Monday, October 02, 2006

Al Qaeda, Pakistan and letter writing

The Washington Post covers a letter sent to Zarqawi several months before his death. It indicates that part of al Qaeda's senior leadership was in Pakistan:
Atiyah bemoans the difficulty of direct communications between Waziristan and Iraq and suggests that it is easier for Zarqawi to send a trusted representative to Pakistan than the other way around. The "brothers," he writes, "wish that they had a way to talk to you and advise you, and to guide and instruct you; however, they too are occupied with vicious enemies here.

"They are also weak," he continued, "and we ask God that He strengthen them and mend their fractures. They have many of their own problems, but they are people of reason, experience and sound, beneficial knowledge. . . . This letter represents the majority of, and a synopsis of, what the brothers want to say to you."

Deemed authentic by military and counterterrorism officials, Atiyah's letter adds context to events in al-Qaeda's often rocky relationship with its Iraqi subsidiary, shedding new light on the depth of the organization's concern over Zarqawi and the limits of its control over him.

An earlier letter to Zarqawi, written in July 2005 by bin Laden deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri, made some of the same points in more formal and less pointed words. But it appeared to have little effect. In September 2005, Zarqawi released an audiotape accusing Sunni leaders and Shiites of cooperating with U.S. forces and promising their certain death.

Atiyah's letter begins with warm personal words for Zarqawi. "I am setting this out as an introduction," he says, because the rest of his letter "will be primarily about the negatives and cautioning against things that are perilous and ruinous."
Al Qaeda tends to use metaphorical codes in their missives. Sickness, in the past, was a metaphor that meant in some state of police restraint. I wonder what fractures means.

This is an interesting document, but it is also quite old.


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