On Orthodox Christmas Wednesday 7 January 2015 10 French journalists and 2 were French policemen were murdered and 11 other innocent people have been wounded, some critically by 3 Wahhabi Salafi terrorists. French President Francois Hollande has labelled this terrorist attack on the offices of French magazine #CharlieHebdoas an exceptional act of barbarity.
France has been on the highest terrorist level alert since Al Qaeda, and other Wahhabi Salafi extremists called for Muslim’s to commit lone wolf attacks on French people and institutions for their continued opposition to Wahhabi Salafi terrorist insurgencies in Africa and the Middle East.
The world recoils at yet another terrorist attack by Wahhabi’s on the warpath shouting the Takbir (تَكْبِير), ‘God (Allah, nominative Allāhu), is Great (Kabir)’. Whilst it has special non-offensive meanings and uses in everyday Muslim rituals and social intercourse, it has a sinister application when said during violent acts of Wahhabi Salafi terrorism like the beheading of French tourist Hervé Gourdel in Algeria by Wahhabi Salafi militants ‘Soldiers of the Caliphate’. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/25/world/africa/herve-gourdel-french-hostage-beheaded-algeria.html
Another French Algerian Wahhabi Salafi terrorist Mohammed Merah recorded himself shouting Allahu Akbar as he killed three French paratroopers in the 2012 before going on to murder little children and their father at a Toulouse Jewish kindergarten. Cody, Edward (March 22, 2012). “Mohammed Merah, face of the new terrorism”. The Washington Post.
See my article: “ISLAMO-FASCIST TERRORISM NOW IN FRANCE; WHAT MUST BE DONE TO STOP ITS SPREAD” https://www.moderndiplomacy.eu/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&id=136:islamo-fascist-terrorism-now-in-france-what-must-be-done-to-stop-its-spread&Itemid=487
Interestingly Abdelkader Merah, Mohammed Merah’s brother was also involved with recruiting French Salafis to be fighters for Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in Iraq long before Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi coined his Salafist Al Qaeda group as ISIS. Both al-Zarqawi and al-Baghdadi loved violent jihad and especially beheading Westerners whilst saying “Allāhu Akbar”.
The 9/11 Salafi terrorists like the French-Moroccan Zacarias Moussaoui said in the preparation plans for their attacks 2001:
“When the confrontation begins, strike like champions who do not want to go back to this world. Shout, ‘Allahu Akbar,’ because this strikes fear in the hearts of the non-believers.” Barnett, Tracey (May 3, 2006). “Tracey Barnett: Suicide bombers follow a morality of their own”. The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved November 16,2011.
“Also, in the cockpit voice recorders found at the crash site of Flight 93, the hijackers are heard reciting the Takbīr repeatedly as the plane plummets toward the ground and the passengers attempt to retake control of the plane.
Imam Samudra, who was sentenced to death for his role in the 2002 Bali bombings that killed 202 people, chanted the phrase upon hearing his sentence.
During the 2009 Fort Hood shooting, witnesses reported that gunman Nidal Malik Hasan shouted “Allahu Akbar” before opening fire, killing 13 people and wounding 30 others.
Another silent way of gesturing the Takbir (تَكْبِير) is pointing their finger upwards, pointing to heaven
The Wahhabi Salafi vanguard, ISIS from the minarets of its self-styled Caliphate calls for death and terror on the streets of the coalition forces of US, UK, Australia, Canada and Europe and their evil minions take up the carrion call all over the West. ISIS calls for Salafi jihadi’s to run down infidels in cars, randomly behead civilians on the streets, attack the families of military personnel and shoot or knife infidels and their leaders.
In an audio message in September 2014, the ISIS media head Abu Mohammed al-Adnani, put out a call to all Wahhabi Salafi’s around the world to carry out murders of Westerners who opposed ISIS:
“If you can kill a disbelieving American or European — especially the spiteful and filthy French — or an Australian, or a Canadian, or any other disbeliever from the disbelievers waging war, including the citizens of the countries that entered into a coalition against the Islamic State, then rely upon Allah, and kill him in any manner or way, however it may be,”
On Monday 13 October, in St-Jean-sur-Richelieu Canada, a new but zealous convert to Wahhabi Salafi Islam 12 months ago, Canadian Martin Couture-Rouleau murdered Canadian soldier Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent by running him and another soldier down in a car pointing his finger to heaven seeking Allah as his justification for doing so.
