THE MAGAZINE

Al-Qaida's Doctrine for Insurgency: Abd Al-Aziz Al-Muqrin's A Practical Course for Guerrilla War

By Norman Cigar; Reviewed by Col. Britt Mallow (Retired)

 

***** Al-Qaida’s Doctrine for Insurgency: Abd Al-Aziz Al-Muqrin’s A Practical Course for Guerrilla War. Translated and Analyzed by Norman Cigar; published by Potomac Books, Inc., www.potomacbooksinc.com (Web); $26.95; 210 pages.
 
To defend against the security threats posed by global terrorism and insurgencies, we must step inside our enemies’ training camps and learn their ways of warfare. In this book, Marine Corps University Fellow Norman Cigar helps us do just that with the first practical English translation of a training manual written by a senior al Qaeda leader.
 
Saudi-born Abd Al-Aziz Al-Muqrin was a veteran of Islamic fighting groups in North Africa, Bosnia, and on the Arabian Peninsula, where he cofounded the region’s al Qaeda affiliate. A follower of Osama bin Laden, Al-Muqrin traveled and trained in Afghanistan, fought the U.S.-led coalition there after 9-11, and was involved in planning some of the bloody attacks against Western targets in Saudi Arabia in 2003 and 2004. He remained a prolific trainer and writer until his death at the hands of Saudi security forces in 2004.
 
Cigar presents his book in two parts: first an overview and analysis of the original manual, then the translation itself. Cigar’s outstanding analysis ranges from comment on tactical doctrine to a broader commentary on the strategic significance of the work itself. The manual is filled with nuggets useful to security practitioners from a tactical point of view, such as the logic behind targeting methodology and details of planning phases, as well as surveillance, group organization, logistics, communications, and even specific tactics for motorcade attacks.
 
Tactical points aside, forward contributor Julian Lewis points out perhaps the manual’s most salient note: its emphasis on the propaganda war—the “war of ideas” that must be fought and won in Muslim lands to gain the popular support for jihad. The perspective Cigar provides on al Qaeda’s “information war” will help readers better understand what we face.
 
This work rather frighteningly informs us that an intelligent logic underlies al Qaeda’s plans, despite how twisted we feel their goals and methods may be. You can simply scan this book for parallels to your security challenges if you face insurgency or terrorist threat environments, or you can read it more carefully to better understand the true nature of your enemy.
 

Reviewer: Col. Britt Mallow (Retired) is a counterterrorism and security practitioner with more than 32 years of experience. He is an associate department head at MITRE Corporation and the chair of the ASIS Council on Global Terrorism, Political Instability, and International Crime.

 

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