By Paul Cruickshank and Adam Levine
Al Qaeda's affiliate in Yemen has released a new guide for would-be Western recruits urging those Western militants who were thinking of traveling to join the group in Yemen to, in effect, think twice before making the trip.
The guide, entitled "Expectations Full," was apparently compiled by Samir Khan, the American-Saudi editor of the group's Inspire magazine, before his death in a drone strike in late September 2011.
"I strongly recommend all the brothers and sisters coming from the West to consider attacking America in its own backyard. The effect is much greater, it always embarrasses the enemy, and these type of individual decision-making attacks are nearly impossible for them to contain," Khan wrote in a caption underneath a picture of the Golden Gate Bridge and the San Francisco skyline.
While al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) figures such as Anwar al-Awlaki repeatedly urged American followers to launch attacks in the United States, what comes close to discouragement by Khan of would-be recruits from traveling to Yemen might be seen as surprising for a group that appears to realize that recruits with Western passports with visa-free access to the United States offer it the best chance to once again smuggle an explosive devices onto a U.S.-bound airplane.
The guide, released Monday, makes clear the group views Western recruits as more valuable to its campaign of international terrorism than in waging insurgent operations in Yemen.
"If you're coming from the West, especially America, you might be asked by the leaders of the mujahidin or those who know where you're from why you didn't partake in jihad inside your country. If you tell them, 'to help the mujahidin,' they might tell you that attacking the enemy in their backyard is one of the best ways to help the jihad. They certainly will not force you to go back home, but they will leave that option open for you just in case you change your mind and decide to attack the enemy back home," the guide states.
Last month the group believed it had recruited a British passport holder to blow up an explosive device on a U.S.-bound plane. But the recruit turned out to be an agent working for Saudi counterterrorism, according to sources briefed about the operation.
The manual, written well before the plot was foiled, advises recruits the group is suspicious about newcomers.
"In addition, there are certain questions you should avoid asking. Some of these questions include, 'Where are you from', 'How long have you been in the jihad', 'Where does so-and-so stay', 'When is so-and-so going out for the operation' and 'When are we going to leave this base'. This is because we don't want any possible spies in our ranks to take advantage of this information. Also, the more you ask these kind of questions, the more the mujahidin and its leadership will think of you as a spy and place you on their blacklist, keeping a close watch of you."
Another section suggested that AQAP operatives were paranoid about Saudi spies and that some even believed the Saudi kingdom was using black magic in its attempts to keep tabs on the group.
The guide provides practical advice for those still wanting to travel to Yemen to join the group.
Jihadis should anticipate moving between bases frequently and wannabes are advised to practice this nomadic life before they come to Yemen.
"I suggest you try and practice this at your house, a friend's house, a hotel/motel, the mountains," the manual says. "Live in the locality for exactly one week or however long you can with a friend or two."
The guide makes clear that unlike some other fronts, jihad in Yemen is not a family affair. "It's extremely difficult to bring your wife and kids," the guide stated.
Also, jihadists are warned not to expect non-stop action.
"Not witnessing battle for extended periods of time is what many of us go through."
The guide warns of the difficulties of living outdoors, the rigors of training and has a section about the experience of being targeted by drone strikes, which the guide suggests are of increasing concern to al Qaeda members in Yemen.
"As for protecting yourself from the enemy bombardment...this will all be taught to you when you join the ranks of the mujahidin," the guide states.
"If you feel terrified, then think about paradise."
It appears another English-speaking jihadist put the finishing touches on the guide after Khan was killed. This was possibly a jihadist named Abu Yazeed, who in the most recent issue of the group's Inspire magazine revealed he had been trained by Khan in media-production techniques.
"He would often tell me how he wished that every brother coming from the West, especially America, had partaken in jihad inside that country." Yazeed wrote in what was the ninth issue of the magazine.
The guide alludes to advances made by AQAP in Yemen's southern tribal areas since last year.
"In the Arabian Peninsula, the mujahideen's circumstances now are different to some extent from that described in this document. This is due to the mujahideen's recent opening of Abyan, at this time; the mujahideen are managing the affairs of the Muslims after having implemented Allah's Shari'ah in most of that region and are in a state of expansion," the guide states.
"Now that you know what to expect, you can compare that with doing jihad in the west, weigh the pros and cons, and make your decision," the guide concludes.
AQAP in the last few days also released a new online English-language tribute to Osama bin Laden, in which recycles some of his past statements.
"The march of change he launched have not come to an end. His voice, his call and his words are still alive and flourishing," the tribute stated.
For reasons that are unclear, bin Laden himself appears to have been no fan of some of AQAP's Inspire magazine's content. In a letter to senior Libyan al Qaeda operative Atiyah abd al Rahman just six days before his death, bin Laden wrote,"regarding what you mentioned about Inspiration magazine, please send to the brothers in Yemen with the pointers to remember in that matter and explain to them the danger of its effects, in order to avoid repeating it."
Earlier this month AQAP released the previously unpublished eighth and ninth issues of Inspire magazine, which included a beyond-the-grave call by al-Awlaki for attacks, including with poisons, against the West.
An intriguing section in the letter bin Laden wrote just before his death hinted that such a plot was being prepared by the group.
"Regarding the operations that the brothers in Yemen are intending to conduct using poison, please be careful of doing it without enough study of all aspects, including political and media reaction against the mujahidin and their image in the eyes of the public, so please pay attention to the matter," he wrote.