If you’re looking for some light reading or to get on one of the NSA’s watch lists, this is your opportunity.  Below is a link to Al Qaeda’s renowned training manual, affectionately referred to as the “Manchester Documents,” for your reading pleasure.  While by no means a new document, the intent here is to have readers explore this document as a means of gaining insight into how AQ thinks, operates, and fights, which is critical in learning how to most effectively defeat them.

First, some background for the uninitiated.  During the course of our long and ongoing war on terror, AQ determined the need to write a training manual that would assist them in transforming radical Muslims into war-fighting machines, not unlike the various field manuals our own military uses at home.  Enter the Manchester Documents, Al Qaeda’s cell member playbook and one stop shop for terrorist doctrine, training, and operations.

Found during a search of an Al Qaeda member’s home in Manchester, England in 2000, the AQ training manual covers topics ranging from the Jihadist ideology to various special operations, intelligence collection methods, kidnapping operations, how to identify and maintain safehouses, and many other interesting topics of instruction.  In total, there are 18 different “lessons” or chapters that provide doctrine, suggestions, and knowledge necessary to conduct terrorist operations against the West and our interests.

Our favorite chapter at SOFREP is Chapter 10, Special Tactical Operations, which covers the definition of special tactical operations, describes the characteristics of a special operations member, lists some common weapons used, and much more.  Chapter 11, Espionage, is just as fascinating.  While definitely eye-opening, the training manual is first and foremost a sober reminder of the gravity of our ongoing fight against AQ, as well as how badly they are willing to die for their cause in an attempt to kill us.


Here’s an excerpt.  Note the level of detail the manual requires when conducting reconnaissance operations prior to an attack:

“In the [research] reconnaissance phase, precise information about the target is collected.  This could be a person, place, or…

For example, when attempting to assassinate an important target – a personality, it is necessary to gather all information that is related to that target, such as:

Al Qaeda training manual emblem

a. His name, age, residence, social status

b. His work

c. His time of departure from work

d. His time of return from work

e. The routes he takes

f. How he spends his free time

g. His friends and their addresses

h. The car he drives

i. His wife’s work and whether he visits her there

j. His children and whether he goes to their school

Get the complete AQ training manual (PDF). While reading it, pay attention to the level of detail they require, as that directly carries over to the effectiveness and deadliness of any attacks. It also provides insight to an operative’s thought process or a terrorist planner’s frame of mind when selecting a target and performing all the lead-up work to an attack.  Use it to identify possible weaknesses in your own security or ways of thinking, and how you can use the insights to your advantage.

Thanks for listening.