Al-Qaeda Leader Profiles the Founder of the Islamic State

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 28 February 2018

Ahmad al-Khalayleh (Abu Musab al-Zarqawi) [picture via Getty], Muhammad Zaydan (Sayf al-Adel) [picture via Kronos Advisory LLC]

The military leader of al-Qaeda, Muhammad Saladin Zaydan (Sayf al-Adel), wrote a biography for Ahmad al-Khalayleh (Abu Musab al-Zarqawi), the Jordanian jihadist who founded what is now the Islamic State in Taliban Afghanistan in 1999. Zaydan wrote the biography in 2005 while in Iran, under the protection of the Islamic Republic, where he still is. The biography is reproduced below with some interesting and important sections highlighted in bold.

Zaydan’s biography for al-Khalayleh, available as a PDF here, was first released online on 20 June 2009 under the title, “Jihadist Biography of the Slaughtering Leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, by Sayf al-Adel, the Military Commander of Qaedat al-Jihad”, distributed through jihadi forums by al-Qaeda’s Global Islamic Media Front.

Usama bin Ladin appears to have become aware of the biography in late 2010. In The Exile, authors Adrian Levy and Catherine Scott-Clark trace the events of that time. Bin Ladin was most focused on trying to transfer his favourite wife, Khairiah, to the Abbottabad compound. Khairiah had been in Iran, where, as the authors explain in great detail, the Bin Ladin family and al-Qaeda’s leadership had been hosted since the Taliban regime in Afghanistan was overthrown and al-Qaeda’s sanctuary eliminated.

As Bin Ladin fled Afghanistan in late 2001, al-Qaeda got trapped in the White Mountains at Tora Bora. On 25 November 2001, al-Khalayleh and his cadre, including Iyad al-Tubaysi (Abu Julaybib al-Urduni) and Khalid al-Aruri, reached Bin Ladin, Levy and Scott-Clark write, and were soon dispatched to find Bin Ladin’s three wives (including Khairiah), ten children, three daughters-in-law, and three grandchildren,[1] who were in a separate convoy and had been ambushed.

Bin Ladin’s family survived the ambush and the man himself escaped Tora Bora on 14 December 2001 because, as Levy and Scott-Clark explain, Pakistani forces who were supposed to be the anvil to America’s hammer were drawn away by the Indian Union going on a war-footing after one of Islamabad’s proxies tried to bomb the parliament, the Lok Sabha, in New Delhi. Seizing the moment, and working through Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, one of the jihadi proxies of the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), much of al-Qaeda managed to cross the border into Pakistan. But it was not safe to remain, not with the Americans applying so much pressure to Pakistani ruler, General Pervez Musharraf.

Levy and Scott-Clark report that at a safehouse in Quetta, on 19 December 2001, their second day in the city, Zaydan, al-Qaeda’s highest spiritual advisor Mahfouz al-Walid (Abu Hafs al-Mauritani), al-Qaeda’s finance chief Mustafa al-Yazid (Saeed al-Masri), and religious leader Muhammad Qaid (Abu Yahya al-Libi) were discussing where to send the Bin Ladin family caravan, and “over the course of several hours they kept returning to the same brazen idea”: Iran. Zaydan and al-Walid had travelled from Sudan to Tehran in 1995, the authors note, to work out details of Iran’s training program for al-Qaeda. Since Zaydan was still on military duty in Afghanistan, al-Walid was designated to travel to Iran to arrange for sanctuary with Qassem Sulaymani, the second-most powerful man in Iran who leads the Quds Force, the wing of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) that exports the Islamist revolution and handles Iran’s relations with external terrorist assets. In January 2002, Sulaymani personally approved the decision to shelter al-Qaeda’s senior leadership.

The conditions under which Sulaymani held al-Qaeda’s senior operatives have been called “house arrest”, and they were indeed confined to IRGC bases. But this was part of the terms for al-Qaeda retaining Iran’s support. Al-Qaeda leaders like Zaydan, Abdullah Ahmed Abdullah (Abu Muhammad al-Masri), Abdullah Muhammad Rajab Abdurrahman (Abu al-Khayr al-Masri), and al-Walid, who was an especially important source for The Exile, stayed in the custody of the Quds Force, though this “confinement” included being allowed to orchestrate foreign terrorist attacks and even work on acquiring a “dirty bomb”. Sulaymani instrumentalized al-Qaeda at times, particularly against the Saudi Arabian government (it was Zaydan who placed the call, from Iran, ordering the al-Qaeda bombing in Riyadh in May 2003) and the United States (which was tied down by al-Qaeda’s then-branch in Iraq, what is now IS, which was supported by the Iran-based al-Qaeda network and even received some direct assistance from the Iranian regime). The holding of Zaydan et al. meant Iran had the leverage to avoid al-Qaeda attacking it, and could therefore allow other al-Qaeda operatives like Ezedin Khalil (Yasin al-Suri) to live freely in Iran, to handle communications between the “prisoners” and al-Qaeda in Pakistan, while operating a logistics pipeline to bring resources from al-Qaeda “central” in Southeast Asia to the Arab world, an arrangement that is extant.

Khairiah bin Ladin had been released under a hostage deal after al-Qaeda kidnapped an Iranian diplomat. The diplomat, Heshmatollah Attarzadeh, was released on 30 March 2010. On 23 July 2010 (11 Shaban 1431), Abu Uthman, the head of al-Qaeda’s operations in Pakistan, wrote a letter to Bin Ladin that he said was a response to a letter Bin Ladin had written on 1 July 2010 (18 Rajab 1431). In the letter, Abu Uthman revealed that Khairiah was in Pakistan, having been flown from Tehran to Zahedan by the Quds Force and then sent over the border. Bin Ladin appears to have received this letter on 10 August 2010. Bin Ladin would then spend many months fretting about how to get Khairiah to Abbottabad without compromising security; he was paranoid about an American-Iranian conspiracy. (In the course of events, Khairiah would arrive at the Abbottabad compound on 12 February 2011, and Bin Ladin was killed overnight 1/2 May 2011. Much of the Bin Ladin family suspects that Khairiah, wittingly or unwittingly, led the Americans to the Bin Ladins’ door.)

This was the context in which Bin Ladin wrote a letter on 26 September 2010 to al-Qaeda’s third-in-command, Jamal al-Misrati (Abdurrahman Atiyya). “Amongst the previously attached material you had provided me, there was an article attributed to our Brother, Sayf al-Adel, entitled, ‘Biography of the Slaughterer Leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi’,” Bin Ladin wrote. Bin Ladin notes that the biography describes Zaydan working with al-Khalayleh and strongly agreeing to a plan to create a caliphate in Iraq, even though the “components for success had not been completed”, and the biography also includes “an offense to our Brother Abi Musab al-Zarqawi” and to “the organisation in general”, i.e. that they collaborated with Iran. Bin Ladin finished by saying that al-Misrati should “deny its attribution to Sayf and remind them he is in jail, which prevents him from reviewing it and acquitting himself from it.”

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Praise be to God, Lord of all creation. Prayers and peace be upon the master of apostles, the imam of the pious, the leader of the mujahideen, upon his family, his companions, and all those who follow them in righteousness until the day of resurrection.

