Archive for the 'Jihadists' Category

Taliban and al Qaeda Ideological Alignments

BY Herschel Smith
6 years, 1 month ago

In Connection Between the Taliban and al Qaeda we discussed the first hand account by David Rohdes of the New York Times after he was kidnapped by the Afghan Taliban, transported to Pakistan, spent time among both Afghan and Pakistan Taliban, and then finally escaped some seven months later.  His experience, coupled with data we had previously cataloged and analyzed, is convincing and compelling evidence of the hardened and more extremist theological alignment of the Taliban, and thus of their alignment with transnational insurgents and global actors such as al Qaeda.

Over those months, I came to a simple realization. After seven years of reporting in the region, I did not fully understand how extreme many of the Taliban had become. Before the kidnapping, I viewed the organization as a form of “Al Qaeda lite,” a religiously motivated movement primarily focused on controlling Afghanistan.

Living side by side with the Haqqanis’ followers, I learned that the goal of the hard-line Taliban was far more ambitious. Contact with foreign militants in the tribal areas appeared to have deeply affected many young Taliban fighters. They wanted to create a fundamentalist Islamic emirate with Al Qaeda that spanned the Muslim world.

But questions remain.  There are some (not identified in this article) that have weighed in saying that Rohdes is merely offering perspective or speculation, not facts.  There are others who have gone on record with analyses (parsing the Taliban into many different factions) that seems at the outset to cast doubt on Rohdes’ observations, at least, in a normative sense.  Myra MacDonald, for instance, outlines the main insurgent groups in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and weighs in questioning whether some of them share the global aspirations as al Qaeda.  In this same analysis she links Vahid Brown writing for Jihadica who even questions whether the Taliban and al Qaeda may be diametrically opposed.

Mullah Omar’s Afghan Taliban and al-Qa’ida’s senior leaders have been issuing some very mixed messages of late, and the online jihadi community is in an uproar, with some calling these developments “the beginning of the end of relations” between the two movements.  Beginning with a statement from Mullah Omar in September, the Afghan Taliban’s Quetta-based leadership has been emphasizing the “nationalist” character of their movement, and has sent several communications to Afghanistan’s neighbors expressing an intent to establish positive international relations.  In what are increasingly being viewed by the forums as direct rejoinders to these sentiments, recent messages from al-Qa’ida have pointedly rejected the “national” model of revolutionary Islamism and reiterated calls for jihad against Afghanistan’s neighbors, especially Pakistan and China.  However interpreted, these conflicting signals raise serious questions about the notion of an al-Qa’ida-Taliban merger.

We covered the al Qaeda rejection of the nationalistic model for jihad in The Globalization of Jihad in Palestine, and there is no question that the infighting between insurgent groups can become deadly.  It’s this supposed rift between factions of the insurgency that the U.S. administration wants to exploit.

… the Obama administration has indicated that it intends to make a fresh attempt to engage more moderate Taliban groups in talks with the Afghan government – in a determined effort to woo at least some of them away from the fighting that is claiming increasing numbers of American and other Nato forces’ lives.

Mullah Mutawakkil, once a confidant of the one-eyed Taliban leader, Mullah Mohammed Omar, was held at a US base in Kandahar in 2002 after he gave himself up to American troops.

Now he is being politely wooed by a stream of senior US officials who make discreet visits to his villa, which is guarded by armed police, to hear his thoughts on what the Taliban mood is like and whether any of its leaders are ready for talks.

A soft-spoken and intelligent man who was one of the Taliban regime’s youngest ministers, Mullah Mutawakkil is cautious about what can be achieved, but even so his thinking is music to tired Western ears.

He believes that the Taliban would split from what he called their al-Qaeda “war allies” if a deal was within reach. Speaking to The Sunday Telegraph in the guest room of his Kabul home, he insisted that a settlement to end the war was possible – and that it would be the West’s best chance of stopping terrorists from turning Afghanistan back into their base again.

“If the Taliban fight on and finally became Afghanistan’s government with the help of al-Qaeda, it would then be very difficult to separate them,” he warned.

But there is, he says, another option. Taliban leaders are looking for guarantees of their personal safety from the US, and a removal of the “bounties” placed on the head of their top commanders. They also want a programme for the release of prisoners held at the notorious Bagram US air base in Afghanistan, and at Guantanamo Bay.

In return, he says, the Taliban would promise not to allow Afghanistan to be used to plan attacks on America – the original reason for American invervention (sic), and the overriding aim of US policy in the region.

A Morton’s Fork to be sure.  Settle with Taliban who might bring back al Qaeda safe haven, or send more troops in what may prove to be an increasingly unpopular war.  But perhaps not.  Perhaps the choice is clearer.  Commenter Amm Sam at Jihadica offers a clear and unvarnished view of the debates between the globalists and the nationalists.

The Taliban’s statements of late have to be understood in the context of the US debate on what strategy to pursue in Afghanistan. Mullah Omar is trying to influence the debate by signaling to the Obama Administration that they aren’t a threat – but should we take Mullah Omar’s word for it? Of course not. If you look at the discourse of the Taliban, from spokesmen and commanders to the footsoldiers quoted in David Rhodes’ excellent 5-part NYT series, you see that the Taliban as a semi-coherent movement has drifted into the global jihadist perspective over the last several years. They are still primarily focused on the region, but less so now than ever.

