The documents, written by Abdel Malek Droukdel, were discovered among papers scattered on the floor of a television station in Timbuktu, Radio France Internationale reported Monday.
Entitled "Roadmap relating to Islamic Jihad in Azawad [northern Mali]," the 79 pages of documents by Droukdel, the leader of al-Qaida in the Islamic Mahgreb were intended to be read by other senior AQIM members.
An RFI journalist and a journalist from French newspaper Liberation found the papers.
The papers detail Droukdel's ideas about how to set up an Islamic zone in northern Mali without drawing attention to AQIM's presence.
In the early pages, he criticized some of his fellow militants for destroying mausoleums and stonings.
"You have made a serious mistake," he says. "The population could turn against us, and we cannot fight against a whole people."
He advised they were in danger of "destroying our experiment."
Droukdel lamented the break with the secular Azawad liberation movement MNLA after the group had agreed to accept the Islamicisation of the region.
Overall, however, the documents appear to outline a plan to create broad political alliances to more easily resist military intervention.