I have never been a hobbyist of reading or writing, nor have I been a fan of rhetoric. However, due to the circumstances that I am experiencing nowadays, I found myself having plenty of free time which I spent in performing invocation, reciting the Qur’an, and doing some physical exercises. In this daily routine of mine, I received your request to write about my experience with the dear brother, Abu Musab (Ahmad Fadil [Nazal al-Khalayleh]).

I was reluctant at the beginning, but after performing salat al-istikhara (Islamic prayer for guidance) I felt at ease. Therefore, memories and thoughts began to flow into my mind, one after another. I pray to the Almighty God, the Lord of the great throne, to count this effort of mine as one of my good deeds and to make it useful to my brothers, the free mujahideen everywhere. I follow the news of their jihad and victories with much yearning and pride. They are the lions and heroes of this umma (nation); they are its hope, the right choice, and the vanguards on the path of glory, dignity, victory, and empowerment, God willing. I consider my brother Abu Musab [al-Zarqawi] as one of the best among those heroic lions, but we do not extol anyone in front of God.

After God granted the Muslim mujahideen in Afghanistan a manifest victory over the infidels, the polytheist Russians and apostates, and after discord among the Afghan jihadist factions began to surface, many of our Arab brothers began to think of returning back to their native countries, particularly the Saudi, Yemeni, and Jordanian brothers who had no security issues with their countries. On the other hand, we, the Egyptians, and our Syrian, Algerian, and Libyan brothers had no alternative but to stay in Afghanistan or to move to other hot jihadist fronts, or to move to safer places where there were no strong central governments, and in which we have strong alliances on the ground.

Thus, was our choice to move to Sudan, Somalia, and some underprivileged African countries. Some of our brothers had already moved to the countries which gained independence from the collapsed Soviet Union. Some others wandered all over the world. Meanwhile, some truthful and seasoned brothers viewed that this exodus was a major loss and expeditious steps had to be taken to stop it to save what can be saved. They urged that the potential and energy instilled in these truthful great souls must be gathered, organized, and put to use to make the desired change. Thus, the idea of the blessed Qaedat al-Jihad emerged as a preliminary step on this path.

Preparation Phase

We began to collect needed information to restructure our action. One of the priorities was to obtain recent and old information on all the pioneers of jihad who participated in jihad in Afghanistan. On top of the list of those pioneers on whom information must be updated were our Jordanian and Palestinian brothers. This is why we were following closely the military tribunals which were held by the Jordanian State Security Court for our brothers, the Jordanians who returned from Afghanistan, and for the various small Islamic groups which were attempting to carry out some jihadist activities against the state of the Zionist enemy [Israel] in beloved Palestine from Jordanian soil. At the top of the list in the media spectrum were brothers Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi [real name: Issam al-Barqawi] and Abu Musab. This is so because of the sessions of their trial in the case of tawhid (monotheism), or Bay’at al-Imam (oath of allegiance to an Imam).[2]

Our brother, Umar Abu Umar, (Abu Qatada [al-Filistini, whose real name is Umar Othman]) was keen on publishing the writings of those two brothers in his magazine Al-Manhaj (The Methodology), in addition to their historical defences before the judges of the court. Brother Abu Qatada al-Filistini used to assure us that we have good brothers who are active in Jordan, and that they have a bright future in the path of the blessed da’wa (preaching.) We were very happy when we learned of their release in the beginning of the year 1999. We were not surprised when we were told that brother Abu Musab, along with some of his brothers, arrived in Pakistan. I say we were not surprised since the idea to join a Muslim jihadist group and to come to its aid anywhere is the duty of everyone who has sound understanding of Islam and its creed.

The information we had indicated that the intention of Abu Musab was to go to Chechnya, for it was the hottest and the most appealing arena then. If we try to analyse this information, it would lead us to the conclusion that Abu Musab was of a higher degree of awareness and sincerity regarding his inclinations. His willingness to go to Chechnya meant that he was ready to sacrifice for his beliefs. The desired change in the situation of the nation would not be achieved by mere wishes, theory of inevitable victory, or hypothetical power alone. Rather it requires a real and sincere practice by those ideologues. The nation’s masses would not be fooled anymore. They would not run behind everyone who crowed. They became aware that a tangible change in their lives was the only thing that could influence them. Accordingly, the philosophy of al-Qaeda merged to address the nation’s masses on this foundation. I will elaborate on this point later, God willing.

Meanwhile, Abu Musab and his two companions faced problems with the Pakistani security services regarding their residence permits. The brothers were taken into custody, but there was an agreement to release them on the condition that they leave Pakistan. Abu Musab and his two companions had no other choice but to go to Afghanistan.

Similarities Between Me and Abu Musab

I received reports on the arrival of a group of Jordanians to Kandahar. I was busy attending to some duties outside the area. I returned to Kandahar two weeks after the arrival of Abu Musab. Then I headed to meet him in the guesthouse which was earmarked to accommodate guests and newcomers. Both Abu Musab and Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi did not need a previous recommendation to us as the news on the sessions of the military tribunal which were held for both of them in Jordan, and their views which they made public during the trials, were satisfactory enough. Earlier, Abu Qatada and one of the shaykhs of jihad in Jordan spoke well of both of them. I should mention here that I met with the brother who was responsible for following up on Abu Musab and his two companions. I wanted to be in the picture regarding what happened between Abu Musab and the brothers. The final conclusion was as follows: Abu Musab holds hard-line views on some issues over which no agreement was concluded. This stirred my anger and opened the door wide for personal memories which evoked most of the important phases in my history and relations, after I was guided by God to understand the right Islam in the early 1980s.

Owing to these memories, I found pre-justification for Abu Musab before meeting him. I arrived at Abu Musab’s place of residence after sunset prayers. I was accompanied by an Egyptian who used to have affiliations with al-Gamaa al-Islamiyya [the Islamic Group] in Egypt. Shaykh Abd al-Akhir [Hammad] was his mentor in the past. As a result of some acts and ideas, he was not in full agreement with other shaykhs.

As we entered the guesthouse, Abu Musab and both his companions were at the door to welcome us since I notified them of my arrival two hours in advance. We hugged the brothers and congratulated them on their safe arrival. When we entered the guesthouse we found that the men were down to earth. We introduced ourselves briefly and began to talk.

I found that I was talking to a man with whom I shared many traits. Abu Musab was a sturdy man who was not really very good with words. He expressed himself spontaneously and briefly. He would not compromise any of his beliefs. He was uncompromising but he had a clear objective, which he strove to achieve—the reestablishment of Islam in society. He did not have details regarding how to achieve this objective except for initiating monotheism, comprehending the faith thoroughly, and initiating jihad against the nation’s enemy.

Abu Musab’s life experience was not very rich. He had, however, great ambitions and defined goals. I asked him in detail about the situation in Jordan and Palestine. He had adequate information about Jordan, but his information about Palestine was very poor.

Then we discussed points of disagreement between him and the brothers. We listened to him, but we did not argue since we wanted to win him over to our side in the first place. Our meeting lasted for five straight hours, during which we listened to all he had to say. We left them and promised to meet again in two days.