Only now do we see this shift from Omar in the heat of Washington deliberations on Afghanistan.

In fact, the Haqqani group, the Taliban who held foreign al Qaeda fighters in such high esteem in the Rohdes account with the New York Times, is operationally allied with Mullah Omar who is said to be ready to jettison al Qaeda’s presence after a return to power.

Most violence in the province has been linked to the Haqqani network, which operates out of havens on both sides of the porous Afghanistan-Pakistan border and has taken responsibility for dozens of attacks around Afghanistan.

The group was founded by Jalaluddin Haqqani, who made his name as a leader of the Islamist uprising against the Soviet occupation in the 1980s. More recently, the militants introduced the use of suicide bombings to Afghanistan.

Sirajuddin Haqqani, Jalaluddin’s son, said his fighters didn’t want to capture heavily populated areas because the operations would likely result in significant casualties among insurgents and civilians. Still, he made clear his group had no intention of abandoning its focus on Khost. “Every now and then we want to carry out coordinated group attacks,” he said.

An American military official who recently served in eastern Afghanistan said the U.S. had intercepted communications suggesting the Haqqani leadership was closely coordinating its activities in Khost with Mullah Omar, the Taliban’s leader, who is believed to be in Pakistan. “It’s a division of labor, with each group focusing on a different part of Afghanistan,” the official said.

The official said some U.S. intelligence officers suspect that the Haqqani leadership had offered to conquer Khost in exchange for a promise from Mullah Omar that the family would be allowed to rule large swaths of eastern Afghanistan if the armed group eventually retook control of the country.

And it’s now believed that the Taliban and / or al Qaeda are helping the Gaza insurgents to fabricate much more sophisticated bombs for use in their terrorist efforts.  The battles between certain factions of the Taliban and al Qaeda must be seen as internecine spats – as intramural struggles.  They don’t represent a terminus.  They are quite public debates over strategy and tactics rather than policy and doctrine.  It’s important not to conflate one with the other.  Believing that any faction of the Taliban would actually risk their lives to battle al Qaeda because of the former’s focus on the region and the focus of the later on the globe is not only unwise, it is profoundly bad logic.

As for David Rohdes, everything and everyone else takes second place (or less) to direct, first hand knowledge to someone who has been there and seen these things first hand.  Rohdes is now in the position of being a subject matter expert – perhaps the foremost and most knowledgeable one in the world.  Rejection of his analysis because it creates discomfort for one strategic option (i.e., separating the “good” Taliban from the bad) is paramount to rejection of the preeminent scholar in the field of study.  From his time with the Taliban, Rohdes has earned the equivalent of a Doctorate in Jihadist Islamic studies in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Finally, the fact that certain jihadi web sites may be “abuzz” with emotion over a coming split between the Taliban and al Qaeda simply isn’t important.  It’s as irrelevant and insignificant as the silly and gross exaggerations of U.S. and NATO casualties inflicted by the Taliban at the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (Voice of Jihad).

Referring URL from a Mujahideen Web Site Today

BY Herschel Smith
6 years, 3 months ago

Today my article The Globalization of Jihad in Palestine was visited.  It isn’t odd that a page was visited – this happens 800 to 1000 times a day for this site.  What is a little odd is the referring URL, a legitimate jihadist web site.

The Ansar AlJihad Network (or the Ansar al-Mujahideen Network).

We don’t know what the discussion thread is about, since one must be a member to participate or even see the thread.  But what’s even more interesting about this visit is the location of the reader.

Clifton Heights, Pennsylvania.

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Tired Narratives on Afghanistan: Holy Warriors, Militias and SOF

BY Herschel Smith
6 years, 5 months ago

Jonathan Kay has been to a conference of “experts” on the border areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan.  Here is the narrative.

I’ve spent the last two days at a conference in Freeport, Bahamas, sponsored by the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, listening to dozens of specialists discuss the best way to pacify the Taliban-infested border areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

It’s been a humbling experience, as well as an educational one: I seemed to have been the only person on the speaking roster who hadn’t spent a good chunk of his or her life in south Asia. (Emphasis on “or her”: It surprised me how many women have adopted this remote, misogynistic corner of the globe as their focus of study.) Alongside the various ambassadors – current and former – there was a former police chief from Pakistan’s North-West Frontier Province, a former CIA operative, and a variety of brand-name global terrorism experts. Other speakers had done in-depth reporting from the region for Western publications, or run grass-roots NGOs. Most of the attendees agreed that the Taliban was strong, and getting stronger — and not one offered a simple solution.

A basic problem, it emerged, is the sheer complexity of the military dynamic in eastern Afghanistan and northwestern Pakistan. While journalists often talk about the Taliban as if it were a single, unified force, there are in fact many Talibans.

On the highest level are the hard-core, mass-murdering jihadis — men whose cause is inseparable from that of al-Qaeda; who are intermarried into al-Qaeda, and have even adopted Arabic as their primary language. Everyone in the room agreed that ordinary politics means little to these men: Holy War is in their blood.

