The US military has given CNN letters that Zawahiri wrote in March 2008 to senior al-Qaeda commanders in Iraq (hat tip SK). Much of the content has been filtered through an MNFI spokesman so it’s hard to use CNN’s summary to assess al-Qaeda’s fortunes in Iraq. Nevertheless, since the summary fits with the bleak picture that has been emerging these past few months, it’s worth noting. I’ve rearranged the information for ease of reference:

Zawahiri letter to al-Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Ayyub al-Masri, March 2008. Letter was captured in April during U.S. op that killed AQI Information Minister Abu Nizar. Abu Nizar was an intermediary between Masri and AQ Central. The letter was found on Abu Nizar’s person.

  • Leadership: Masri too isolated to keep watch of his operatives. Zawahiri questions Masri’s ability to lead AQI.
  • Poor Communication with AQ Central: Zawahiri concerned that he is not getting regular updates on Iraq. He is also not receiving regular communication from Masri.
  • Poor Recruits: Dissatisfied with poor quality of recruits for ops in Iraq
  • ISI’s Legitimacy: Questions manner in which the Islamic State of Iraq was established
  • ISI’s Blatant Propaganda: Unhappy that ISI is repackaging old footage of operations and claiming the ops are new. Also unhappy that ISI takes credit for ops carried out by other terror groups, like Islamic Jihad. Zawahiri writes: “The media policy for the Islamic State is using exaggeration, to the extent of lying.”

Zawahiri letter to Abu `Umar al-Baghdadi, March 2008

  • Relations b/n Zawahiri & Bin Laden: Zawahiri passing along advice from Bin Laden.
  • Offer of Assistance: Zawahiri asks what ISI needs to be victorious.

We know from an earlier set of captured documents reviewed by a Washington Post reporter that Masri went to Afghanistan this summer to speak with AQ leadership. From the tone of Zawahiri’s letter, it might have been a trip to the woodshed.

This is at least the second time that captured AQI documents have been given to CNN. But in both cases, the original documents have not been released for general scrutiny. If the people releasing them hope their contents will demoralize al-Qaeda supporters around the world, it would help to release the documents to the general public soon after the news stories based on them are published. Despite all the attention paid to Jihadi visual media, Jihadis themselves love texts.

Update: Bill Roggio at Long Wars Journal was given the documents by MNFI and has a more extensive summary of their content. He also says that the documents will be made available shortly on the Foundation for the Defense of Democracy’s website. The documents are now up and I’ll post a more detailed summary once I’ve read them.

  1. alle says:

    Also unhappy that ISI takes credit for ops carried out by other terror groups, like Islamic Jihad.

    What Islamic Jihad do you figure he is referring to here? His own? And what operations, where?

  2. Will McCants says:

    Hi Alle, the docs are now online so we can see what Islamic Jihad is supposed to be.