On 22 October 2014, Michael Zehaf-Bibeau radicalized by KSA funded Wahhabi Salafi BCMA went on a shooting spree in Ottawa Canada that killed one reservist and wounded another at Canada’s War Memorial and then attacked the Canadian Parliament.
On 23 October 2014 Zaim Farouq Abdul-malik (Zale Thompson) already radicalized at a Wahhabi Salafi mosque in Queens NY (radicalized at the Islamic Center of Queens on 37th Avenue Woodside aka Masjid al-Fatima), grabbed an axe and tried to hack 4 policemen to death in Queens New York.
On 15 December 2014, just before Christmas, Wahhabi Salafi convert Man Haron Monis, “Manteghi Boroujerdi” and “Sheikh Haron” armed with a pump action shot gun went into a busy Sydney café and held 17 innocent Australians hostage demanding an ISIS flag and to talk to the Australian Prime Minister. The siege ended early on the morning of 16 December, when he shot one of the hostages and was then killed by police.
See my article: https://www.moderndiplomacy.eu/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&id=459:wahhabi-s-on-the-warpath-in-sydney-australia&Itemid=487
Now on 7 January 2015 the Takbir (تَكْبِير) was screamed out by three armed Wahhabi Salafi men with Kalashnikov’s and grenade launchers in Paris as they gunned down 23 innocents.
Among the terrorist murderers were French nationals from Algerian immigrants. The gunmen shouted ‘Allahu Akbar’ and ‘We have avenged the prophet (Mohammed)’ as they went about their murderous rampage. See CNN video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3CIrye0Lz10
The Kouachi Brothers from the predominantly Muslim Parisian enclave of 19th Arrondissement are still on the run after the carnage. They are suspected to be hiding near the town of Crepy in Valois NE Paris.
The #KouachiBrothers like the #TsarnaevBrothers were of immigrant stock who turned on their new Western homelands because of the radicalization by Wahhabi Salafi’s in their local mosques. In the case of the #KouachiBrothers it was the Addawa Mosque located at 39 rue de Tanger (Paris 12th)..
Larbi Kechat is the current Imam of that Mosque and is under a deportation order by the French authorities. http://gotnews.com/breaking-charliehebdo-terrorists-attended-radical-mosque-paris-jesuischarlie/
Cherif Kouachi, 32,
The younger Kouachi brother (aka Abu Issen) born 28 November 1982 was already a petty criminal in Buttes-Chaumont known for thuggery and drugs known terrorist sympathizer when convicted for recruiting French fighters for ISIS. He served 18 months of a three year sentence. He was also suspected of involvement in an attempted prison escape of GIA terrorist Smain Ait Ali Belkacem who is serving life for the attack on the Paris Metro in October 1995 that injured 30 people. His other known associates include Djamel Beghal a terrorist who was plotting to blow up the US embassy in Paris. Beghal is out of jail after serving a 10 year sentence.
The elder Kouachi brother left his passport in the getaway car driven by Mourad.He was born in September 1980, in the 10th arrondissement in Paris.
Hamyd Mourad, 18.
Hamid is not a French citizen. His nationality is unknown.
He was formerly a student at a high school in Charleville-Mezieres, close to the city of Reims. Since graduating he had been homeless.
He turned himself into Police.
Apparently he was the driver of the getaway car (Citroen c3). The Kouachi Brothers did the killing with military precision. This latter aspect is evidence perhaps that justifies the fears of security officials that those associated with ISIS are more dangerous than lone wolf Wahhabi’s because they are well trained in military tactics, use of arms and munitions.