In the middle tier are the tribal militias, village-defense forces, drug gangs and other Taliban-of-convenience. These groups shift their allegiance around opportunistically depending on who seems to be winning at any given moment.

Finally comes the hapless foot soldiers — illiterate peasants paid by the month to tote a gun and go where they’re told.

Each group calls out for a different strategy. In the case of the dedicated jihadis, the only thing to be done is kill them — which means boots on the ground, special forces, and drones. The militias, by contrast, respond quickly to shifts in popular opinion, propaganda and outreach. And the low-level foot-soldiers can be lured away by jobs — which means economic projects and nation-building.

Who has taught them this narrative?  Where did they get it?  As for Pakistan, Baitullah Mehsud’s fighters have proven resilient despite repeated operations against them.  No turning to the right or to the left.  As for Afghanistan, the indigenous insurgency in the South has proven resilient enough that the U.S. Marines in Garmser had to kill some 400 of them before relative peace came to the city in what at times was described as full bore reloading (only to be lost later because the British couldn’t hold the area).

Where is this group of hard core holy warriors which is so small that drones and SOF can take them out, and the multitudinous groups of militia that turn on a dime to shifts in opinion (rather than extort monies and enforce Sharia at the point of a gun)?

The conference of “experts” is parroting wishful thinking rather than realities on the ground in Afghanistan, in which the U.S. Marines are having to engage in heavy combat in order to pacify an indigenous insurgency in the South.  There’s nothing like a conference of “experts” in a tropical getaway to make things interesting for us.  Unfortunately, it would have been better for them to have had the conference in Now Zad.

The more interesting and relevant narrative for us comes from the Strategy Page.  Note before we get to it that The Captain’s Journal called the interdiction of supplies through Khyber and Chaman before it was in vogue, called for engaging the Caucasus before Russia, called the campaign stalled (and even losing) in 2008 while General Rodriguez waxed on about how the U.S. was taking the fight to the Taliban.

Now finally, remember that we have called repeatedly (there are too many articles to link) for re-attachment of the SOF to the infantry, getting the infantry out of their FOBs into kinetics, classical counterinsurgency and population engagement, everywhere, all of the time with all resources.

Now to the Strategy Page.

Many in the Special Forces and regular forces have urged that there be more operations featuring closer cooperation and coordination between Special Forces and the more traditional combat troops. It’s expected that this will now be happening in Afghanistan.

In addition, Special Forces (and special operations troops in general) will get more resources. This is part of a trend, as commanders have found that efforts are more successful when Special Forces personnel are taking the point. This has led to some special operations troops getting special privileges, like wider authority to call in artillery fire and air strikes. Thus this “unleashing” of the Special Forces and other special ops units (SEALs and foreign commandos) will lead to some interesting situations.

They’re listening, and we’re partly there folks.  No special privileges though.  Re-attach them to infantry, just like Force Recon is attached to Marine infantry.  Just another billet to do specialized things.  The Army is dumbing down their expectations and taking the vast majority of their fighters out of the fight while also taking their SOF fighters out of the counterinsurgency operations.  Time to end that nonsense.  Get back to the basics.

New al Qaeda Recruits Gravitate to Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia

BY Herschel Smith
6 years, 6 months ago

We pointed out over a year ago that by early 2007, new al Qaeda recruits were heading for Pakistan rather than Iraq.  This trend has been growing, and yet Yemen is also heavily in the mix.

The flow of foreign militants to Pakistan worries Western governments, which fear the south Asian country has replaced Iraq as the place to go for aspiring Islamists planning attacks on the West …

The goal today for these young men is to fight U.S. forces in neighbouring Afghanistan or to gain the skills to carry out attacks back home in the Middle East, Africa or the West.

Now, porous borders, corrupt officials and inventive smugglers mean a determined foreigner has little problem simply entering Pakistan, experts say, although reaching a camp in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas can be harder due to U.S. drone attacks and tougher security checks by militant groups.

Counter-terrorism experts also say that Somalia and Yemen are also emerging as destinations for aspiring al Qaeda fighters.

Rob Wainwright, Director of the European Union police agency Europol

“We see a pattern which shows Afghanistan and Pakistan seem to have replaced Iraq as preferred destinations for volunteers wishing to engage in armed conflict … We still see that recruits travel to training camps as part of their radicalisation process.

“Those who get training on the Pakistani-Afghan border are from various backgrounds — for example European converts and persons with Arab, North African and Turkish backgrounds.”

Richard Barrett, coordinator of the U.N.’s al Qaeda-Taliban monitoring team.

“Training over the last couple of years has typically taken place in small compounds which you find throughout the area of northwest Pakistan, rather than in large purpose-built camps. I have also heard of it taking place in apartments or houses in places like Karachi. It is hard to spot and quantify.”

Brian Glyn Williams, Associate Professor of Islamic History at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth.

“I’ve seen epitaphs of Kazakhs, Turks, Azerbaijanis, and Uzbekistanis on recent jihadi websites (related to the Afghanistan-Pakistan conflict zone).

Raphael Perl, Head of the Action Against Terrorism Unit at the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

“There’s no question that people are still going and the campaign to recruit people has intensified greatly.