The next morning, I was scheduled to meet with both Shaykh Usama bin Ladin and Shaykh Ayman al-Zawahiri, may God protect them. We had a planned agenda to discuss, after which I suggested that we talk about Abu Musab since the brothers were already well informed about the issue. The controversial issues with Abu Musab were not new or uncommon. We used to have some disagreements with hundreds of other brothers who came from various regions in the world regarding certain issues.

The reason was the diverse understanding of some aspects of the faith that pertain to al-wala wal-bara (loyalty to Islam/Muslims, disavowal of disbelief/disbelievers), and the subsequent issues of takfir (excommunication) or irja (refusal to judge the faith of others). Other controversial issues included a modus operandi and how to cope with the current circumstances, each in his surroundings and home country. The most important issue with Abu Musab was the stance regarding the Saudi regime and how to deal with it in light of the Islamic laws that pertain to excommunication and belief.

I suggested to the brothers that they could entrust me to handle these cases, including Abu Musab’s and similar cases. It was both unfair—in terms of jurisprudence—and incorrect—in terms of the organizational build up—to abandon every brother or group with whom we might have minor disagreements.

Delegation from Bin Ladin and Al-Zawahiri

The information we had said that al-Qaeda and its tenets did not have many supporters in Palestine or Jordan. The plan that the brothers agreed on underlined the importance of the presence of the al-Qaeda in Jordan and Palestine, since the Palestinian issue is the bleeding heart of the nation. Thus, everyone who wanted to be close to the nation’s sentiments should be in touch with this issue. The liberation of the nation is contingent on dealing a strike to the Israelis and annihilating their state. There will be no change or liberation unless Israel is undermined and eliminated.

The survival of the regional order was linked to the survival of the state of Israel. The regional order existed in favor of Israel’s ambitions to pave the way for its expansion. The relationship between the current Arab regimes and the state of Israel was dialectical. We were in agreement that there would be no liberation without change and no change unless Israel was weakened. Israel would not be weakened unless Arab regimes were undermined and unless Western support for Israel and these regimes came to a halt. The logical conclusion, therefore, was that it is imperative for us to be present on this globe. So, how could we abandon such an opportunity to be in Palestine and Jordan? And how could we waste a chance to work with Abu Musab and similar men in other countries? Following two hours of nonstop discussion, the brothers agreed to designate me to handle this issue while providing me with the means to do so.

I praised God Almighty for this success since this issue has been a source of worry for me for more than 10 years. I myself was not in full agreement with everyone, particularly regarding tactical and strategic aspects. This problem surfaced since the first day I was detained in Egypt, on 6 May 1987, regarding the case of the re-establishment of the [Egyptian Islamic] Jihad movement [EIJ] and a coup attempt. The case was known as Al-Jihad 401 in which nearly 6,000 brothers were arrested. Up to 417 of them remained in custody. The case pertained to the assassination attempt against ex-Egyptian Interior Minister, Hasan Abu Basha, and a journalist, Makram Muhammad Ahmad. I was then a lieutenant colonel in the Egyptian Special Forces. Major Muhammad al-Baram of the Special Forces and Special Guard, may God protect him and grant him success, was with me.

I found that the brothers in al-Jihad movement and al-Gamaa al-Islamiyya lacked practical experience that could enable them to achieve the desired change. In my opinion and the opinion of some brothers, this was due to over-enthusiasm that resulted in hasty action or recklessness at times. Moreover, they lacked the necessary expertise, a short-term and long-term plan in advance, and a vision to employ the nation’s human resources at the highest level. Change required an ideology, human resources, funds, and sincere, experienced, and seasoned leadership that possessed a vision and a plan, which would define its goals and means. The banner of such leadership should be clear.

The reasons that prompted me to leave Egypt in the aftermath of the above-mentioned case were very similar to the reasons that prompted Abu Musab to leave Jordan. These identical reasons included the following:

  1. The Egyptian and Jordanian security services began to realize that the major threat to the regime was ideological Islamic groups who did not believe in middle solutions and who called for a radical and comprehensive change in the political, economic, social, and ideological fronts. Accordingly, the security services were monitoring Islamic movements day and night. They were trying to deal pre-emptive strikes to them to deny them an opportunity to go ahead with the process of calm and constructive build-up.
  2. The security services in both Egypt and Jordan began to recruit informers within these groups. They succeeded in this field to a large extent for many reasons that we would not mention in this article. Consequently, we felt it was important that the leadership of Islamic action should be remote from these strikes to enable it to plan effectively and achieve its plans.
  3. There was a lack of necessary local financial resources in both countries to achieve the desired Islamic change. It was necessary, therefore, to knock on foreign doors in search of substantial funding.
  4. Communication and integration with trustworthy Islamic individuals and groups would never take place as long as merciless security services existed in these countries. Departure, therefore, was a must.
  5. Support for hot Islamic issues. A free and honest person would not stay still seeing his family and nation suffer injustice and humiliation.

The aforementioned reasons prompted me and Abu Musab to leave our countries and head to the open arenas of jihad in the Islamic world.

After the two shaykhs, may God protect them, approved to designate me to handle the case of Abu Musab and similar cases, I contacted some brothers whom I trusted their intellectual ability and vast practical experience. We held an emergency meeting during which we discussed the issue from all aspects. We made important decisions after our nine-hour meeting during which we performed prayers and had a meal.

I had a complete and clear perspective of a new and enormous project. The preliminary success of the project was linked to the approval of Abu Musab. I prayed for God to help me to convince Abu Musab of this partial plan which is would be vital for the greater Islamic project that we were striving to accomplish.

We scheduled a meeting with Abu Musab for 09:00 the next morning. I left with the Egyptian brother whom I mentioned before. We both went with one of the brothers from the Arab Peninsula [Saudi Arabia]. He was from Hijaz and he had a long experience in issues of jihad and the Islamic action in various fields. He was in full agreement with me regarding most issues.

This time, we did not enter the guesthouse. We asked Abu Musab to accompany us alone. He got in the car and we headed to the home of the brother from Hijaz. We introduced Abu Musab to the man and I felt that Abu Musab was happy to meet him.

I began the conversation since I was the proponent of the project. I had a thorough idea of its aspects and goals. The main idea of the project was based on the importance of finding an area in Afghanistan where a simple camp would be established for daily training. Abu Musab would oversee the camp and bring in brothers from Jordan, Palestine, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, and Turkey to forge a presence for us in these important areas.

The second point that we discussed earlier with some experts was it is important that such an area would be remote from our headquarters and would be located on the western border of Afghanistan adjacent to Iran. This is so because Iran became a safe passage for the brothers after the Pakistani authorities began to tighten the noose around our movement. It was very difficult for Arab and other brothers to arrive in Afghanistan through Pakistan. It was easy, on the other hand, for the brothers to take the Turkey to Iran to Afghanistan route.

Herat was suitable and the nearest Afghan city to the Iranian border and it was somewhat remote from us. Arrival to and departure from the city was much easier. Concerning financial resources, the brother from Hijaz and some of his companions promised to make the resources available to accommodate the human resources in Herat and the requirements of the course of action.

