Al Qaeda's strategic vision involves challenging the United States and its allies overseas using small- to medium-scale attacks, according to an online book available on extremist websites that has become the seminal jihadi textbook. The first English translation of the text is being circulated this week among DOD and government policy circles.
The translation is being released by the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point. As ABC News reported last month, the Center has been translating thousands of declassified insurgent and extremist documents that were seized in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Abu Bakr Naji, an al Qaeda insider and author of the book, "The Management of Savagery," believes that the 9/11 attacks accomplished what they needed to by forcing the U.S. to commit their military overseas. He says 9/11 forced the U.S. to fall into the "trap" of overextending their military and that "it began to become clear to the American administration that it was being drained."
He says that al Qaeda shouldn't be focused on any more of those kinds of attacks for now.
"The focus is on mid- to small-range targets in the region and not go after big symbolic targets like the Twin Towers," says Will McCants, a fellow at the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, who translated the 268-page document.
McCants describes Naji as a highly placed, well-informed insider whose book lays out the big strategic vision of al Qaeda.
McCants believes that Naji is very concerned that a large-scale attack, such as the aborted chemical attack that would have targeted New York City subways in early 2003, would alienate al Qaeda's constituency. "Naji is wary of initiating that sort of attack because right now he feels al Qaeda has the upper-hand in the public relations battle," said McCants.
While written in 2004, Naji was already inferring that the war in Iraq was shaping up to be exactly what al Qaeda wanted.
"Naji believes the way you really hurt empires is to make them commit their military far from their base of operations," according to McCants.
According to Naji, this strategy has two main benefits. First, there is the propaganda victory of forcing a superpower to challenge al Qaeda directly.
"The point is to make them come in," McCants said. "You'll be seen as fighting the crusaders directly so you'll win over the public."
Second, it also puts pressure on local governments, such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt, who face domestic pressure once they are associated with the United States.
Not to mention the situation within the United States. Naji believes that by committing militarily overseas, the U.S. will drain itself economically and face domestic pressure from within.
"That's the way they want to get to the U.S.," said McCants.