“A small percentage go into active operations immediately. Some are just used for cannon fodder, in that part of Asia. And some of the very capable ones are sent back and told blend into society.”

Noman Benotman, Libyan former anti-Soviet fighter in Afghanistan.

“I think the message many Arabs receive from al Qaeda leaders nowadays is – don’t come here (to Pakistan). We don’t need you here: Go to Yemen’.”

“And we have seen a move to Yemen, mainly by Saudis, to strengthen the al Qaeda base there. It represents a big danger.”

Pakistan is front and center in terms of the training and indoctrination of globalist Jihadi fighters, and the three locations to which they are being sent, if not for their homelands to lay low until used, are Pakistan / Afghanistan, Yemen and Somalia.  Finally, there has been an evolution in the training of the jihadists.

Mustafa Alani, Gulf Research Centre

(Whether in Pakistan or Yemen), the major al Qaeda investment is in recruitment, not training. Most action now involves suicide bombers or exploding a car by remote control. This mainly requires influencing the mind of the subject, while most of the physical training can be done in a room. The old-style camps we saw on the publicity videos, where fighters climb over obstacles or go across fires, are mostly in the past. The groups have passed this stage. Now it is about how to evade things like monitoring in an airport. And that is a response to the new technology of counter-terrorism.”

There is good news and bad news.  First the good.  The drone attacks have been at least moderately successful, and so the recruits have been driven indoors or onto smaller compounds.  This means that classical guerrilla warfare conducted with hit and run attacks by small arms fire, small munitions, and so forth, may be training that the recruits have not had.

Now for the bad news.  The new recruits may know how to avoid detection in transit, and may in fact have uttered vows of death as they strap suicide bombs to themselves.  And for more bad news.  The recruits who are sent to the front lines in Pakistan or Afghanistan learn guerrilla warfare with haste.  There is no replacement for human intelligence, and we must be pursuing direct knowledge of these operations.

The Global Aspirations of the Afghan Taliban

BY Herschel Smith
6 years, 8 months ago

Regular readers of The Captain’s Journal know what we believe regarding negotiations with the Taliban.  Some indigenous poor may be stripped away from the hard core Taliban, but the hard core Taliban cannot be reconciled.  We needn’t rehearse this issue again.  But there is a recent analysis on negotiating with the Taliban that has both an important and related observation.

The premise underlying negotiations is that the insurgency can be short-circuited by splitting commanders who are fighting because of grievances like the civilian deaths in U.S. military operations away from true believers loyal to Taliban founder and Osama bin Laden ally Mullah Mohammad Omar.

Other experts have serious doubts. They say Omar and the leaders of associated militant groups believe that President Hamid Karzai’s government has lost popular support and they are winning against U.S.-led military forces. So long as they are of that view, there can be no peace, these experts say.

“Afghanistan was created by God for this kind of guerrilla fighting. It has high mountains and long valleys and narrow trails,” said Wahid Mughzdah, a former anti-Soviet fighter-turned-political analyst who worked in the Foreign Ministry during the former Taliban regime. “Al-Qaida and the Taliban understand that America doesn’t have a chance of success in this country.”

Further, he said, the Taliban are no longer only concerned with imposing Islamic rule on Afghanistan, but have adopted al-Qaida’s aim of staging Islamist revolutions throughout Asia and the Middle East.

We’ve already dealt with the evolution of the thinking of the Tehrik-i-Taliban to a much more global perspective in Resurgence of Taliban and al Qaeda, something Nicholas Schmidle calls the next-gen Taliban.  Until now The Captain’s Journal has always been careful to distinguish between the Tehrik-i-Taliban of Pakistan and the Afghan Taliban led by Mullah Omar, emphasizing that the globalist perspective had thoroughly set in to the TTP world view, but somewhat less so for the Afghan Taliban.

Some may object that Wahid Mughzdah is exaggerating, but if so, for what purpose?  In either case, this data point suggests that there is less difference between the Tehrik-i-Taliban and the Afghan Taliban than we thought.  It is only a single data point, but it is an important one.  File this away with the label “very important” and tag it to make it easily search-able for instant recall.

Has Swat Fallen to the Taliban?

BY Herschel Smith
6 years, 10 months ago

The Captain’s Journal has kept close watch over the Talibanization of the FATA.  Amir Mir gives us reason to believe that Taliban control over the FATA and NWFP is almost complete.

Fifteen months after the launching of a military operation in the lush-green picturesque valley of Swat by the Pakistan army to dismantle the militant network of Maulana Fazalullah, a major part of the mountainous region seems to have fallen to the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan and Swat apparently lives under the Sharia of Fazalullah.