Here is a video of the events from a French perspective: http://www.linternaute.com/actualite/societe-france/charlie-hebdo-les-terroristes-identifies-recherches-a-reims-et-a-pantin-0115.shtml
See Jihadists who support this terrorist attack include Salafist groups like Forsane Alizza (FA- The Knights of Pride) aka ‘Sharia4France’ , ’Force de Défense Musulmane sur Internet’, and al-Muhajiroun (The Immigrants) .
France has some serious soul searching to do about its tolerance of Wahhabi Salafi radicalization. The ability of hate preachers radicalizing Muslims in the West following this latest #CharlieHebdoas atrocity are likely to be severely curtailed by Counter Terrorism legislation and enforcement. The very liberty of France and the West hangs in the balance because of the unrestrained ability by the likes of Mohammed Achamlane, and Larbi Kechat’s to recruit disillusioned Muslim youth from Islamic communities in France like Mohammed Merah or the Kouachi Brothers away from the traditional Islamic faith of their parents who immigrated to France from Morocco and Algiers and instead adopt the death cult of the Wahhabi Salafi Takfiri Jihadi such as ISIS. Their cult made everything from their plight to the perceived injustice of Muslims around the world easily understood in a populist way and in the French vernacular.
“All of these preachers and organisations target second-generation Muslims, explicitly playing on their sense of being victims of racism, exclusion and loneliness in the West, and hence are very successful among Blacks or non-Muslim members of the underclass, as well as gaoled petty criminals. They offer a valorising substitute identity: members of the vanguard of internationalist jihadists who fight the global superpower and the international system.” http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/front/etc/roy.html
The converts were shown a way out of their sin and into heaven by taking the express lane of radical militancy to attack all enemies of the Wahhabi-Salafi Jihadi’s (the only true Muslims) whether they be Crusader-Zionists in AF-PAK, Shia Muslims, Sufi Muslims or Moderate Sunni Muslims (all apostates in the cults eyes to be excommunicated (Takfiri) and worthy of death) or non-Sharia democracies in the West. The deaths of the #CharlieHebdoas journalists and cartoonists will not be in vain if the age of political correctness will now yield to a more sensible truthful evaluation of the risk posed by KSA funded Wahhabi Salafi imams and mosques to modern Western democracies.
A shift in militants’ strategy could shine a more positive light on failed US policy
A paradigm shift in jihadist thinking suggests that the US invasion of Afghanistan may prove to have achieved more than many counterterrorism experts would want policymakers and military strategists to believe.
Similarly, the paradigm shift also hints at the possibility that the presence in a Taliban-governed Afghanistan of various militant Islamist and jihadist groups could turn out to be an advantage in efforts to prevent and contain political violence.
The evolution of tensions and unfolding of differences in the world of Afghan militancy will constitute a litmus test of the shift and how history will ultimately judge the United States’ 20-year forever war in Afghanistan in terms of counterterrorism.
The shift involves a move away from cross-border and transnational acts of violence towards local militancy and the garnering of popular support through good governance based on an ultra-conservative interpretation of Islam. It is a difference in strategy that constitutes one of the ideological and strategic differences between Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State.
“This is not because (the jihadists’) ideology has softened: It is because they have learned that inviting overwhelming reprisals from modern militaries is the fastest way to forfeit their conquests, squander their influence and be forced to start all over again,” said scholar and journalist, Hassan Hassan, in a lengthy piece of rare up-close reporting on jihadist militancy.
“Contrary to how some understand the US withdrawal in Afghanistan, the lesson extremists are taking from the Taliban’s success is not simply that jihad works but that diplomacy and engagement are a necessary part of the process, which includes reassuring the West about external threats emerging from their areas. What can be gained from parlays in Doha is more significant and lasting than any terror attack,” Mr. Hassan went on to say.
The shift amounts to a return to the pattern of Islamic militancy that historically is rooted in local grievances and conflicts. Mr. Hassan also describes the Islamic State’s transnational jihadism that targets the West, long embraced by Al-Qaeda, as an aberration of that history.
Mr. Hassan’s analysis is supported by research published by The Soufan Group, a research organization established by Ali Soufan, a former FBI agent who played an important role in the interrogation of captured Al-Qaeda officials and was involved in related cases in the United States and elsewhere.
