Al-Qaida No. 2: U.S. 'ran' from Vietnam
Updated: 2005-10-12 20:30
In a letter to his top deputy in Iraq, al-Qaida's No. 2 leader said the
United States "ran and left their agents" in Vietnam and the jihadists must have
a plan ready to fill the void if the Americans suddenly leave Iraq.
"Things may develop faster than we imagine," Ayman al-Zawahri wrote in a
letter to his top deputy in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. "The aftermath of the
collapse of American power in Vietnam ¡ª and how they ran and left their agents ¡ª
is noteworthy. ... We must be ready starting now."
Senior U.S. military commanders have said that Iraqi security forces are
improving significantly and some U.S. forces could return home early next year.
Yet skeptics have raised concerns about whether such statements simply let the
insurgency know how long they must wait for the U.S. to leave.
In a letter taking up 13 typed pages in its English translation, al-Zawahri
also recommended a four-stage expansion of the war that would take the fighting
to neighboring Muslim countries.
"It has always been my belief that the victory of Islam will never take place
until a Muslim state is established ... in the heart of the Islamic world,"
The letter laid out his long-term plan: expel the Americans from Iraq,
establish an Islamic authority and take the war to Iraq's secular neighbors,
including Lebanon, Jordan and Syria.
The final stage, al-Zawahri wrote, would be a clash with Israel, which he
said was established to challenge "any new Islamic entity."
The letter is dated July 9, and was acquired during U.S. operations in Iraq.
It was written in Arabic and translated by the U.S. government. The Pentagon
briefed reporters last week on portions of the document, but the full text was
not available until Tuesday.
In a statement, the National Intelligence Director's office said the letter
"has not been edited in any way" and its contents were released only after it
was clear no military or intelligence operations would be compromised.
House Intelligence Chairman Peter Hoekstra, R-Mich., said his committee is
reviewing the letter, but he cautioned "against reading too much into a single
source of intelligence."
In his letter, al-Zawahri, a Sunni, devoted significant attention to
al-Zarqawi's attempts to start a civil war with the rival Muslim Shiite sect,
the majority that now dominates the new Iraqi government. Ultimately, al-Zawahri
concluded that violence, particularly against Shiite mosques, only raises
questions among Muslims.
"This matter won't be acceptable to the Muslim populace however much you have
tried to explain it, and aversion to this will continue," he wrote.
Al-Zawahri was also critical of the Taliban, which was toppled in the 2001
U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan, because, he said, they did not have the
representation of the Afghan people. He said students of the Taliban retreated
to their tribes.
"Even the devout ones took the stance of spectator," al-Zawahri wrote.
Contrasting that, he saw fearlessness in battles waged in the Iraqi cities of
Fallujah, Ramadi and Al Qaim.
At times, the letter got personal. Al-Zawahri said he tasted the bitterness
of America's brutality, noting that his "favorite wife's chest was crushed by a
concrete ceiling" during an apparent U.S. attack. His daughter died of a
To this day, he wrote, he did not know the location of their graves.
The letter then switches to the court of public opinion.
"More than half of this battle is taking place in the battlefield of the
media," he wrote. "We are in a media battle in a race for the hearts and minds
of our umma," or community of Muslims, he wrote.
The line is an apparent reference to a phrase ¡ª "hearts and minds" ¡ª often
used by President Bush.