The Banality of Al-Qaida's Scathing Letter to One of Its Operatives

Al Qaida, it turns out, isn't immune from bureaucratic dysfunction.

In a lengthy report posted late Tuesday night, the Associated Press's Rukmini Callimachi described in great detail a letter from al-Qaida leadership excoriating one its insubordinate employees. The harsh rebuke reads like a warning from human resources to a senior executive on thin ice.

"In page after scathing page, they described how he didn't answer his phone when they called, failed to turn in his expense reports, ignored meetings and refused time and again to carry out orders," Callimachi writes.

The employee was Moktar Belmoktar, a.k.a. Khaled Abu Abbas, who eventually split from the terrorist organization and went on to take more than 100 people hostage at a BP-operated gas plant in Algeria in January. Here are some highlights from the 25-page letter:

It Didn't Have to Be Like This. The letter starts off with leadership stressing that they just had no choice but to write it in response to one he had sent them earlier.

We are forced and obliged to write to you, and we had not wanted our correspondence to center on such issues, given the phase that the jihadist project is passing through in the region and the great challenges that it faces. But what else can we do? … And for your information, we only refrained from wading into this battle in the past out of hope that the crooked could be set straight by the easiest and softest means and that reason and the right path would rule between us.

Don't Take It Personally. They also took great pains throughout to maintain what what little remained of their frayed relationship with Khaled.

So any stringency and harshness in our tone is intended to fix the situation, right the path and correct behavior. God is behind all intentions and he is the guide on the path.

You Botched the Canadian Kidnapping. Leadership's complaints begin with what they saw as the botched attempt to extract concessions for the release of Canadian diplomat Robert Fowler and a colleague. Khaled, they write, struck a deal for money instead of pursuing the concessions in the Afghanistan war that leadership wanted.

He chose to step outside the organization and reach an agreement in his own way, he did not follow the organization's instructions, and if not for God Almighty's leniency and the reasonableness of the brother emirs, the problem would have escalated. … Does the inadequacy come from consultation and coordination, which we were insistent on or does it come from unilateral behavior, along the lines of our brother Abu Abbas, which produced a blatant inadequacy: trading the weightiest case (Canadian diplomats!!) for the most meager price (700,000 euros)!!

You Only Call When You Need Something. Leadership also took issue with the fact that Khaled rarely picked up when they called, though he also seemed to find time for the media.

Why do you only turn on your phone with the Emirate when you need it, while your communication with some media is almost never ending!

Keep Your Mouth Shut. Khaled was a blabbermouth, too.

The bitter truth, which we can barely swallow, is that Abu Abbas aired our laundry publicly and spilled secrets of jihad to random young men whom he doesn't know, out of his reprehensible drive to break up our ranks.

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