Analyst Abdul Sayed noted that Al Qaeda, in an effort to prevent the United States from driving it out of Afghanistan and Pakistan, has “shifted focus from global terrorist attacks and external operations to supporting local jihadist groups throughout South Asia, and fuelling the narratives that underpin their objectives. This shift helped build resilience, allowing Al-Qaeda to survive despite the massive blows inflicted by the United States and its allies.”
The Islamic State’s loss of its proto-state in Syria and Iraq, and the Taliban victory in Afghanistan appear to vindicate this paradigm shift.
CNN correspondent Clarissa Ward said she walked away from an interview in August with Abdu Munir, the name used by a commander of the Islamic State-Khorasan, two days before it attacked Kabul airport, with the impression that “ISIS-Khorasan is very different from ISIS… in Syria and Iraq. Ms. Ward was referring to the Afghan affiliate as well as the Islamic State itself using common Western abbreviations for them.
Ms. Ward said that “the conversation that I had with this commander did not lead me to believe that they had the same level of transnational ambitions… They’re much more focussed on the Taliban, honestly, than they are on trying to blow up a plane…and they’re much more simple, less sophisticated.”
The jihadist strategy shift would be further vindicated if the Taliban victory also reinforces ultraconservative religious trends in neighbouring Pakistan.
Ultraconservatives and jihadists may take heart from recent opposition by Muslim clerics, including Tahir Mehmood Ashrafi, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan’s special representative for religious harmony, to draft legislation that would ban forced conversions.
As a result, the shift could become one more argument to justify a possible future decision by President Joe Biden to pull US troops out of Iraq and Syria originally dispatched to fight the Islamic State, as part of the emerging contours of a Biden doctrine.
“There is no question that the GWOT has not gone as planned… Yet it would still be wrong – and rash – simply to discard the GWOT as a strategic failure. The fact that consecutive presidents have found it so difficult to extricate the United States from ongoing operations in the greater Middle East reflects the reality of a persistent threat from extremist organisations and their allies… GWOT has been considerably more fruitful than it might first appear,” said analysts Hal Brand and Michael O’Hanlon, referring to President George W. Bush’s global war on terror launched in 2001 in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.
Messrs. Brand and O’Hanlon may be painting an overly optimistic picture. In the best of cases, Taliban-ruled Afghanistan will only partially live up to their criteria of success laid out in a recent journal article. The Taliban’s policing of jihadists may prevent them from targeting the United States and others but will continue to offer them a safe haven, allowing them to recruit.
“Being a safe haven for global jihadists and acting as a launchpad for attacks against the West are not the same thing. Under the Doha Agreement, the Taliban have committed to preventing attacks being launched from Afghanistan, but they have not pledged to cut off relations with foreign jihadist groups altogether, nor to expel them from Afghanistan,” said Afghanistan scholar Antonio Giustozzi.
Even so, on balance that could turn out to be less of a problem provided the Taliban can keep in check the Islamic State, the one jihadist group that refuses to accept its takeover of Afghanistan or make Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), the Pakistani Taliban, adopt the shift in strategy. The fata morgana of a Taliban 2.0 could be shattered if large numbers of Taliban fighters defect to the Islamic State in protest against the group’s policing of militants on Afghan soil and/or embracing degrees of social liberalization, particularly regarding women’s rights.
That could prove to be a big if. Question marks about the Taliban’s ability to police those groups that have welcomed its victory and/or pledged allegiance to it have already begun to emerge. Mr. Giustozzi reports that in contrast to Pakistani militants Lashkar-e Taiba and Lashkar-e Jhangvi, and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan; the TTP and Al-Qaeda have refused to negotiate agreements that would tighten Taliban control by moving them to different parts of the country. Lashkar-e Taiba and Lashkar-e Janghvi are groups seen as having close ties to Pakistani intelligence.
The proposed agreements reportedly stroked with demands put forward by China that the Taliban ensure that militants on Afghan soil are prevented from training, raising funds and recruiting.