Not too long ago, the idyll Swat valley, with its rolling hills, gushing streams and scenic vistas, was described as Pakistan’s Switzerland. However, ever since the beginning of the military operation in 2007 the law and order situation in Swat has gone from bad to worse, converting this paradise on earth into a valley of death and destruction. Around 10,000 militants of the Tehrik-e-Taliban have been pitted against 15,000 Pakistan army troops since October 22, 2007 when the operation was officially launched. Leading the charge against the Pakistan army is Maulana Fazalullah, who is also known as Mullah Radio for the illegal FM radio channel he operates. Through his FM broadcast that is still operational despite being banned by the NWFP government, Fazalullah keeps inspiring his followers to implement Islamic Shariat, fight the Pakistan army, and establish his authority in the area …

While following in the footsteps of the former Taliban regime of Afghanistan, the militants of Fazalullah are also pursuing a rigid agenda of religious beliefs which is based on a violent jehadi doctrine. Barbers in Swat and its adjoining districts under have been ordered not to shave beards and shops selling CDs and music cassettes ordered to close down. In some places, just a handful of the militants control a village since they rule by fear – beheading government sympathizers, blowing up bridges and asking women to wear all-encompassing burqas. Similarly, the army is manning several police stations in Swat because the police force there had been decimated by desertions and militant killings. The gravity of the law and order situation can be gauged from the fact that one of the busiest squares in Mingora has been renamed by the shopkeepers as ’Khooni Chowk’ because every morning, as they come to their shops, they would find four or five dead bodies hung over the poles or the trees.

Mir also points to the larger organization to which Fazlullah belongs – the Tehrik-i-Taliban, which he decided to join in 2007.

Soon after the Lal Masjid operation, Fazalullah decided to join hands with the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan led by Commander Baitullah Mehsud, in a bid to provide an umbrella to all insurgent movements operating in several tribal agencies and settled areas of the NWFP. Since then, Fazalullah and his followers are toeing Baitullah’s line, whether they are issuing a decree, signing a peace deal with the government or scrapping the same. Therefore, it appears by all accounts that the small coterie of Fazalullah-led militants is working in the same mould as the fanatic clerics of the Lal Masjid did, to make the Swat district hostage to its rigid vision of militant Islam. And remember, the valley is hardly 160 kilometers from Islamabad.

Mir inexplicably calls Fazlulah’s followers a “small coterie” of militants.  If this was true, the Pakistan Army would have been successful in its operations in the FATA and NWFP.  In fact, there is reason to believe that the Tehrik-i-Taliban has as many as a division of fighters in Swat.

The governor of Pakistan’s North West Frontier Province has been quoted as saying that there are 15,000 militants in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA).

The fighters, who would very nearly constitute a small army division, “have no dearth of rations, ammunition, equipment, even anti-tank mines,”  Owais Ahmad Ghani told a team from the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan led by Asma Jahangir, according to newspaper reports. A militant or a foot soldier earned between  6,000 ($75) to 8000 rupees a month while commanders took home 20,000 rupees to 30,000 rupees, the governor said.

The TTP is apparently so confident in its power and de facto authority in Swat that they have summoned Swat valley political leaders and dignitaries before Sharia courts.

A radical Pakistani Taliban cleric is demanding that a group of more than 50 Swat Valley dignitaries appear in his Islamic “court,” local media says.

Maulana Fazullah (sic), commander of the local Taliban militia in the northwestern Pakistan region, wants its provincial and federal lawmakers, dignitaries, elders and their families to present themselves in his sharia court within a week or be hunted down, the Press Trust of India, quoting local media, reported Sunday.

There are too many media reports to mention that indicate that the organization of al Qaeda is staggering under the heavy load of targeted UAV strikes against its leadership in the tribal areas of Pakistan.  True or not, it should be remembered about the TTP that while they were spawned by the Taliban of Afghanistan and aid them in the struggle against U.S. forces there, they have evolved into a much more radical organization than the original Taliban bent on global engagement, what Nicholas Schmidle calls the Next-Gen Taliban.

The TTP shout to passersby in Khyber “We are Taliban! We are mujahedin! “We are al-Qaida!”  There is no distinction.  A Pakistan interior ministry official has even said that the TTP and al Qaeda are one and the same.  As for their global vision, Baitullah Mehsud has said “We want to eradicate Britain and America, and to shatter the arrogance and tyranny of the infidels. We pray that Allah will enable us to destroy the White House, New York, and London.”

The celebration of the demise of al Qaeda should be a short one, with full knowledge that something just as bad, bigger and more powerful is replacing it in the FATA and NWFP region of Pakistan.  Our attention should return to the global counterinsurgency in which we are engaged, with full commitment to the defeat of militant jihad wherever it becomes manifest.

The al Qaeda World View

BY Herschel Smith
6 years, 10 months ago

Global Politician has an interesting article up entitled Analysis of al-Qaeda’s World View.  It’s a slow-moving article, and seems to go a little soft on al Qaeda at a few points (seeming to acquiesce to the notion of validity to AQ complaints), but returns to a sensible enumeration of the AQ world view by the end of the article (and even a forceful confrontation of the idea that we can co-exist with jihadists).  There are several key money quotes provided below that show the universal and eternal nature of the jihad they are to wage.

