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Wednesday, May 2, 2012

AQAP: Inspire Magazine Will Continue

Two new issues of Al Qaeda's English-language magazine "Inspire" hit the virtual newsstands today, with a promise that more will follow.

"To the disappointment of our enemies, issue 9 of inspire [sic lowercase] magazine is out against all odds," wrote Yahya Ibrahim, the only surviving member of Inspire's original masthead. "[Inspire] is here to stay because it was not found to end with the end of its founders."

Issue 8 of Inspire is the last issue overseen by its founding editor, American Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula member Samir Khan, prior to his death by drone in September 2011. Although it was not released at the time, the issue had been finalized almost two weeks before Khan and his mentor, American cleric Anwar Awlaki, were killed.

Issue 9 is the first post-Khan issue, and the downgrade to Inspire's staff is clearly evident from the quotes above and on the cover, which features a grievous typo.

As Jihadica's Will McCants observed on Twitter, they "left off the 'h' in 'whining'."

Khan's absence is felt throughout the issue in ways large and small. For instance, the issue display of martyr's tribute for Awlaki and Khan lack Khan's trademark design flourish to emphasize their importance. Despite its release this week, the issue does not strongly reference the death of bin Laden. Headlines throughout the issue often fail to reflect the articles, and a autobiographical piece attributed to Awlaki is in sore need of editing.

As far as content, Issue 8's most important feature is a previously promoted article by Awlaki justifying the murder of American civilians. Awlaki takes a bloodier tone than he has in the past with a fairly sweeping imprimatur for nearly any tactic or approach to killing Americans. Operational notes features instruction on the use of handguns, continuing AQ's trend toward encouraging smaller and more reliable attacks. In most other respects, the issue continues the content seen in previous editions.

Issue 9 attempts to maintain continuity and succeeds to a degree, despite the noticeable drop in quality. In addition to Yahya Ibrahim's assurance that Inspire will continue, AQAP religious leader Ibrahim al-Rubaish also indicates that AQAP will continue to strongly support Inspire. Much of the issue is dedicated to personal accounts of Awlaki by those who knew him, as well as a lengthy piece on Samir Khan.

In a sharp break from previous issues, Inspire 9 urges would-be "individual jihadists" (i.e., lone wolves) to contact them directly via e-mail and provide a wealth of identifying information, which I imagine most American CT officials would wholeheartedly endorse. Previous issues of Inspire urged would-be lone wolves to act without contacting AQAP or anyone else about their plans. I may have a bit more to say about this later.

Operational elements in Issue 9 include a focus on assassination, which can be read as significant in conjunction with Issue 8's focus on handguns. Both issue 8 and 9 strongly suggest President Obama as an assassination target, although issue 8 is more explicit.

For more about Inspire and American jihadists, check out J.M. Berger's new book, Jihad Joe: Americans Who Go to War in the Name of Islam, on sale everywhere.

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