AL QAEDA'S LONG ROAD TO WORLD WAR
Michael Scheuer, a twenty two year veteran of the CIA, writes in the Asia Times :
In recent weeks, media reports from both Iraq and Afghanistan have suggested the appearance of a slow evolution of the Islamist insurgents' tactics in the direction of the battlefield deployment of larger mujahideen units that attack "harder" facilities.
These attacks are not replacing small-unit attacks, ambushes, kidnappings, assassinations and suicide bombings in either country, but rather seem to be initial and tentative forays toward another stage of fighting.
Al-Qaeda believes that it and its allies can only defeat the United States in a "long war", one that allows the Islamists to capitalize on their extraordinary patience, as well as on their enemies' lack thereof.
Before his death in a firefight with Saudi security forces, the leader of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, Abu Hajar Abd al-Aziz al-Muqrin, wrote extensively about how al-Qaeda believed the military fight against the US and its allies would unfold. He envisioned a point at which the mujahideen would have to develop semi-conventional forces. He identified this period as the "Decisive Stage".
Muqrin told his insurgent readers that the power of the US precluded any expectation of a quick victory. He wrote that the war would progress slowly through such phases as initial manpower mobilization, political work among the populace to establish trust and support, the accumulation of weaponry and other supplies, the establishment of bases around the country and especially in the mountains, the initiation of attacks on individuals and then a gradual intensification of the latter until a countrywide insurgency was under way.
Each of these steps was essential and none could be skipped, Muqrin maintained; the steps would prolong the war, thereby allowing the mujahideen to grow in numbers, experience and combat power.
As these steps were traversed by the mujahideen, Muqrin argued that the resources, political will, morale and manpower of the insurgents' enemies would be eroded and their forces would assume more static positions in order to limit the attrition they suffered.
In this stage of the insurgency, Muqrin predicted that the US and its allies would conduct far fewer large-scale combat operations in the countryside and would turn toward conducting smaller raids on specific targets, while simultaneously hardening their bases and protecting their supply routes and lines of communication.
At this point, Muqrin wrote, the mujahideen could begin the final stage of preparation for victory, "which is building a military force across the country that becomes the nucleus of a military army".
..Muqrin wrote, "I mean the need for these troops to be knowledgeable about regular warfare, the army formations [and] their function in urban areas. I do not mean following the suit of the regimes ..."
The purpose of these forces?
"Through these regular forces," Muqrin explained, "the mujahideen will begin to attack small cities and publicize the conquest and victories in the media to lift the morale of the mujahideen and the people in general and break the morale of the enemy."
Muqrin continued: "The reason the mujahideen should target the small cities is that when the enemies' soldiers see these [small] cities falling into the hands of the mujahideen it will destroy their morale and they will realize that they are no match for the mujahideen."
The larger insurgent units that have been sporadically operating in Iraq and Afghanistan during the past year may signal the initial, limited success of Muqrin's call for the building of semi-conventional mujahideen units.