One of the topics we discussed was that we were not seeking full allegiance from Abu Musab or his companions. Rather, we wanted coordination and cooperation to achieve our joint objectives. We explained to him that we were ready to provide him with special training for every distinguished individual or group from his side. We pledged to coordinate with the brothers of the Taliban movement to avoid any obstacles in the future. We proposed the establishment of two stations in Tehran and Mashhad in Iran to facilitate arrival in and departure of brothers to and from Afghanistan. The objective was integration of an important region in the Arab and Islamic world. It would provide an opportunity for every sincere brother—particularly those who did not fully agree with the tenets of the al-Qaeda—to achieve integration at the current stage and full agreement in the near future, God willing.

We tried to obtain an immediate response from Abu Musab, but he said: “I have to carry out some consultations. My brothers Khalid al-Aruri and Abd al-Hadi Daghlas [Abu Taisir] have accompanied me from the beginning and I should consult with them.” We agreed to meet in two days. It would be a Friday. The brother from Hijaz invited us for lunch on that day. Everyone agreed and Abu Musab was told to bring both his companions for lunch. We agreed to send a car for them before Friday prayers so that we could perform prayers together.

Two days later, we performed the Friday prayers and went to the home of the man from Hijaz. We had kabsah (Saudi dish) for lunch. Abd al-Hadi inquired about certain issues. His questions indicated he was quite intelligent. God Almighty granted us the ability to answer all the questions. The result was total approval from Abu Musab and his two companions. We agreed to begin preparations as of the next day.

The plan stipulated that Abu Musab and his two companions would spend 45 days in special training while we would make the necessary arrangements in Herat and Mashhad consecutively. Abu Musab began to contact his friends to urge them to come. During the training, I noticed that Abu Musab and both his companions were very enthusiastic about the training. They worked very hard to achieve the highest levels.

The training period went by quickly and we began to prepare to move to Herat in harmony with the plan. Meanwhile, two Syrian brothers arrived. We discussed the Herat plan with them and they agreed without hesitation. Then we moved to Heart where we found that the brothers chose an area on the outskirts of Herat where there was an old and small camp, which they provided with the necessary supplies. We praised God Almighty for this success. We stayed in Herat with them for four days after which I felt that Abu Musab and his Jordanian and Syrian comrades are in full agreement in thoughts with us. We agreed to meet every month. They would come to us one month and we would visit them the next. We left with them three vans that escorted us in our trip. We promised to send other cars if necessary. We said goodbye and returned to our location.

We left Abu Musab with his two companions—Khalid and Abd al-Hadi—and the Syrian brothers. We were confident they would succeed and excel in their project since every one of them had a very strong will. Their concern for Islam and Muslims was unparalleled. When we arrived at our headquarters, we submitted a detailed report to the brothers. I felt that they were satisfied with the achievement that was made. Praise be to God, Lord of all creation.

A full month passed since we returned from Herat during which we prepared three vans and loaded them with supplies that we believed the brothers there would need. I left with five Arab companions including the aforementioned brother from Hijaz. We accompanied two Afghan brothers. We arrived in Herat late in the afternoon. We informed Abu Musab in advance about the time of our arrival. The brothers were waiting for us. They prepared lunch of various dishes, mostly Syrian. The meal was delicious. It was different from the food we used to have during the four days that we spent in Herat last month. When I inquired, I was told that two Syrian families—originally from Aleppo who used to live in Turkey and who arrived in Herat five days ago—prepared the lunch. I was glad to hear the news since it meant that the idea was finding its way to success. I was grateful to God. We began to inquire about the conditions and difficulties that faced them over the past month and the achievements they made. The outcomes were as follows:

  1. Abu Musab and his comrades were able to bolster relations with Taliban officials in the area. Taliban men were ready to provide all the resources at their disposal in favour of the project.
  2. There were five people when we left Herat the first time—Abu Musab, his two companions, and the two Syrian brothers. We found that the two Syrian families who came to Herat comprised thirteen members including the head of the family, three young men over-16, two women, and six girls. In all, the number of Arabs in Herat amounted to eighteen.
  3. We found that in cooperation with the Syrian brothers, Abu Musab prepared a military and cultural program that I thought was remarkable. The cultural program focused on religious education, memorizing the Qur’an, and studying history and geography.
  4. We found that Abu Musab and his companions agreed to form the structure of an integrated society in light of their expectations that hundreds of brothers and their families would join them in Herat soon.
  5. We learned that Abu Musab sent a note to his brothers in Jordan telling them of the beginning of his success in Afghanistan and asking them to immigrate there if they could. He asked if his family and the families of Abd al-Hadi and Khalid could join them. The Syrian brothers did the same and this indicated they were confident that the project would succeed.

We praised God for this magnificent progress. We discussed developments regarding an increase in the resources and the stations of Mashhad and Istanbul.

We spent three days during which we took part in their daily program. We noticed the enthusiasm and sincerity that prevailed. We bade them goodbye and agreed that they would come to visit us after one month. We returned to our headquarters happy and optimistic. The brother from Hijaz was seriously thinking of joining Abu Musab and his companions in Herat. We updated our information of the Herat file that we opened three months ago. We briefed the brothers concerned about the developments.

A Mini Islamic Society

The days passed quickly and the date of our monthly meeting arrived. Abu Musab and the Syrian brother, Abu al-Ghadiya [Sulayman Khalid Darwish], came carrying good news. The number in the camp amounted to 42 men, women, and children including the families of Abu Musab and his two companions. Three new Syrian families arrived including one that came from Europe.

Abu Musab was optimistic that they were establishing a mini Islamic society. He said that Jordanian and Palestinian brothers would arrive in Herat soon. He said the Iran-Afghanistan route was safe to travel. This passage was new and important to us in the al-Qaeda. We took advantage of it later on. We used it instead of the old route through Pakistan, particularly for the passage of Arab brothers. This issue prompted us to think of building good relations with some virtuous people in Iran to pave the way and coordinate regarding issues of mutual interest.

Coordination with the Iranians was achieved later.

Coordination was made with sincere individuals who were hostile to the Americans and the Israelis. It was not made with the Iranian government. During this time, I noticed a significant development in Abu Musab’s characters. When we first met four months ago, he was not the one who would begin a conversation. His ideas and interests in political news were limited. Now, however, he was the one who would start a conversation. He was interested in every issue. He would utilize public relations that might lead his project to success.

I noticed that he became more convincing and influential when he spoke to someone. He spoke more in standard Arabic, whereas before he used to speak in his normal dialect. All these points indicated that he would become a distinguished leader. His Syrian companion was wonderful. He possessed vast experiences and mastered several languages including English, Turkish, and some Kurdish. The Syrian brothers whom I got to know in Afghanistan were the most sincere people I have ever met. The suffering they faced and still face played a great role in shaping their personality. They were respectful and obedient to their leaders. They were motivated to learn and gain academic and practical experience. I was satisfied with Abu Musab’s project whenever I learned that new numbers of brothers were joining him.

Abu Musab’s project was making progress in terms of the number of brothers of various nationalities who converged on Herat to join him. These included Syrians, Jordanians, Palestinians, and some Lebanese and Iraqis. Thanks to God, Abu Musab was able to build relations with the Kurdish Ansar al-Islam, which is active in northern Iraq and had bases and clear presence there.

