Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Terrorist Correspondence

Austin Bay, writing at Strategy Page, has a fascinating look at intelligence gained after the death of Al Qaeda's leader in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, in June of this year:

On Sept. 18, Iraqi National Security Advisor Muwaffaq al-Rabi released a letter from al-Qaida commander "Atiyah" (a pseudonym) to Zarqawi. West Point's Counter Terrorism Center ( has the letter archived online.

The letter features al-Qaida's usual religious panegyrics, but also contains strong evidence of fear, doubt and impending defeat. It seems five years of continual defeat (and that is what the record is) have shaken the 9-11 certitude of al-Qaida's senior fanatics.

Bay analyses what we can learn from this correspondence, and the importance of such releases of information to the American public (and the world) in this age where media is part of the battlefield in war. The winning of "hearts and minds" occurs largely on this field, as does the waxing and waning of our backbone as a civilization to face the task at hand. Bay points out that dictators and terrorists for the most part can "control their message," something that is not the prerogative of Western governments. We don't see anything but bravado and supreme confidence emanating from those messages which Al Qaeda sends to the world at large. The letter is a "talking amongst themselves" moment, and really reveals a lot about where Al Qaeda actually thinks it stands these days, and should be encouraging to anyone who hopes that Coalition efforts are bearing fruit. Have a look.

Hat tip: Instapundit