Merchant of Death
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Islamists Have 20-Year Plan: Do We?
This week's New Yorker should be required reading for those interested in the Islamist jihadi movements. The reason is simple. It gives us, in al Qaeda's own words, the 20-year plan of the group and its different iterations to wear away the West's resolve: plunge the United States into wars that will over extend its military, focus on a few key concepts (use of the internet, building a single narrative of itself and the West to give a unified vision of the war, drastic decentralization of command and control structures etc.) and a specific timetable in which different phases of the plan will be completed.

Author Lawrence Wright does not write this based on a huge intelligence coup or the ability to place a mole inside the jihadi camp. He wrote his story based on publicly-available, but little read, jihadi documents, which a few scholars and analysts have taken the time to read and analyze.

Tragically, he notes that, while some analysts, particularly in the military, study these prolific jihadi texts, the analysis is seldom filiters up to senior policy makers because, as one official says, "decision-makers are not looking for that kind of information. They think they know better."

While Wright focuses extensively on the already-reported writings of jihadi theortician Abu al-Masri and his emphasis on the futility of the closed, cell structure of terrorist groups and the need to move to a "leadersless resistance," he also pays close attention to the writings of Fouad Hussein, a radical Jordanian close to Zarqawi as well as al Qaeda security chief Saif al-Adel. In particular, he cites Hussein's 2005 opus "Al Zarqawi: The Second Generation of al Qaeda," which offers a detailed look at the multi-phased, 20-year plan dveloped by al Qaeda and aligned Islamist groups, to create a viable Islamist caliphate.

The final phase envisioned by this group is the formation of an "Islamic army," based in an already-established caliphate, that will instigate a worldwide fight between "believers" and "non-believers." This battle will lead to a final victory, defined as a time when "falsehood will come to an end...the Islamic state will lead the human race once again to the shore of safety and the oasis of happiness."

This is not to say that the plans or visions are brilliant, realistic or even remotely pragmatic. What it does show, however is that the Islamist jihadi groups have people like al-Masri and Hussein who have spent years pondering the future of jihad and what the next steps are, both stategically and tactically. This includes some amazingly frank admissions of failure and stupidity on the part of bin Laden and others. Based on that, they have come up with a coherent plan for the future. It would be interesting to know if, on our side, there is anyone putting the same effort into understanding the jihadi goals and plans and how to counter them.
My Lessons in Five Years
Salfism in the Washington Post
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