We continued to pay periodic visits to Herat. Every time, we could notice the progress at the organizational and administrative levels and the military capabilities of the young men. At the dawn of 2001, Abu Musab became a different person in terms of resources and the potential he possessed. His perspective and thoughts became more profound concerning every issue he faced. He began to plan for the future in a strategic manner. He focused on building relations with all nationalities and races including young Arab and non-Arab men in the Afghan arena. He travelled in Afghanistan to meet with them and listen to the news of their countries of origin.

Most of the time, he left Abd al-Hadi Daghlas as his deputy in Herat. He used to travel with Khalid al-Aruri and Sulayman Darwish (Abu al-Ghadiya).

I could say that Abu Musab’s comprehensive leadership qualities became obvious, with the characteristics based on the following points:

  1. He was concerned about the situation of the entire umma.
  2. Dedication, accuracy, and his attempt to achieve swift results became the most visible of his traits.
  3. He became fond of reading and was always interested in everything that took place in the world.
  4. He was a fan of Nooradeen al-Zengi, a distinguished Islamic leader who led the process of liberation and change that was completed by the hero Saladin al-Ayyubi. Abu Musab always asked if there were books available about Nooradeen and Saladin. I think that the books Abu Musab read about Nooradeen, who launched his campaign from Mosul in Iraq, influenced him to move to Iraq in the aftermath of the downfall of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.
  5. Abu Musab became more concerned about the situation of the individuals around him. He often discussed with me the means that would strengthen their social and psychological relations. The story of the marriage of the Prophet, God’s prayers and peace be upon him, to Aishah and Hafsah—the daughters of his friends, Abu Bakr and Umar—were a model to him. Abu Musab married one of the daughters of his Palestinian companions who joined him from Jordan. Abu Musab’s friends got married and so were their daughters although some of the girls were at young age compared to the age of their peers who get married in our Arab world. Abu Musab and his brothers became one family in terms of religion and social and economic relations. They lived in an atmosphere of friendship reminiscent of the atmosphere that prevailed between the apostle, God’s prayers and peace be upon him, and his companions. This modern example should be a lesson for everyone who works in the field of da’wa [proselytism] and the contemporary Islamic movement.
  6. After spending two years in Herat, Abu Musab began to think of dispatching his trustworthy companions to areas outside Afghanistan to recruit young men and collect funds. As I remember, the beginning was in Turkey and Germany since the Syrian brothers who joined him had good relations in both countries.[3]
  7. Among the brothers I have met, Abu Musab was one of the most determined to protect the honor, blood, and reputation of Muslims.

These were some of the characteristics of Abu Musab prior to the events of 11September 2001.

Goals of New York Strike

In the meantime, we at al-Qaeda made preparations to carry out the greater strike. Our goals focused on the following three points:

1) Since its establishment and independence from the British crown, and for more than two centuries of human history, the United States has gone on the rampage everywhere in the world.

It was intimidating and assaulting people. It was seizing the resources of nations. Some people might be surprised if we tell them that the United States sent its fleet to occupy Algeria in 1817.[4] Mujahideen and Arab sailors in the Mediterranean—whom the West labeled as pirates—confronted and defeated the U.S. fleet. The battles between the U.S. and Islamic parties lasted for more than three months. That U.S. aggression was the prelude to implementing the colonialist plan, which was endorsed at the second conference of European nations held in Vienna in 1815. Since then, the United States has been trying hard to attack our nation to intimidate it and seize its resources. It has been humiliating all the beleaguered people in the world. Over the past century, the United States was trying to intimidate China, Korea, and Vietnam. It conspired against nations in Africa and South America. The objective was clear: a flagrant and atrocious aggression established on pretexts that have always been shrouded with deception. The United States overthrew several governments. The events that took place in Yugoslavia were fresh in memory. The United States assassinated many of the world’s leaders who were opposed to it. It spared no means to achieve its goals. Nevertheless, no state or country in the world dared to retaliate for the U.S. aggression. The prejudice and arrogance of the United States dominated its psychological makeup, which fuelled its injustice to the extent that it looked down on other nations and people.

Our main objective, therefore, was to deal a strike to the head of the snake at home to smash its arrogance. This objective was partially achieved, thank God. Had the other strikes succeeded the way the strike against the two towers did, the world would have felt the sudden change.

2) The second objective of this strike was to declare a new virtuous leadership for this world, which was crushed under the feet of the Zionist-Anglo-Saxon-Protestant coalition. Our vision said that genuine Muslims are the only ones who possess the qualifications needed to lead humankind and save it from the darkness of injustice and aggression of the wicked coalition. Our nation and the beleaguered people of the world will realize that there are people who do not fear this satanic coalition and that the newcomers possess a well examined plan to change the miserable life of the underprivileged in the world.

These newcomers will become the virtuous leadership of this globe that will face the forces of evil and injustice. The divine rule governing the conflict says: “And say: ‘Truth has come and Batil (Falsehood) has perished: for Batil is [by nature] bound to perish” [Al-Isra (17):81]. Truth will prevail. It will fight falsehood and defeat it sooner or later. The slogan we have adopted regarding this issue is the statement of Rab’i Bin Amir when he met Rustum, the Persian leader, before the Battle of Al-Qadisiyah. Rustum asked him why he came. Rab’i replied: “God sent us to save humankind from worshiping humankind and worship the lord of the human race. He sent us to save people from the injustice of religions to the justice of Islam and from the hardship of the world to relief of the world and the hereafter.”

A free person does not accept agony for himself, his family, or the entire human race. How do we keep silent against this flagrant injustice and blatant negligence of human values and the legacy that was desecrated by these abnormal people? Our objective is the emergence of a sincere and virtuous Islamic leadership that rallies the nation’s capabilities and motivates the weak and deceived in this world against this octopus that is represented by this wicked coalition. Such leadership says what it believes in and does what it says. It fears God alone. Nothing but God’s destiny will turn it away from achieving its goals. Thank God, this has been accomplished.

3) Our ultimate objective of these painful strikes against the head of the snake was to prompt it to come out of its burrow. This would make it easier for us to deal consecutive blows to undermine it and tear it apart. It would foster our credibility in front of our nation and the beleaguered people of the world. A person will react randomly when he receives painful strikes on his head from an undisclosed enemy. Such strikes will force the person to carry out random acts and provoke him to make serious and sometimes fatal mistakes. This was what actually happened. The first reaction was the invasion of Afghanistan and the second was the invasion of Iraq. The mistakes might happen over and again and there might be other random reactions.

Such reactions prompted the Americans and their allies to deal powerful strikes to the head and other important parts of the body of our nation, which has been in hibernation for almost two centuries. God willing, these strikes will help the nation to wake from its slumber. Woe unto the Americans, British, and everyone who supports them when our nation wakes up. Our objective, therefore, was to prompt the Americans to come out of their hole and deal powerful strikes to the body of the nation which is in slumber. Without these strikes there would be no hope for this nation to wake up. The entire masses of the nation with their financial capabilities and high morale would defeat the enemy. We have a knowledgeable and sincere leadership that has a well examined plan, but we cannot discuss its details at the moment. The sleeping nation will soon wakeup. The Americans, their allies, and their minions have been fooled.

