February 24, 2014
Running an international terrorist organization from a hiding place somewhere in Pakistan isn’t easy. Even though war, be it in Somalia, Yemen or Libya, presents great opportunities for expansion, growth brings unique challenges, as any CEO can attest. Nowhere has that been made clearer for al-Qaeda leader Ayman Zawahiri than Syria. For the past year, al-Qaeda’s star franchises in Syria and Iraq — the Nusra Front and the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria [ISIS], respectively — have battled over turf, recruits and the right to claim the mantle of al-Qaeda’s true representative in Syria.
Strongly worded letters written by Zawahiri didn’t work. An audio recording posted to jihadist websites didn’t defuse tensions either. Finally, Zawahiri decided to send an envoy to sort out the problem. Not only was Abu Khalid al-Suri a trusted confidant who had fought with Zawahiri in Afghanistan, he once worked for al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden as a courier in Spain, according to Thomas Joscelyn, a counter-terror analyst and editor at the Long War Journal.