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October 7, 2005
Al-Qaeda Strategic Planning Found By Coalition

An important document from al-Qaeda's Number Two leader and strategic thinker, Ayman al-Zawahiri, to Iraqi minion and terrorist leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi has given the coalition important insight into the planning and long-range thinking of the terrorists, in and out of Iraq. The letter makes clear that AQ wants much more than the Americans to leave Iraq, and that they see our withdrawal as a necessary condition for their ultimate success, not an end in itself:

The United States has obtained a letter from Osama bin Laden's deputy to the leader of Iraq's insurgency that outlines a long-term strategic vision for a global jihad, with the next phase of the war to be taken into Egypt, Syria and Lebanon, according to U.S. officials. ...

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. ...

But bin Laden's deputy also purportedly makes clear that the war would not end with an American withdrawal and that anything other than religious rule in Iraq would be dangerous.

"And it is that the Mujaheddin must not have their mission end with the expulsion of the Americans from Iraq, and then lay down their weapons, and silence the fighting zeal. We will return to having the secularists and traitors holding sway over us," the letter reportedly says.

The Washington Post reports more on the scolding that Zawahiri gives Zarqawi for the brutality of his attacks, especially beheading hostages and releasing the videos. Robin Wright hears from her Coalition sources that this message did not get through to Zarqawi, evidenced by his use of that tactic even as recently as the last couple of weeks. Zawahiri doesn't want further alienation from the Muslims in the area, who so far appear to approve more of a democracy than a re-established Caliphate.

It also asks for money for other AQ operations. Given the stretched nature of the Zarqawi network in Iraq and the difficulties they have in fighting the Americans and growing Iraqi forces, that request appears rather extraordinary. Has the Coalition been able to damage AQ's operational capability through the little-publicized financial war George Bush pledged to wage? Given the central role Zarqawi's success would have to play in any overall execution of Zawahiri's plan, one would expect AQ to support Zarqawi and not the other way around.

This does show that President Bush had it right in his speech yesterday; AQ and its associates don't fight to push the Americans from Southwest Asia. They terrorize people in the hope of re-establishing a dictatorial and absolute Caliph that will run all of the former Arabic lands, including Israel. Pulling our troops out will only bring them that much closer to success.

UPDATE: Cleaned up typos; thanks to CQ reader Brian B.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at October 7, 2005 5:55 AM

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