Abu Musab did not have a previous knowledge of the strike [9/11] or its goals. After it was accomplished, we explained the objectives to him and briefed him on some important details of the forthcoming goals and expected U.S. reaction. Our assessment was that the strike achieved 20 percent of what we had planned for. Such an accomplishment was enough to prompt the Americans to carry out the anticipated response.

In the two months that followed the strike, the United States threatened to annihilate al-Qaeda and its supporters everywhere. It threatened to uproot and chase Islamic jihad everywhere. The Americans were confused in their statements and acts. Their allies and minions were repeating whatever the Americans would say. What we had wished for actually happened. It was crowned by the announcement of junior Bush of his crusade against Islam and Muslims everywhere.

The Crusade has been ongoing for a long time. It did not end with the end of the first crusade during the era of Saladin and Richard the Lionheart. The Crusade took new dimensions. The ignorance of Bush and his clique in the meaning of this term and its importance to us was a great victory that we extracted from their mouths when they were taken by surprise.

Let us go back to Abu Musab, whose stay with us in Kandahar became longer than his stay in Herat. Abu Musab learned many lessons that played a role in shaping the perspective of the overall conflict in the world between good and evil—the good that is represented by the messengers and proponents of sound monotheistic messages and evil that is represented by the followers of Satan and the fabricated and misinterpreted monotheistic messages that are based on the wishes of some people in favour of their ambitions and personal interests even though such interest were to the detriment of the poor and deprived among mankind.

The U.S. assault began at the end of 2001. Abu Musab returned to Herat to be close to his brothers and group. We did not have a clear or defined plan for confrontation. There was a significant percentage of Shi’is among the population in the Herat area. The camps and forces of Taliban and their cachets of weapons were fiercely bombarded. The opponents and Shi’is in the region moved swiftly and took control of the area. The young men of al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and Abu Musab’s group had no other alternative but to withdraw quickly and join us in eastern Afghanistan.

Before Abu Musab and his brothers left Herat, a group of their companions were taken captive by Shi’i forces and opponents. Their release was almost impossible. Abu Musab, however, reportedly insisted on saving them from captivity. He rallied 25 fighters of his group, performed salat al-haja [the prayer of need or destitution], and launched an attack on the area where his companions were taken into custody. The sudden attack took the defending force by surprise. The attack was fierce since it was carried out by a desperate person who did not believe in any solution other than saving his brothers or else die.

The result was the escape of the defending force and the release of all the brothers without casualties. This incident demonstrated the success achieved by Abu Musab over two years. Caring and dedicated men graduated from this camp to defend their principles and companions even if they risked their life. After Abu Musab and his brothers freed their companions, they prepared to leave Herat. They left in a 135-vehicle convoy that carried them, their Arab brothers of al-Qaeda in the region, and the remnants of the Taliban brothers.

It was a long way to Kandahar. Planes were flying overhead everywhere in Afghanistan. Praise be to God, the convoy arrived safely in Kandahar. At the beginning, we decided to defend Kandahar regardless of the consequences. We began to secure the wives and children of the Arab brothers by sending them to Pakistan. We began to make preparations for confrontation.

One day, there was a meeting with some of the important brothers, including Abu Musab. One brother used his Thuraya satellite phone. A few minutes after the man used his telephone I left the site of the meeting with three other brothers. Ten minutes after our departure, a U.S. plane shelled the house where we held the meeting. Abu Musab and some brothers were still there. The bombardment resulted in the collapse of the ceiling of the home. No one was killed but some of the brothers sustained injuries including Abu Musab, who suffered from broken ribs. He had bruises as a result of the collapse of the ceiling.

The assault began on Kandahar. The leadership made a new decision to withdraw to the mountains and evacuate the wounded to safe places. Abu Musab was requested to leave Pakistan since he was wounded. He refused, however, and insisted on joining us to take part in the battle.

The Americans feared direct confrontation. Therefore, they relied on air bombardment. They employed the munafiq [hypocrite] forces of the Northern Alliance and other opponents in ground battles. Therefore, we can say that Abu Musab did not stay away from the confrontation even though he had a legitimate excuse to do so.

The confrontation was not balanced or direct. The objectives of the American assault were centred on the following points:

  1. Overthrow the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan and eliminate the likelihood of its return or reestablishment any time in the future. The Islamic Emirate provided the circumstances, territory, and safe haven for the al-Qaeda. There is no way to allow this to happen again since the reestablishment of this Emirate will lead to the emergence of the state of an Islamic Caliphate that every Muslim in the world hopes for.
  2. Annihilate al-Qaeda and its leadership and make it a lesson for everyone. Everyone who dares to harm this giant elephant—the United States—will be punished. Punishment is total extermination. This was one of the major challenges that faced us at the outset of our action. A mature response that would amount to the level of such a challenge was necessary. Thus, the leadership made an audacious decision to dismantle the Emirate and integrate into the Afghan society once again. This move will enable it to return in seven years, in harmony with a well examined plan that will defeat the Americans and their supporters of traitors and hypocrites.

We began to implement the plan immediately. Accordingly, there was no room for us in al-Qaeda to appear in public and continue following the same trends as we did before. It was important to reorganize ourselves once again in all accessible areas in this world.

We Did Not Run Away From the Battle

Some people might ask: Is this manhood? Are these the principles and values of the faith that you adhere to especially that Islam views the escape from battle as treason? The answer leans on the following points:

  1. We did not run from the battle or leave the brothers of Taliban to face their destiny alone against the Americans. Our plan was to scatter all over and open new and several battlefronts with the Americans to disperse their forces and deny them the chance to focus on one region.
  2. The leadership ultimately decided that the form of confrontation was the guerrilla warfare or the hit-and-run tactic. This meant that people who would carry out such warfare should be from the region. Our race and language as Arabs were not suitable for such missions. Those who mastered the languages and dialects of the country had the choice to remain or leave and join other brothers in other areas of conflict.
  3. The departure of the brothers and their scattering in other countries provided us with further financial and human resources that we could employ in the battle, particularly that the war was not confined to a specific geographic spot. It was a war everywhere in the world.
  4. We realized that these steps were very important for the project to survive. Moreover, they were important to deny the Americans a chance to achieve some of their objectives, including annihilation of the brothers and the leadership.

As a result, praise be to God, we sustained a few casualties, and the leadership was intact and was exercising its work efficiently from Afghanistan. The young men who spread all over the world opened new battlefields with the Americans, polytheists, and hypocrites. The evidence is the outcome that Abu Musab and his brothers achieved in Iraq. I was the man in charge of securing the arrival of some Arab brothers to Iran and relocating them. Abu Musab and his group were among them.

In Iran

We began to flock to Iran one after the other. The brothers in the Arab Peninsula, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates, who where outside Afghanistan, had already arrived. They possessed abundant funds. We set up a central leadership circle and subordinate circles. We began to rent apartments for the brothers and some of their families.

The brothers of the Islamic Party of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar offered us satisfactory help in this field. They provided us with apartments and some farms that they owned. They put them at our disposal.