All of the above clearly demonstrates that, for al-Qa’ida, the war with the West is not finite but eternal. The current battles may ostensibly revolve around U.S. presence in Islamic lands, or support for Israel, or support for secular though dictatorial regimes, or even oil. Even so, the ultimate war does not end with a cessation of these real or perceived injustices, but rather with the West’s–indeed, the rest of the non-Islamic world’s–submission to Islam. As the words of Usama bin Ladin and Ayman al-Zawahiri–all grounded in the traditional sources of Islam–make clear, the war with the West revolves around something more transcendent than temporal grievances. It revolves around “eternal truths” …

Jihad in the path of Allah is greater than any individual or organization. It is a struggle between Truth and Falsehood, until Allah Almighty inherits the earth and those who live in it. Mullah Muhammad Omar and Sheikh Osama bin Ladin–may Allah protect them from all evil–are merely two soldiers of Islam in the journey of jihad, while the struggle between Truth and Falsehood transcends time. [p. 182]

The bottom line is, perceived Western injustices–as propagated by bin Ladin’s mantras–have nothing to do with the ultimate source of hostilities between Islam and the West (Infidelity). The doctrine of Offensive Jihad, spreading the laws of Allah to every corner of the world by the sword and enforcing the practice of dhimmitude (that is, discriminating and humiliating those who, having been conquered and living under Islamic suzerainty, still do not embrace Islam officially), was and remains a basic tenant of Islam–well before it ever encountered the West.

Fight those amongst the People of the Book [Christians and Jews] who do not believe in Allah nor the Last Day, who do not forbid what Allah and His Messenger have forbidden [i.e. enforce Shari’a law], and who do not embrace the religion of truth [Islam], until they pay the Jizya with willing submissiveness and feel themselves utterly subdued. [Koran 9:29]

The word “until” (hata) highlights the perpetual nature of this command. Enmity for non-Muslims, irrespective of whether or not they harm the Muslim is also a basic tenant of the faith, established before Islam and the West met:

“O you who have believed! Do not take the Jews and the Christians for friends; they are but friends of each other; and whoever amongst you takes them for a friend, then surely he is one of them [i.e., he apostasies from Islam].” [Koran 5:51] …

At this point many will proclaim that al-Qa’ida is misusing, misinterpreting, or taking these otherwise straightforward verses out of context. That is hardly the point here: Even if this were true, that does not change the fact that many men before al-Qa’ida, going back to the first jihads of the seventh century, have also “misused” them, or that many today who have nothing to do with al-Qa’ida, “misinterpret them,” or ultimately that many after al-Qa’ida will also be taking them “out of context.” In other words, even if those verses really do not mean what they seem to be saying, they certainly led themselves to the sort of hostile interpretation that al-Qa’ida and other Islamists, past, present and future, give to them. This is all the more troubling since it took only 19 men who follow such “interpretations” to cause September 11.

This is a very sophisticated understanding of hermeneutics, one I have addressed before with Professor Steve Metz of the U.S. Army War College.  There are competing hermeneutics within Islam that live side by side every day, and it doesn’t matter which one is right (since Islam is fundamentally not a creedal religion, and even if the majority in Islam do not believe in violent jihad).  What matters is which one is held, and in the case of jihadists, the hermeneutic held is one that places it at eternal war with the West.  This isn’t our decision – it’s a function of things far beyond our control.

Baitullah Mehsud

BY Herschel Smith
6 years, 10 months ago

We have provided analysis of Baitullah Mehsud, the center of gravity of the globalist jihad movement in the Taliban controlled areas of Pakistan, head of the Tehrik-i-Taliban (TTP) and more powerful by far than al Qaeda.  The Guardian has an exposé on Baitullah that is so good and extensive that several quotes will be provided below (the entire article is recommended reading), followed by brief analysis.

… after five years of germination, the disparate forces behind most of these attacks formally merged into the Pakistan Taliban (TTP) under the leadership of an illiterate 35-year-old commander, Baitullah Mehsud, confirming western suspicions that the epicentre of global jihad had shifted. Soon militias allied to the new grouping had permeated all of Pakistan’s border regions, even the northern ski slopes and trout streams of the former tourist haven of Swat …

“From the 26 suicide attacks where we recovered a head in 2007, we made a startling discovery,” says the Sig analyst. “The vast majority [of suicide bombers] came from just one tribe, the Mehsuds of central Waziristan, all boys aged 16 to 20.” Until the Sig team analysed the 2007 bombings, no one realised how successful the Pakistan Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud had been in recruiting his extended clan to the martyrdom business …

The officer found out more when a few Mehsud boys, who escaped a suicide training camp, recently contacted him. “They told me, ‘We have nothing. Simple things would make a difference. We are fond of football. Give us a ball and we won’t bomb.’ ” The officer is working to recruit informers, but tentatively. Those who resist Baitullah Mehsud have been brutally dealt with – like the 600 elders who spoke out against him in 2005 and were, according to Pakistani journalist Ahmed Rashid, each sent a needle, black thread and 1,000 rupees with which to buy some cloth to stitch their own shrouds; all of them were then killed

“The suicide bombers would be nothing without the bomb makers,” says Pervez, describing how men in caves and cowsheds, operating with a generator, a soldering iron and a pair of pliers, have become eminently adaptable. What the Sig proved was the axiom that today’s Islamic war zones inter-relate, how advice is passed down the line, in knapsacks and saddlebags, in encrypted computer files, in postcards and even in love letters. After insurgents in Iraq began to use mobile phones to detonate roadside bombs in the summer of 2003, the same technique emerged in Pakistan, deployed in one of the two assassination attempts on Musharraf in December. However, as western intelligence agencies caught up, developing high-frequency jammers to block the phone signals, the bombers changed tactics. Pervez says: “In Pakistan they returned to older techniques, using a 300-rupee [£2.50] wireless doorbell to send a low-frequency signal for which no one had thought to make a jammer” …

