December 1, 2005  

Know your enemy

Al-Qaida’s leaders and their strategy

As the “war against Islamic radicalism” — President Bush’s new designation for what used to be the war on terrorism — enters its fourth year, it is unmistakably clear that, as Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld put it, the contest is “a long, hard slog.” The twin blitzkriegs in Afghanistan and Iraq have proven to be mere precursors to counterinsurgency campaigns where victory is measured by tenacity, not “rapid, decisive operations.”

The war is the more difficult because defining the enemy has not been easy. The Islamic enemy is a blur: Al-Qaida is less an organization than a movement. The al-Qaida leadership has created a rallying point for Islamic resistance groups and insurgencies. Its leader is a veteran soldier, devout Muslim, eloquent orator and implacable enemy of America.

Michael Scheuer, a former CIA analyst and the “anonymous” author of the best-selling “Imperial Hubris,” paints a precise portrait of Osama bin Laden. And AFJ Editor Tom Donnelly scrutinizes the recent communiqué from bin Laden’s first lieutenant, the Egyptian Ayman al Zawahiri, to the commander of al-Qaida in Iraq, Abu Musab al Zarqawi.