We began work and we re-established contact with the leadership. We began to support it again. This was one of our objectives from leaving Afghanistan. We began to form some groups of fighters to return to Afghanistan to carry out well-prepared missions there. Meanwhile, we began to examine the situation of the group and the brothers to pick new places for them.

Abu Musab and his Jordanian and Palestinian comrades opted to go to Iraq, following a long debate. Their complexion and accent would enable them to integrate into the Iraqi society easily. Our expectations and profound examination of the situation indicated that the Americans would inevitably make a mistake and invade Iraq sooner or later. Such an invasion would aim at overthrowing the regime. Therefore, we should play an important role in the confrontation and resistance. It would be our historic chance to establish the state of Islam that would play a major role in alleviating injustice and establishing justice in this world, God willing.

I was in agreement with Abu Musab concerning this analysis. Contrary to what the Americans frequently reiterated, al-Qaeda did not have any relationship with Saddam Husayn or his regime. The Americans would always try to link Saddam Husayn and his regime to al-Qaeda. They wanted to give themselves justifications and legitimate reasons to enter [Iraq] in harmony with their laws that they dictate by force on this world that is enslaved by the West, the Israelis, and the Anglo-Saxons.

We had to draw up a plan to enter Iraq through the north that was not under the control of the regime. We would then spread south to the areas of our Sunni brothers. The brothers of the Ansar al-Islam Group expressed their willingness to offer assistance to help us achieve this goal.

The Americans felt that Iranians were shutting their eyes to our activity in Iran. Thus, they began to launch a concentrated media campaign against Iran. They accused Iran of helping the al-Qaeda and global terrorism. The Iranians responded by pursuing the young men and arresting them. They began to deport them to their former home countries or wherever they wished as long as they left Iran.

The steps that the Iranians took against us confused us and foiled 75 percent of our plan. A large number of young men were arrested including up to 80 percent of Abu Musab’s group. Consequently, there was a need for the departure of Abu Musab and the brothers who remained free. The destination was Iraq. The route was the northern border between Iraq and Iran. The goal was to go to Sunni areas in central Iraq and begin to prepare for confrontations to face the U.S. invasion and defeat the Americans, God willing. The plan was well examined.

Abu Musab gained new experiences. When he came to say goodbye before he left to Iraq, he underlined the importance of taking revenge from the Americans for the crimes they committed during the bombardment of Afghanistan that he witnessed with his own eyes. His hatred and enmity against the Americans shaped his new character.

I cannot write in detail about this new personality. I have not met Abu Musab since he left Iran. The tales I hear about him, however, would allow me to say that he has become a seasoned commander who could run the conflict against the forces of global atheism—the Americans, the Israelis, and their supporters. I hope that Abu Musab and his companions will listen to some of the advice that we believe are important at this stage. Such advice will have great results in determining the outcome of the ongoing conflict between good and evil in the world.

Our advice is as follows:

1) Every action or effort should have a goal. If the goal is clear from the beginning, the path to achieve it will be clear and smooth. A clear path enables us to identify the means, resources, and time that we need to lead this path and achieve the goal. Therefore, you should know that every goal requires four elements that should be available for everyone who leads the path of change to accomplish a positive result. These elements are as follows:

A Thought: Every successful project should have a thought or idea that outlines its means and objectives. There is not much room for independent judgment. You should declare straightforwardly that your objective is to reintroduce the Islamic way of life by means of establishing the state of Islam that will solve the entire problems of the nation. A powerful Islamic nation will be able to play its virtuous role in the life of the entire humankind. God Almighty said: “You [believers] are the best of people, evolved for mankind, enjoining al-maruf (what is right), forbidding al-munkar (what is wrong), and believing in Allah” [Ali Imran, 3:110]. The Almighty also said: “Let there arise out of you a band of people inviting to all that is good, enjoining al-maruf, and forbidding al-munkar” [Ali Imran, 3:104].

Such a privilege will never be achieved unless the nation possesses the necessary means. These means will not be achieved unless an Islamic state is established. At present, there is no way to repel the assailant or alleviate the injustice that prevails in this world. Resources are seized, countries are occupied, people are intimidated, and the honour and sovereignty of countries violated. The only way to alleviate the injustice is the emergence of a powerful state that can deter the assailant and limit its aggression.

My brothers, the circumstances to declare this state are appropriate. The beleaguered people of our nation have become aware of the circumstances surrounding them. The atheism of the regimes and governments ruling our Arab and Islamic world is obvious. Everyone knows that these regimes first, govern in violation of God’s shari’a; second, support the Israelis and polytheists who have been the nation’s enemy throughout history; and third, the animosity of these regimes to Islam and Muslims is very obvious.

Therefore, the masses of the nation are looking forward to the day of salvation from these regimes and rulers. Our thought should be clear. Its sources should be specified. The main sources are the holy Qur’an and the Sunna of the prophet. Faith is the principal foundation of this thought. We derive such faith from the virtuous ancestors and deal with it the way they did. Faith helps understand the situation clearly without vagueness. Such comprehension produces a refined ideology that is able to renew itself and deal with the dilemmas facing the nation. It should be a clear and powerful thought capable of refuting and overcoming hostile ideas. For more than 1,400 years, Islam has taken strides in coexisting with various communities and circumstances. It produced the thought that enabled it to overcome every dilemma. Accordingly, we should have a circle of judicious men and scholars who are capable of addressing this situation.

B) Man is the second element that should be available for the success of every project, a man who believes in the idea firmly and strives to achieve the goal defined by the idea. Therefore, we should have a special da’wa authority that is qualified to address the nation’s people and win them over to the side of truth.

In the lines of our jihadist military action, we should carry out a da’wa action. We cannot achieve the desired change unless we make an obvious change in the situation of mankind. Man shapes the time and place the way he wants. We cannot achieve the great ultimate victory if we are not capable of employing the nation’s potential, including human and financial resources. Needless to say, the nation’s youth are ready to endorse the call for truth and defend it.

C) We have a sound thought and a free man who believes in this thought. Such a person can never achieve his goal unless he has the necessary financial resources that help him to possess the necessary means to achieve victory and empowerment.

D) A veteran and powerful and experienced leadership is the fourth element that should be available. A leadership deals judiciously with the three aforementioned elements. Without resources or leadership, a thought and man cannot achieve the goal. The Arab and Islamic world has a wealth of experience that can form a new and qualified leadership for this nation.

2) A clear banner: The banner of Islam and a genuine leadership of the nation have been absent for more than 100 years. The absence of the banner scattered the nation’s strength and capabilities and undermined it in front of its enemy. Leaders who isolated themselves for confrontation were created by the enemy. They were traitors whom the enemy manipulated in its favor to achieve its objectives. These collaborators raised global banners at times to deceive and undermine the nation. Sometimes they raised secular, Pan-Arab, or international banners. When we raise the clear banner of Islam—the banner of there is no god but God and Muhammad is the messenger of God—the falseness of all other banners will become obvious. This will help the emergence of a genuine leadership of the nation, a sincere leadership that is capable of addressing these grave challenges with knowledge, taking into consideration the current circumstances. It will be able to motivate capabilities and rally resources in the best possible manner. This requires the capabilities of young men each in their own capacity. We have learned that organization means employment of resources.

