In the most recent development stemming from Al-Qaeda's efforts to manage its protocol-challenged employees, the organization has established a complaints department in the Syrian city of Raqqa, according to a Telegraph report published on Monday. The organization is presently the "leading militia" in the northeastern region of Syria and has subsumed parts of the municipal government.
It is notable that Al-Qaeda is better able to manage its employees around the globe than President Obama is able to manage the IRS a few blocks away. Where recent descriptions have painted the IRS as more of a loosely-connected network of independently-operated cells that terrorize taxpayers around the country, Al-Qaeda is beginning to look more like a genuine bureaucracy.
The Sharia court that will handle disputes may not turn out to be very popular, though. It constitutes a shift from Syria's more secular traditions. The Islamists, whose goal is to turn Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon into a single caliphate, also allegedly tried to install a smoking ban in the city. (Having been apparently ineffective, leaders deny that any ban ever existed.)
The news comes a week after the Associated Press reported on a letter written by Al-Qaeda leaders in North Africa scolding international terrorist Moktar Belmokhtar last October. Belmokhtar, who had been passed over for promotions for years — he had even been rejected by Osama bin Laden for a leadership position as an emir — apparently began to doubt the effectiveness of Al-Qaeda's leadership structure.
"Why do the successive emirs of the region only have difficulties with you? You in particular every time?" asked the letter. "Or are all of them wrong and brother Khaled [Belmokhtar] is right?"
They claimed Belmoktar's body count was disgracefully low, describing his "failure" to "carry out spectacular operations, despite [North Africa’s] vast possibilities." (To be fair to Belmokhtar, shortly after he masterminded the Algerian In Amenas incident in which 600 people were taken hostage and 37 killed.)
They also noticed that even though he did not take their phone calls in a timely manner, he did seem to be talking to other people: "Why do you only turn on your phone with the Emirate when you need it, while your communication with some media is almost never ending!"
The department established in Raqqa seems tailor-made for people like Belmokhtar to complain about poor leadership. "Anyone who might have a complaint against any element of the Islamic state, whether the Emir or an ordinary soldier, can come and submit their complaint in any headquarters building of the Islamic state," read the public notice.
How grievances submitted by Belmokhtar and his colleagues might be considered by the department remains to be seen. But if it runs anything like the IRS, citizens may want to think twice before criticizing their government officials.