Suhail Shaheen, a Taliban spokesperson in Qatar, appeared to acknowledge the demands in an interview with the Global Times, a Chinese Communist Party newspaper. “First, we will not allow any training on our territory. Second, we will not allow any fundraising for those who intend to carry out a foreign agenda. Third, we will not allow the establishment of any recruitment centre in Afghanistan. These are the main things,” Mr. Shaheen said.
Zabihullah Mujahid, the Taliban’s chief spokesperson in Kabul, however, last month left the door open on the Taliban’s relationship with the TTP.
“The issue of the TTP is one that Pakistan will have to deal with, not Afghanistan. It is up to Pakistan, and Pakistani Islamic scholars and religious figures, not the Taliban, to decide on the legitimacy or illegitimacy of their war and to formulate a strategy in response,” Mr. Mujahid told a Pakistani television program. The spokesman stopped short of saying whether the Taliban would abide by a decision of the scholars.
The TTP is believed to be responsible for a recent spike in attacks on Pakistani security forces, including a suicide attack in Pakistan that killed three paramilitary soldiers and wounded 20 other people. The stepped-up attacks prompted the New Zealand cricket team to last week abandon its first tour of Pakistan in 18 years and abruptly leave the country while England cancelled its visit that had been scheduled for next month.
Similarly, behind the facades, cracks had already emerged between the Taliban and Al-Qaeda before the US withdrawal from Afghanistan, prompting the group, like the TTP, according to Mr. Giustozzi, to refuse to negotiate a deal with the Afghans and build support among factions of the Taliban that are more sympathetic to the jihadists.
Al-Qaeda was wary of what the Taliban’s agreement with the United States would mean for the group and suspected the Afghans of having a hand in the killing of several of its senior members in recent years. Al-Qaeda worries, moreover, that Taliban understandings with China and Russia could put its freedom of movement and/or existence into further jeopardy.
Apparently anticipating a Taliban failure to control all jihadists on Afghan soil and/or adoption of the paradigm strategy shift by some major jihadist groups, US intelligence officials predicted that Al-Qaeda would be able to reconstitute itself in Afghanistan and be capable of orchestrating attacks inside the U.S. in one to two years.
Their predictions were bolstered by the return to Afghanistan of Anwar ul Haq Mujahid, a leader of Osama bin Laden’s former “Black Guard,” who allegedly helped plan and orchestrate the jihadist leader’s escape in 2001 as the United States bombed his Tora Bora hideout. Mr. Mujahid, no family of the Taliban spokesman, reportedly returned to Jalalabad to command Taliban forces and foreign fighters in eastern Afghanistan. Several of his associates are said to also be back.
However, Mr. Mujahid’s return does not by definition deny the potential shift in Al-Qaeda strategy that is supported by the Taliban. It could be the Taliban’s way of placating the group as well as the more militant within its own ranks.
“Despite the persistence of the relationship…the Taliban have a strong interest in holding Al-Qaeda in check… It is not hard to imagine a scenario in which the Taliban provide space and financial support for Al-Qaeda to operate while also restricting the activities of the group to plot and stage attacks,” said scholar Cole Bunzel.
Islamic State threat moves online, expands across Africa
Two decades after the 11 September terrorist attacks in New York, terror networks Al-Qaida and Islamic State – also known as Da’esh – continue to pose a grave threat to peace and security, adapting to new technologies and moving into some of the world’s most fragile regions, the top UN counter-terrorism official told the Security Council on Thursday.
UN counter-terrorism chief Vladimir Voronkov presented the Secretary-General’s latest report on the threats posed by terrorist groups, saying that Da’esh continues to exploit the disruption, grievances and development setbacks caused by the pandemic to regroup, recruit new followers and intensify its activities – both online and on the ground.
“Today, we face transnational terrorist threats like Da’esh and Al-Qaida that are enduring and able to adapt to new technologies, but also expanding to include individuals and groups that commit terrorist attacks connected to xenophobia, racism and other forms of intolerance”, said Mr. Voronkov.
