I put Middle Earth Journal in hiatus in May of 2008 and moved to Newshoggers.
Well Newshoggers has closed it's doors so Middle Earth Journal is active once again.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

AQIM Long Read

When operatives sponsored by Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb provoked the recent French intervention in Mali they had overplayed their hand. (h/t Mark Doyle via Blake Hounshell)
 A fascinating document left behind, now public, provides a glimpse behind the curtain.
The document is an unprecedented window into the terrorist operation, indicating that al-Qaida predicted the military intervention that would dislodge it in January and recognized its own vulnerability.
The letter also shows a sharp division within al-Qaida's Africa chapter over how quickly and how strictly to apply Islamic law, with its senior commander expressing dismay over the whipping of women and the destruction of Timbuktu's ancient monuments. It moreover leaves no doubt that despite a temporary withdrawal into the desert, al-Qaida plans to operate in the region over the long haul, and is willing to make short-term concessions on ideology to gain the allies it acknowledges it needs.
The letter apparently had six chapters of which three were found. It reveals a sophisticated awareness of public relations not usually attributed to this group. Clearly they are learning from experience and observation.
Droukdel's letter also urges his followers to make concessions to win over other groups in the area, and in one case criticizes their failure to do so. For several months, the Islamic extremists controlling northern Mali coexisted with the secular National Movement for the Liberation of the Azawad, or NMLA, the name given to Mali by Tuareg rebels who want their own state. The black flag of the extremists fluttered alongside the multi-colored one of the secular rebels, each occupying different areas of the towns.
In late May, the two sides attempted to sign a deal, agreeing to create an independent Islamic state called Azawad. The agreement between the bon vivant Tuareg rebels and the Taliban-inspired extremists seemed doomed from the start. It fell apart days later. By June, the Islamic extremists had chased the secular rebels out of northern Mali's main cities.
"The decision to go to war against the Azawad Liberation Movement, after becoming close and almost completing a deal with them, which we thought would be positive, is a major mistake in our assessment," Droukdel admonishes. "This fighting will have a negative impact on our project. So we ask you to solve the issue and correct it by working toward a peace deal."
In an aside in brackets, Droukdel betrays the frustration of a manager who has not been informed of important decisions taken by his employees: "(We have not until now received any clarification from you, despite how perilous the operation was!!)"

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