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Jihadist strategy formulation reaches maturity, uniting tactics, fulfilling doctrine


Jihadist warfighting has taken a quantum leap in formulating strategy in two volumes. Time will tell if it is maturity or response to disappointment with achievements to date.

A Jordanian analyst, Bassam al-Baddarin, has drawn what he believes is a coherent long term strategy until 2020 from the works of al-Qaeda's ‘strategic brain' Muhammad Makkawi, an Egyptian known as Sayf al-Adel. Ulph rightly questions if the ideas "predate events, or whether they constitute a ‘moving target' that takes as much from the unfolding of events as it purports to steer them." Time will tell, but it's clear that strategy is a rising idea that must be promulgated and transmitted, and even if it is being 'steered,' it becomes a workable handbook and proselytizing tool.

Makkawi/Sayf al-Adel outlines a strategy to regionalize the struggle against the US, drawing it into an extended war of attrition in the Arab region (now achieved), then provoking a rising of the Islamic Nation (now underway). I find it interesting that al-Baddarin reports that al Qaeda believes the US has "defined five objectives: ending the Palestinian intifada; controlling Lebanon's Hizbullah; effecting the Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon; promoting the success of the Iraqi election process; and securing the oil fields in the Arabian Gulf region and maritime crossing points." What seems like desirable US policy is seen by al Qaeda is "the draining of the superpower's military resources," and indeed could be if the terrorists can extract a sufficiently high cost.

Abu Bakr Naji has written a remarkable strategy treatise, filling a void between doctrine and tactical matters such as the al Battar paramilitary series, that steps through a "strategic program towards empowerment" or "the phase of transition to the Islamic state" as seen through the eyes of an everyday mujahid, Idarat al-Tawahhush, "The Management of Barbarism," which is an extension to his Tuhfat al-Muwahhideen fi Bayan Tariq al-Tamkeen, "Gift of the Monotheists on the Way to Empowerment."

"Management of Barbarism" refers to a period of "savage chaos" after the collapse of a superpower or enemy regional state and is the first of five themes:

  1. Definition of ‘Management of Barbarism'
  2. Path of Empowerment
  3. Most Important Principles and Policies
  4. Most Pressing Difficulties and Obstacles
  5. Conclusion, demonstrating jihad as the ideal solution

"Management of Barbarism" is unique in that it:

  • Places extraordinary value the media, both in its admission of failure to build overwhelming support for Islamist aims, and the need to counter target government and "western media control of information delivery"
  • Promotes the use of maximum violence as a deterrent against the goals of Jihad
  • Outlines future desired 'crusader and infidel' targets within and outside current Islamic lands, i.e., soft targets, economic interests, and petroleum facilities
  • Advances pragmatism over doctrinal propriety and legal literalism in dealings with the enemy
  • Reduces individual reverses to secondary importance

Jihadist strategy is contained in Path of Empowerment in three phases:

  • Disruption and Exhaustion, exhausting the enemy while attracting converts
  • Management of Barbarism, establishing internal security, social administration, public services, and religious control
  • Empowerment, extending Management by continuing disruption and exhaustion activities, forming logistics lines with Management zones

Prime attention is given to media and propaganda strategy for winning support, recruitment, and deterrence. Attacks against soft, economic, energy, and commerce targets are underway on a global scale.

Most Important Principles and Policies is a thorough tactical treatment including mastering transition, chains of command, adopting "tested military principles," commencing and managing violence, understanding international politics, establishing security, intelligence and counterintelligence, education and training.

When mujahideen demands are not met, prisoners are to be taken and "liquidated horrifically."

Most Pressing Difficulties and Obstacles address attrition and believer casualties, lack of trained administrators, poor behavior, over-enthusiasm, infiltration, and schism.

Use of the media and the "number of attacks and threats of attacks by mujahideen on media offices and individuals in Iraq [including awe-inspiring execution], demonstrates that the value of this arm of the strategy is well understood, and indeed appears to be following the textbook."

The Conclusion asks "Is there any Easier Solution than Jihad? The answer is no, the outcome is global domination through Jihad, with maximum violence for as long as it takes.

Marxism was a lark in comparison and that took three generations.

By Stephen Ulph
Volume 2 Issue 6 (March 17 , 2005)

By Stephen Ulph
Volume 2 , Issue 6 (March 17, 2005)

"Voice of Jihad" Author Publishes al Qaeda Playbook
Northeast Intelligence Network

Al-Qa'ida book on managing savagery
Jihad Watch
March 09, 2005

Gordon Housworth

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