Al-Qaida Fighters Have to File Monthly Expense Reports Just Like You

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
May 29 2013 11:27 AM

Al-Qaida Fighters Have to File Monthly Expense Reports Just Like You

Supporters of hard-line pro-Taliban party Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Nazaryati (JUI-N) carry portraits of the slain al-Qaida leader Osama Bin Laden as they pray for Bin Laden during an anti-U.S. rally in Quetta on May 2, 2012.
Supporters of hard-line pro-Taliban party Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Nazaryati (JUI-N) carry portraits of the slain al-Qaida leader Osama Bin Laden as they pray for Bin Laden during an anti-U.S. rally in Quetta on May 2, 2012.

Photo by Banaras Khan/AFP/Getty Images

I'm a little late to this, but it's nonetheless worth flagging for anyone who hasn't seen in yet. The Associated Press went live last night with a fascinating story about international terrorist Moktar Belmoktar, a former member of al-Qaida's North African branch who quit the organization after repeatedly clashing with his bosses. Belmokator would go on to form his own splinter group and carry out two major terrorism attacks—January's raid on the BP-operated gas plant in Algeria, and last week's twin bombings in Niger—that he appears to have orchestrated, at least in part, to impress al-Qaida's main branch.

Josh Voorhees Josh Voorhees

Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City. 

The AP was able to piece together much of its story thanks to a letter recovered from inside a building formerly occupied by al-Qaida fighters in Mali. The 10-page document, signed by the 14-member governing council of the terror group's North African branch, provides what the AP bills as "an intimate window" into Belmoktar's ascent. But perhaps more interesting for those of us who work a regular office job is the mundane-if-anywhere-else details on display in the letter that makes working for a global terrorism organization sound remarkably like a TPS report-filled day at Initech.

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A snippet from the summary of the letter, which included a bullet-point list detailing the governing body's complaints against Belmoktar:

The list of slights is long: He would not take their phone calls. He refused to send administrative and financial reports. He ignored a meeting in Timbuktu, calling it "useless." He even ordered his men to refuse to meet with al-Qaida emissaries. And he aired the organization's dirty laundry in online jihadist forums, even while refusing to communicate with the chapter via the Internet, claiming it was insecure.
Sounding like managers in any company, the Shura leaders accuse Belmoktar of not being able to get along with his peers. They charge that he recently went to Libya without permission from the chapter, which had assigned the "Libya dossier" to a rival commander called Abou Zeid. And they complain that the last unit they sent Belmoktar for backup in the Sahara spent a full three years trying to contact him before giving up.

Bad Office Space jokes aside, it's also noteworthy just how organized al-Qaida appears to be. When many Americans imagine the terror group, their first thought is often of would-be terrorists training on monkey bars. But the letter in specific—and the AP report in general—paints quite a different picture, one of a group that has evolved to the point at which fighters are filing monthly expense reports and bosses are issuing performance reviews. Go read the full report here.

***Follow @JoshVoorhees and the rest of the @slatest team on Twitter.***

This post has been updated.

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