If you only read one book about al-Qaeda in the next year, please make it Brynjar Lia’s Architect of Global Jihad. Lia, a Norwegian scholar, presents the life, theories and strategies of Abu Mus’ab al-Suri, who has done more than any other al-Qaeda affiliate to explain what the jihadist movement should look like over the next generation-plus: a diffuse, anonymous ideological movement reliant on self-starter jihadists with absolutely no command direction from al-Qaeda’s senior leadership. Architect of Global Jihad‘s appendix presents a lengthy translation of al-Suri’s The Global Islamic Resistance Call, which is like the jihadi version of Mao’s Little Red Book. Read it. Know your enemy.
I have a book report on Lia/al-Suri in today’s Washington Independent:
"The method makes it possible for a single individual to act," al-Suri writes, "whether he wants to operate completely alone, not trusting anyone else to participate, or in a very small unit of a few men and friends who have confidence in one another." He continues, "[T]his method offers homogeneity, security precautions and possibilities for the group. It also opens up for broad, common operational activity without bonds for each other." …
Implicitly, that represents a criticism of bin Laden’s decision to strike at the U.S. directly — other forces within Al Qaeda, including Zawahiri, preferred to concentrate on the apostate regimes — it also follows naturally from the idea that radicalized Muslims need to take matters into their own hand, since the Muslim world naturally hosts more Muslims than the Muslim diaspora communities. In early stages of jihadist activity, he writes, it is necessary to use "primitive weapons… such as revolvers and light and medium machine guns at the most," and to "limit training" activity to use of such weapons unless fighters intend to travel to Iraq and Afghanistan."
The most important training, though, is mental. "It is necessary to move the training to every house, every quarter and every village of the Muslim countries," al-Suri writes. "[I]t is not possible to gather the Islamic Nation in training camps, but it is possible to plant training camps across the Islamic Nation, in all her houses and quarters."
After the jump, a bitter, personal rant about al-Suri and Washington journalism.
Years ago, I got ahold of an Arabic copy of the whole of The Global Islamic Resistance Call. It’s a corpulent monstrosity — about 1600 pages long. Various jihadist websites had serialized it, studied it, commented on it. The SITE Institute and other counterterrorist forums that study the jihadosphere issued partial translations. That’s how I learned about The Call. Through some conniving, I got ahold of the whole book. It remains, in Arabic, on my laptop.
I don’t speak Arabic. More importantly, I don’t read Arabic. Nor do I have the money to pay a translator — they’re expensive! — to translate the book for me. But I was convinced, then as now, that understanding al-Suri, a tremendously influential figure, was key to understanding and defeating al-Qaeda. To use a bit of 4th Generation Warfare jargon: al-Suri, I contend, is critical to fucking up al-Qaeda’s OODA Loop.
So I took what I had to two magazines that consider themselves very, very serious about the jihadist menace and like to sneer at people like the readers (and writer) of this blog for being squishes, symps and softs. I told them what I had and wrote a few pitch-grafs explaining why it was important. I argued that while this project would cost a lot of money, it would be worth it, because what we’d publish would advance our understanding of al-Qaeda exponentially. I expected the editors to jump at the opportunity. Wasn’t this everything they kept saying was a national imperative?
You’ve figured out the end to the story. Lia wrote his book and I still have an untranslated copy of The Call on my computer. And I learned that not everyone is as devoted to the destruction of al-Qaeda as he likes to posture.
Hey FDL: If you’ve got money or you speak Arabic or both, let’s do an open-source service for U.S. counterterrorism. I’ve got the book. Lia’s work is extremely valuable, but he’s only translated part of The Call, for understandable reasons. Want to take on a massive project?