In the 80s, when Pervez was a young officer, the military and ISI had established hundreds of Sunni madrasas in southern Punjab that were aligned to a strict revivalist sect, the Deobandis, similar to the Wahhabis in Saudi Arabia. On graduation, most of these students were funnelled by the ISI into the secret war against the Soviets in Afghanistan, used to target Pakistan’s minority Shia population or infiltrated Indian Kashmir. “All the groups we are familiar with today came out of this process, and by the late 90s these men had had more consistent exposure to war than most officers in premier league armies in Europe” …

The closer you get to Baitullah Mehsud, the more of his strategy you can see. He is estimated to need one billion rupees (£8.6m) a year to keep his operations going. “It’s Jihadi Inc out here,” one senior police officer says. Among the Pakistan Taliban’s most recent recruits are a serial killer and two criminal dons, all of whom have been invited to become commanders. The officer says: “Mehsud’s Talibs now act like criminals, too, mounting a protection racket, charging road tolls, stealing fuel at gunpoint, blackmailing communities.”

They reach out across Pakistan. After arresting Qasim Toori, a wanted villain, in Shah Latif town, southeast Karachi, in January 2008, police learned he had been sent by Baitullah with 19 Taliban fighters to begin a crime wave. In Toori’s most successful raid, on October 30 2007, he held up the Bank al-Habib and stole 5m rupees (£43,000), money that was used to buy arms from al-Qaida. Baitullah’s men simultaneously began kidnapping …

Commentary & Analysis

When behind-the-times television analysts refer to al Qaeda who is being given safe haven in Pakistan, they fundamentally miss the point.  The globalist jihad movement of al Qaeda has been absorbed into the TTP of Pakistan.  The TTP shout to passersby in Khyber “We are Taliban! We are mujahedin! “We are al-Qaida!”  There is no distinction.  A Pakistan interior ministry official has even said that the TTP and al Qaeda are one and the same.

Baitullah Mehsud is not only the unchallenged master of the Tehrik-i-Taliban movement in Pakistan and across the border into Afghanistan, and he is essentially the head of not only a terror state, but also of a criminal enterprise worth 1E9 rupees annually (21 million dollars annually).

The group he leads is adaptive and improvisational with regards to their tactics, techniques and procedures.  They are even more experienced in war than the Pakistan Army, and certainly more so than most of the NATO forces in Afghanistan.

As for their global vision, Mehsud has said “We want to eradicate Britain and America, and to shatter the arrogance and tyranny of the infidels. We pray that Allah will enable us to destroy the White House, New York, and London.”

Baitullah Mehsud and the Tehrik-i-Taliban are not just dangerous; concerning the future of global jihad and the security of the West, they are – without rival – enemy #1.


Pakistan Declares Baitullah Mehsud Patriot

Kidnapping: The Taliban’s New Source of Income

Tehrik-i-Taliban and al Qaeda Linked

Baitullah Mehsud: The Making of a Terror State

The Context of the Gaza Military Operations

BY Herschel Smith
6 years, 11 months ago

Israel is increasing the pressure after Hamas sent rockets into Israel for three weeks or more.

Israel launched air strikes on Gaza for a second successive day on Sunday, piling pressure on Hamas after 229 people were killed in one of the bloodiest 24 hours for Palestinians in 60 years of conflict with the Jewish state …

Black smoke billowed over Gaza City after Israel bombed more than 40 security compounds, and uniformed bodies lay in a pile and the wounded writhed in pain at a graduation ceremony for new recruits hosted by Hamas.

There are three points to note in placing this operation in context.  First, the violence is the latest in a cycle in which two peoples are in war over the same land.  With regards to the “occupation,” the Hamas position is clever and has befuddled even the brightest of U.S. negotiators sent to quell the violence in this region.

A Hamas spokesman on Saturday vowed the group would not surrender in the face of IDF attacks in the Gaza Strip, and that Israel would not break its “resistance to the occupation.”  The spokesman added that Hamas would not “raise a white flag” of surrender and would respond with all means available at its disposal.

Why would the Hamas spokesman use the term “surrender” when referring to this conflict over the “occupation?”  Because it isn’t about Israel occupation of Gaza, but rather, Israeli occupation of Israel to which Hamas objects.  And this is the crux of the issue that so many negotiators of the “two-state solution” seem to miss.  Israel wants a two-state solution.  The U.S. wants a two-state solution.  Hamas doesn’t.

Second, Hamas Political Leader in Damascus Khaled Meshal has vowed a third intifada concerning his “Zionist enemy.”  The Olmert administration has pursued a strategy of appeasement, and this stand-down has allowed Hamas to arm, organize, enhance ties with Iran, and in learn lessons from the Israel-Hezbollah war of 2006.