The UN counter-terrorism architecture, largely set up in the wake of the 9/11 attack, helps Member States implement effective frameworks to prevent, address, investigate and prosecute acts of terrorism.
It is also ramping up efforts to help countries adapt to the rapidly changing nature of the threat, which has become more digital and de-centralized in recent years.
Noting that the world is currently witnessing a rapidly evolving situation in Afghanistan “which could have far-reaching implications” around the globe, he cited Da’esh’s expanded presence in that country and pointed out that several members of the Taliban have been designated as terrorists by the Security Council.
“We will need to ensure that Afghanistan is never again used as launching pad for global terrorism“, stressed the UN official.
He briefed the Council on the eve of the fourth commemoration of the International Day of Remembrance of and Tribute to the Victims of Terrorism, observed annually on 21 August.
Islamic State in Africa
While Da’esh remains focused on reconstituting its capabilities in Iraq and Syria, Mr. Vornkov said the most alarming development in recent months is the group’s relentless spread across the African continent.
The so-called “Islamic State in the Greater Sahara” has killed several hundred civilians since the start of 2021 in Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger, while the group’s “West Africa Province” will likely gain from the weakening of Boko Haram, with additional spillover of terrorists and foreign fighters from Libya.
Meanwhile, the expansion of Da’esh in Central Africa – and especially in northern Mozambique – could have far-reaching implications for peace and security in the region.
“A global response is urgently needed to support the efforts of African countries and regional organizations to counter terrorism and address its interplay with conflict, organized crime, governance and development gaps”, said Mr. Voronkov.
Repatriating women and children
Alongside Da’esh’s expansion in Africa and its rapid shift online, Mr. Voronkov also cited the continued detention of thousands of individuals with alleged links to terrorist groups as another factor exacerbating the threat.
Deteriorating conditions in detention facilities and displacement camps in northeast Syria, in particular, are serving as a rallying cry for terrorist activities. They have already fuelled instances of terrorist radicalization, fund-raising, arms smuggling, training and incitement to terror.
Against that backdrop, he echoed calls from officials across the UN for Member States to voluntarily repatriate all concerned individuals, with a particular focus on children.
In September, the Office of Counter-Terrorism (UNOCT) and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) will jointly launch a global framework to support countries requesting assistance with protection, voluntary repatriation, prosecution, rehabilitation and reintegration of individuals with suspected links to designated terrorist groups returning from Iraq and Syria.
The framework has already been deployed in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.
Taliban and Al Qaeda: Putting a fox in charge of the chicken coop?
Abu Omar Khorasani was taken from Kabul’s Pul-i-Charkhi prison and unceremoniously shot.
The first and only person to have been executed since the Taliban gained full control of Afghanistan, Mr. Khorasani was the head of the Islamic State in South Asia until he was arrested by government forces last year.
The precise circumstances of his execution are not known. His killing was, however, at least in part designed to send a message to the international community, and particularly Afghanistan’s neighbours, including China and Iran, as well as Russia, Central Asia’s security overlord.
The message was that the Taliban were cracking down on foreign jihadists and militants in Afghanistan.
Mr. Khorasani was an easy symbol. The Taliban and the Islamic State, whose ranks of foreigners are primarily populated by Pakistanis and a sprinkling of Central Asians, Uighurs, Russians, Turks, Iranians, Indonesians, Indians, and Frenchmen, have long been adversarial. The Islamic State recently accused the Taliban of being more nationalist than pious in their negotiations with the United States.
The Taliban message is a partial truth at best. What is true for the Islamic State is not true for Al–Qaeda and others such as the Uighur Turkestan Islamic Party (TIP) and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan.
The Taliban appear to believe that they can get away with the differentiation because they perceived the United States as more focused in the withdrawal negotiations on ensuring that the Islamic State, Al-Qaeda, and other militants will not be allowed to use Afghanistan as a base for international operations rather than on getting them expelled from the country.
The perceived US focus may have been rooted in a concern that if Taliban’s hands were forced, they would let militants slip out of the country and not hand them over to authorities. That would make it difficult to control their movements or ensure that they are either entered into deradicalization programs or, if warranted, brought to justice.
