Rahman identified the “leader of the infiltrator martyrs” as “our brother,” Abu Talha al Almani, a German-Moroccan al Qaeda leader known as Bekkay Harrach. Rahman explained how Harrach wasn’t prepared “psychologically,” and Abu Ubaidah al Masri, al Qaeda’s former operations chief who died of natural causes in 2008, “wanted him as a leader and an effective element.” Harrach insisted al Qaeda allow him to fulfill his pledge to become a martyr. Abu Ubaidah had assigned Harrach to his branch, which is tasked with striking at the West. Harrach quickly rose through the ranks and became a member of the external operations council, a senior US military intelligence official told The Long War Journal in October 2009.
Interestingly enough, Harrach’s martyrdom statement was issued by the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), which is closely allied to al Qaeda and has integrated its military command with the Taliban in northern Afghanistan. In addition to his al Qaeda and IMU roles, Harrach was a close confidant of the Haqqani Network, which operates on both sides of the border and is closely tied to both al Qaeda and Pakistan’s military and intelligence establishment. Harrach was under the direct protection of Siraj Haqqani, the military commander of the family network and a member of al Qaeda’s ruling council. Haqqani Network commanders are said to have sought Harrach’s advice on the planning and execution of major attacks. “If we want to do something, we always ask the German [Harrach] for his opinion,” a source in the Haqqani Network told Spiegel in January 2009.
The drone strikes have had a significant effect on al Qaeda’s operations, as Rahman remarked in his correspondence with bin Laden. But al Qaeda has also sought ways to mitigate the impact of the airstrikes. In particular, the group likely relocated leaders out of Waziristan to safe areas of Afghanistan. In another letter to Bin Laden used as a trial exhibit, Rahman wrote that al Qaeda had decided to keep a low “media image” to “reinforce our invisibility and security and help us avoid monitoring by spies.” Rahman continued: “The war of espionage is causing us to suffer, and we are drawing American pressure on Pakistan.” These words were written during the height of the US drone campaign, which has since become far less prolific.