3) A plan: Every action should be established on a clear plan right from the beginning. A clear plan determines the necessary means, requirements, and the needed time for implementation. An action that is not established on a plan is viewed as random and unproductive. An observer of contemporary Islamic movements concludes that their actions were mostly random. Allegiance alone is not enough to achieve success or victory. Divine laws should be taken into consideration. Drawing up a well defined plan is one of the divine laws. Accordingly, mujahideen should have short-term plans aimed at achieving interim goals and long-term plans aimed at accomplishing the greater objective, which is the establishment of a (Muslim) state.

4) Taking advantages of the available opportunities with the future in mind to be prepared to take advantage of new circumstances: We can give Iraq as an example at present. The security mess that resulted from the collapse of Saddam Husayn’s regime provided a good opportunity for the jihadist Islamic action to infiltrate, spread and have roots a in the Iraqi arena. Such an action would not have succeeded if the former regime stayed in power.[5]

These opportunities might occur again in other regions. We expect that Syria and Lebanon will face similar circumstances.[6] If this takes place, it will give the Islamic action a vast area of action and maneuvering. It will help the Islamic action win tremendous human and financial resources. The jihadist Islamic trend will have a chance to exist near the border of occupied Palestine. The Levantine human resources are a very important element. Direct and constant clashes with the Israelis are a more important element that will disseminate the jihadist tenet and give it credibility that allows it to achieve two major objectives—justifying it as a genuine leadership for the Islamic world and contributing to undermining Israel and going ahead on the path to annihilate it, God willing.

This might take place in Syria and Lebanon soon. Egypt will follow sooner or later since the Israeli theory is established on the importance of taking advantage of the giant U.S. force to destroy current and potential enemies that might pose a threat to Israel’s security. The Americans will commit strategic mistakes by adhering to the foolish Israeli policy. Therefore, the current available circumstances and developments that might take place in the region will provide an opportunity to establish an integrated Islamic army that is capable of achieving consecutive victories that will win it high credibility. A new leadership for the Islamic nation will emerge that is capable of rallying efforts and taking advantage of the capabilities of the nation on the path of the blessed jihad. Jihad will enable this leadership to reestablish the Islamic Caliphate in society once again. A caliphate means a state of Islam that is capable of overcoming the injustice that befell the world. Consequently, God’s promise will be achieved. “And we wished to be Gracious to those who were oppressed on the earth, to make them leaders [in iman (faith)] and make them inheritors” [Al-Qasas (28):5]. Then, the desired victory will be achieved, and people can be seen enter God’s religion in crowds.

“When Allah’s help and triumph comes, and you see the people enter Allah’s religion in crowds, then hymn the praises of your Lord and ask for his forgiveness. Verily, he is ever-ready to show mercy” [Al-Nasr (110): 1-3].

These were some of the practical and pressing recommendations that we offered to Abu Musab and the mujahideen in Iraq. If they take it, the sorcery will turn against the sorcerer. Thus, they will help to implement the greater plan that has been drawn up for the successful return of Islam to human society. The circumstances are available, thank God. The coming days will prove that God’s worshipers are coming. The injustice, deprivation, and the aggression resulting from the policies of these satanic and unwise forces have made life intolerable. Change has become a pressing need for which all the free people of the world are longing.

A clear objective, a sound banner, clear legitimate means, the ability to take advantage of the circumstances and resources, victory, power, and the satisfaction of the Lord of the universe. May God grant us success. Our last prayer is praise be to God, Lord of all creation.

By Sayf al-Adel, military commander for Tandheem Qaedat al-Jihad

*             *             *             *             *


[1] The Exile: The Flight of Osama bin Laden (p. 149) documents who was in the Bin Ladin family convoy that went to Iran in 2002. It included: Saad, the son of Najwa, Usama’s first wife, who had abandoned Usama two days before 9/11 and moved to Syria. Saad’s wife and son were with him when he went to Iran. Saad was nominally the head of the party since he was the oldest but his autism meant that his aunt, Khairiah, was de facto in charge, with her son to Usama, Hamza.

Najwa’s married daughter, Fatima, was also among the group that went to Iran, though her husband had gone missing (Fatima would marry al-Qaeda spokesman Sulayman Abu Ghayth while in Iran). Najwa’s younger children, Iman and Ladin were also present. The families of Usama’s other two sons, Mohammed and Othman, went to Iran, and the two men joined later—Mohammed having initially remained with his father and Othman having initially fled Afghanistan in the company of Ayman al-Zawahiri.

Another Bin Ladin wife, Seham, stayed in Pakistan, with four of her children: eldest daughter, Khadija, whose husband, Abu Abdullah al-Halabi (a.k.a. Daood), a Saudi jihadist, had escorted the women and children to Iran, and the younger three: Khalid, Miriam, and Sumaiya.

[2] The trial of Zarqawi and al-Maqdisi in Jordan in 1994, after their Bay’at al-Imam group was rolled up, was a major spectacle for the jihadists, but it was in prison that the Islamic State’s future leader was forged. Zarqawi had been a low-level hoodlum in his hometown, Zarqa, a heavy drinker with tattoos and a penchant for violence. Sex attacks were among Zarqawi’s crimes, including homosexual rape, according to Joby Warrick in his book, Black Flags: The Rise of ISIS. Zarqawi’s “idea of a sexual conquest … was to force himself on younger men as a way to humiliate and assert his own dominance”, Warrick writes. In prison, Zarqawi took to religion more seriously; he even used a smuggled razor blade to peel off the tattoos on his skin. “Prison was his university”, as one U.S. official later lamented: Zarqawi acquired credibility for having been behind the wire and the time and environment enabled his radicalism.

[3] The very first Islamic State external attack was thwarted in April 2002, in Germany. The so-called Tawhid cell contained mostly Palestinians and was led by Mohamed Abu Dhess (Abu Ali), a Zarqawi acolyte.

[4] The United Stats never actually occupied Algeria, but the Algerine War (1815-16)—the second of what are known to history as the Barbary Wars—did involve the U.S. imposing, by the threat of force, behaviour-change on the regime in Algiers. This story is excellently detailed in Joseph Wheelan’s Jefferson’s War (2004), which is reviewed here.

[5] The jihadists who descended on Iraq after Saddam fell testify to finding a robust Islamist and Salafist presence that had grown up under the Saddam regime, an indicator that something like the Islamic State was coming no matter what.

[6] As Brian Fishman notes in his book, The Master Plan: ISIS, al-Qaeda, and the Jihadi Strategy for Final Victory, the plan that Sayf al-Adel and Zarqawi put together, merging the programs of al-Qaeda and the Zarqawi’ists, relied on the “fundamental strategic insight was that there were certain countries … where the United States did not need to be severed from the local regime.” Al-Qaeda’s “usual rationale for prioritizing attacks on the United States rather than local governments, … was to compel the United States to abandon regional governments and leave them vulnerable to overthrow”, Fishman adds. Saddam’s Iraq was such a case, though the Americans dealt with him directly. Bashar al-Asad’s Syria was believed to be another case where the U.S. would not side with the government if an uprising erupted against it; as it turned out this was mistaken.

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