“It’s a Catch-22. The Taliban ensuring that Al Qaeda sticks to rule risks putting a fox in charge of the chicken coop. How much better that is than having foxes run wild remains to be seen,” said a retired counter-terrorism official.
Officials of the Trump administration that negotiated the agreement suggest that the continued presence of Al-Qaeda and other militants in Afghanistan would violate the accord with the Taliban.
Former Vice President Mike Pence as well as Trump era State Department counterterrorism coordinator Nathan Sales argued that the deal “required the Taliban…to refuse terrorists safe harbour.”
Russia and China, while publicly more measured in their statements, are likely to share western concerns. Russia held military drills earlier this month with Tajik and Uzbek troops in Tajikistan, 20 kilometres from the border with Afghanistan.
Al-Qaeda may have been boosted in recent weeks by multiple prison breaks in which the Taliban freed operatives of Al-Qaeda and other militant groups. It remains unclear however to what degree the breaks will help the group strengthen its presence in Afghanistan.
General Mark Milley, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, warned this week that al Qaeda and the Islamic State could quickly rebuild their networks in Afghanistan.
The United Nations recently reported that Al-Qaeda “is present in at least 15 Afghan provinces”, and that its affiliate in the Indian subcontinent, “operates under Taliban protection from Kandahar, Helmand and Nimruz provinces.”
“Without information on who exactly escaped, it is difficult to determine whether historically significant figures remain within AQ’s AfPak network, or if it is mainly composed of newer figures these days, whether local or regional foreign fighters,” cautioned political violence scholar Aaron Y. Zelin. Mr. Zelin was referring to Al-Qaeda’s Afghanistan-Pakistan network.
Also unclear is whether Al-Qaeda operatives in Iran will be allowed to relocate to Afghanistan.
The prison breaks further go to concerns about relying on the Taliban to police jihadists and other militants with aspirations beyond Afghanistan’s borders. Of particular concern is the fact that the balance of power has yet to be determined between Taliban leaders who in recent days have been eager to put a more moderate, accommodating foot forward with security guarantees for their opponents, minorities and women and the group’s far-flung less polished rank and file.
The concern about the Taliban’s ability and willingness to control militant activity on Afghan soil is magnified by worry regarding the continued existence of warlords with the power to organise violence, provide jobs and public services, and forge or strengthen ties with militants.
“Warlords will play an active role in the future of Afghanistan. They will remain businessmen and political leaders, connected to global economic processes and networks. They will develop the military power that they need to control territory and wage war. They will, finally, continue to fight for more autonomy and, in some cases, might even manage to partially form their old regional polities once again,” said Romain Malejacq, author of a book on Afghan warlords.
“Afghanistan’s availability as a sanctuary for terrorists is, to say the least, related to its status as a warlord-ridden wasteland,” said journalist and author Graeme Wood.
The Taliban’s refusal to expel militants not only complicates the group’s efforts to garner legitimacy in the international community and particularly its neighbours, even if Al-Qaeda has been significantly weakened since 9/11 and is less focussed on attacking the United States and more on the Muslim world.
It also strengthens those who fear that Afghanistan will again emerge as a launching pad for trans-national political violence. “We are going to go back to a pre-9/11 state—a breeding ground for terrorism,” warned Michael McCaul, the ranking Republican member of the US House Foreign Affairs Committee. “They (the Taliban) will not restrict terrorist groups, just ask them to operate low-key,” added Douglas London, a former head of CIA counterterrorism operations for South and Southwest Asia.
The Taliban proved already 20 years ago that they valued loyalty when they rejected US and Saudi pressure to hand over Osama bin Laden no matter the cost. The Taliban have since come to appreciate Al Qaeda’s fighting skills and contributions to the Afghan militants’ cause.
Taliban fighters this week, in a violation of their pledge to inclusiveness, demonstrated their ideological anti-Shiite affinity with Al-Qaeda by blowing up a statue of Abdul Ali Mazari, a Shiite Hazara militia leader killed by the Taliban when they first took power in 1996.
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