As the French-led military forces retake northern Mali, [AQIM emir Abdelmalek] Droukdel's eight month old letter should resonate as an ominous warning as it points to a long-term strategic plan to outlive the intervention and sets the stage for a potentially successful return. Clearly, under Droukdel's leadership, AQIM has no intention of relinquishing northern Mali.
An internal document recovered by the Associated Press in Timbuktu in January 2013 sheds new light on al-Qa'ida in the Islamic Maghreb's (AQIM) strategy in northern Mali. The document was purportedly part of a confidential letter from Abdelmalek Droukdel (also known as Abu Mus'ab 'Abd al-Wadud), the amir of AQIM, to his lieutenants in the Sahara and to the Islamist militant group Ansar Eddine's leader, Iyad ag Ghaly (also known as Shaykh Abu Fadl). The document was not dated, but several references indicate that Droukdel may have authored the letter in early July 2012.
The letter revealed a deep strategic fracture between AQIM's leadership and its lieutenants on the ground, as Droukdel saw a military intervention as all but inevitable and therefore wanted to focus the group's strategy on outliving it. The letter further highlighted major internal dysfunction between AQIM's leadership and its subordinates in the Sahara. Finally, it showed a deep commitment to success and a worrisome plan for the future.