to improve their image.
AL-QAEDA has abandoned hope of defeating the US-backed Government in Afghanistan and instead is concentrating on driving American forces from Iraq, even if that means ditching its brutal methods.
According to the Pentagon, the strategy is set out in a 6,000-word letter sent by Ayman al-Zawahiri, Osama bin Laden?s deputy, to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, head of al-Qaeda in Iraq, in July.
Al-Zawahiri warns al-Zarqawi that his brutal tactics, which include beheading Western hostages, killing hundreds of Shia Muslim civilians and murdering Iraqi officials, could alienate Muslim public opinion. He allegedly recommends shooting, not decapitating, prisoners.
The letter, which the US military claims was intercepted in Iraq, makes clear that al-Qaeda aims to spread jihad to other Arab states and Israel.
Al-Zawahiri, an Egyptian doctor, is al-Qaeda?s ideological head and responsible for its day-to-day operations. In August he claimed responsibility for the July 7 bombings. His letter offers al-Zarqawi advice on tactics and a grand vision for the next stage in the jihad against the West and its Middle Eastern allies.