al Qaeda was also a bit afraid to create many civilian casualties.
Here are some of the more fascinating bits Yassin mentions in his analysis:
-There is also an interesting passage in which he claims that AQIM has enough funds to help finance his ideas and that the cadres there trust him personally.
So in 2010, the word on the street was that AQIM, of all affiliates, had the money to finance operations. Sure, the kidnapping ransoms were significant, but maybe we should be asking where else they were getting their money from in 2010? and now?
2.- AQ during that time actively recruited Westerners – even from among other Jihadist groups like the IMU. I think this means that they wanted this to be large and comprehensive effort – probably sending all of them back around the same time but not striking immediately but rather asking them to recruit even more people and then lie down until told to act. Al-Mauretani in several cases made sure there would be secure means of communications.
One of the notions I’ve heard repeated in analysis on al Qaeda is the group’s supposed conduct of wide-scale direct recruitment. I disagree with this notion (as I discussed in 2007). While al Qaeda does direct recruit specific individuals at times, more routinely they use feeder affiliates and other terror groups to parse out many of their most promising recruits. This system of minor league terrorist farm teams allows al Qaeda to keep their distance from new recruits that appear too eager or potentially risky and provides a method for assessing the recruit’s abilities before assigning them a role. Likewise, it provides al Qaeda a larger set of recruitment options from which to choose better talent. This system flourishes when the group situates securely behind an insurgent safe haven allowing them to pluck key people ideally suited for certain roles from pseudo-terror/definite-insurgent groups like IMU, Shabaaab, Ansar al-Sharia, etc.
Essentially, insurgencies allow for the development of terrorist farm teams where recruits then arrive in al Qaeda’s camp with some training, experience and vetting minimizing al Qaeda’s costs and exposure while maximizing their options. Two things sustain al Qaeda’s position in this hierarchy as the major league team: ideology & money. While the West is ill-equipped to erode the ideology of zealots, in the future, the West could work to stifle AQ’s resource allocation - something that proved decisive (but lightly discussed) during al Qaeda’s more recent setbacks in Waziristan.
Lastly, this document points to why the U.S. will always need to maintain an aggressive CT posture despite the recent successes against al Qaeda. Either al Qaeda, or some group like them, will continue to plot terrorist attacks against the U.S. The U.S. will be attacked, and we will be attacked less if we maintain a persistent eye on the plethora of threats that might emerge from more than a dozen recruitment portals around the world.
Overall, a great post from Yassin and I hope everyone takes a read.