Al Qaeda Address Book Major Intelligence Coup

StrategyPage reports that Abu Musab al Zarqawi’s address book was found in the raid that followed the bombing on his compound that killed him. It has had major consequences and shows an organization in desperation–and that’s before the death of Zarqawi and the resulting consequences.

Al Qaeda in Iraq has been virtually wiped out by the loss of an address book. The death of al Qaeda leader Abu Musab al Zarqawi was not as important as the capture of his address book and other planning documents in the wake of the June 7th bombing. U.S. troops are trained to quickly search for names and addresses when they stage a raid, pass that data on to a special intelligence cell, which then quickly sorts out which of the addresses should be raided immediately, before the enemy there can be warned that their identity has been compromised. More information is obtained in those raids, and that generates more raids. So far, the June 7th strike has led to over 500 more raids. There have been so many raids, that there are not enough U.S. troops to handle it, and over 30 percent of the raids have been carried by Iraqi troops or police, with no U.S. involvement. Nearly a thousand terrorist suspects have been killed or captured. The amount of information captured has overwhelmed intelligence organizations in Iraq, and more translators and analysts are assisting, via satellite link, from the United States and other locations.

Perhaps the most valuable finds have been al Qaeda planning documents confirming what has been suspected of terrorist strategy. Also valuable have been the al Qaeda assessment of their situation in Iraq. The terrorist strategy is one of desperation. While the effort continues, to attempt to trigger a civil war between Sunni and Shia in Iraq, this is seen as a losing proposition. The new strategy attempts to trigger a war between the United States and Iran. This would weaken the United States, and put the hurt on Iran, an arch-enemy of al Qaeda. Other documents stressed the need to manipulate Moslem and Western media. This was to be done by starting rumors of American atrocities, and feeding the media plausible supporting material. Al Qaeda’s attitude was that if they could not win in reality, they could at least win imaginary battles via the media.

Zarqawi considered al Qaeda’s situation in Iraq as “bleak.” The most worrisome development was the growing number of trained Iraqi soldiers and police. These were able to easily spot the foreigners who made up so much of al Qaeda’s strength. Moreover, more police and soldiers in an area meant some local civilians would feel safe enough to report al Qaeda activity. The result of all this is that there are far fewer foreign Arabs in Iraq fighting for al Qaeda. The terrorist organization has basically been taken over anti-government Sunni Arabs. That made the capture of Zarqawi even more valuable, as his address book contained a who’s who of the anti-government Sunni Arab forces. This group has been hurt badly by last week’s raids.

USA Today has a similar story, adding quite a bit of detail, including links to some of the documents. It reports that the document was actually found before the Zarqawi raid and was not his.

It is not clear who wrote the document. The U.S. military says it appears to be from someone influential in al-Qaeda’s Iraq operation. “It seems to be from an author who has insight from within al-Qaeda because a number of strategies and tactics are noted,” said Navy Lt. Christina Skacan, a military spokeswoman.

The document takes a sweeping view of the insurgency, expressing worries that the tide was turning against the insurgency and laying out a plan for reversing that trend.

The memo says the insurgency is being hurt by the increasing capabilities of Iraqi security forces, a shortage of weapons and fighters, a lack of funds and internal divisions. The document says time is now on the side of the United States and not the insurgents.

The document says to reverse this trend, insurgents must:

    •Use the media to improve their image.

    •Infiltrate Iraq’s security forces.

    •Reorganize recruiting efforts.

    •Lessen internal dissent and bolster respect for the insurgency’s leadership.

The document says the best plan for improving the “current bleak situation” is “to entangle the American forces into another war against another country” or to create friction between the United States and its Shiite allies in Iraq.

The document recommends “first to exaggerate the Iranian danger and to convince America, and the West in general, of the real danger coming from Iran,” it says.

The insurgents proposed fabricating “bogus messages” that Iran has chemical or nuclear weapons or that its agents planned to hit targets in the West.

Austin Bay is quite encouraged by this news, while Juan Cole feels vindicated in his view that Zarqawi and company were playing us for saps on the Iran front. Sean-Paul Kelley thinks it may all be “black-ops Pentagon propaganda.”

I’m with Christopher Hitchens when he observed of a different matter, “[I]f that claim is black propaganda, then it is clever black propaganda, which is also excellent news.” Rather clearly, we have recently gotten some intelligence from somewhere that has allowed the quick-fire targetting of hundreds of guerrilla locations in a couple of days. (Alternatively, Don Rumsfeld and company were playing Lefty to Zarqawi’s Pancho and only let him go so long out of kindness, I suppose.)

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Anderson says:

    Alternatively, Don Rumsfeld and company were playing Lefty to Zarqawiâ??s Pancho and only let him go so long out of kindness, I suppose.

    Great allusion, but:

    “All the federales say
    They could’ve had him any day,
    Only let him go so long
    Out of kindness, I suppose.”

    Lefty apparently fingered Pancho and split for Ohio with the reward.

    Of course, your analogy still works, but Rummy et al. are the federales, as they should be.

  2. James Joyner says:

    Good point. All gringos look alike to me, though.

  3. Plus, it’s a great song any worthy of usage, even if imprecisely.

  4. James Joyner says:

    Exactly! I use that and “There are more old drunks than there are old doctors” at every appropriate opportunity.