Hamas, once known for its suicide attacks inside Israeli cities, is no longer a small-time terrorist group, but a large guerrilla army that has well-trained forces deployed throughout the entire Gaza Strip.

Were the IDF to embark on a ground operation in Gaza, it would face an army of close to 20,000 armed men, among them at least 15,000 Hamas operatives. The rest are from Islamic Jihad, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the Popular Resistance Committees.

Since the cease-fire went into effect in Gaza in June, Hamas has used the lull in action to fortify its military posts in the Strip and dig tunnel systems as well as underground bunkers for its forces. IDF estimates put the length of the tunnels at over 50 kilometers.

Hamas has also dug foxholes throughout the Strip to accommodate anti-tank missile units, and prepared massive bombs, which have been placed on the main access roads into Gaza.

In addition to its homemade Kassam rockets, Hamas has smuggled into Gaza a number of anti-aircraft cannons and several shoulder-to-air missiles. It also a large number of anti-tank missiles that, if used correctly, could wreak havoc on Israeli armor in the event of a ground operation involving tanks and armored personnel carriers.

It also has Special Forces – commando forces and units with expertise in rocket fire, mortar attacks and roadside bombs.

“Hamas has learned a lot from Hizbullah and has adopted many of the Lebanese group’s tactics which were used successfully against the IDF in the Second Lebanon War,” one IDF official said.

Since Israel’s unilateral disengagement from the Gaza Strip in the summer of 2005, Hamas has created a military with a clear hierarchy, led by Hamas “chief” Ahmed Ja’abri …

Hamas has split the Gaza Strip into five sections corresponding to five different brigades in the north, center, Gaza City, and two brigades in the south. Each brigade has a commander as well as several battalions under its command.

The third point is the most important, as it explains the root rather than the proximate causes.  Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has charged that Hamas could have prevented the bloodshed.  “We spoke to them and told them ‘Please, we ask you not to end the cease-fire. Let it continue,'” Abbas said during a joint press conference with Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit. “We want to protect the Gaza Strip. We don’t want it to be destroyed.”

True enough, this analysis misses the final and most important point.  Hamas was either going to be supplanted and subsumed into a larger Salafist movement within Palestine or evolve into a sort of symbiosis with that movement.  Hamas has come to be rivaled by a radical Salafist movement within Palestine that is financially supported by oil-rich sheikhs in Saudi Arabia, and movement against Israel was a necessity given the predispositions to armed violence within the new evolved organization.

Only an organization committed to violence will place ordnance in the same locations as residences and schools in total disregard for the safety of women and children.  When the media value of the deaths of children has become more important than their protection, the evolution to a Hezbollah-like viciousness and totalitarianism is complete.

Israel is attacking Gaza because there is no other choice.  As for the incoming Obama administration and Clinton State Department, our prediction that Hamas will begin its attacks on Israel again appear to be spot-on but a bit late, with Hamas rudely not even waiting until Clinton took the reins at State.  It remains to be seen if the incoming administration still believes in the two-state solution.  Radicalism is all that is left in Palestine due to the politics of appeasement for so many years.

Financing the Taliban

BY Herschel Smith
7 years, 3 months ago

Some Taliban and al Qaeda support comes from radical Salafists in Saudi Arabia, but the Taliban also harvest their own support. Regular readers of The Captain’s Journal know that we’re not particularly fond of the notion of mixing the war on drugs with Operation Enduring Freedom, since the idea of destruction of a farmer’s means of income does not comport with the need to win the population.

What about support for the Taliban from poppy? This has been asked thousands of times in the main stream media, and indeed, the State Department wants badly to war against drugs in Afghanistan. So do some military (mostly Army, not any Marines to our knowledge, since Marine operations in Helmand specifically avoided destruction of crops).

Our contention all along has been that the problem is not poppy, any more than it is any other crop. It’s the Taliban, and they are more than capable of obtaining income through bullying tactics whether from farmers who grow poppy or women who weave clothing with yarn. The Taliban have begun heavy handed tactics of taxation of various businesses to support their campaign.

PESHAWAR: The Taliban are financing their “jihad” against the United States and supporting the families of the militants killed in the war with private taxation, besides Zakat and Ushr.

Sources close to militants, tribal elders and government officials in various tribal regions where Taliban-linked militancy has paralysed business told Daily Times that the organisation has not made a uniform policy on Zakat so far.

Taliban vary the taxation from area to area and depending on the financial status of traders. Bajaur is the worst case, where reports say the Taliban have imposed fixed taxes on traders, ranging from Rs 30 to Rs 25,000 per month.

“I pay Rs 500 a month to the Taliban as per their decree,” said Rustam Khan, who runs a small business in the Khar bazaar. “I can afford to pay the sum, otherwise it would have been great injustice.”

Maulana Waheed, in charge of Zakat for Taliban in Bajaur, said the total collection was around Rs 175,000 so far – much lower than what Taliban need to spend. Waheed denied the Taliban were forcing Khar residents to pay Zakat to them, but accepted collecting 12,000 kilogrammes of wheat as Ushr from farmers.

Fuel stations give 120 litres of fuel each to the Taliban, who are frequently on the move to avoid United States spy planes.

“That is true, we provide a certain quantity of fuel to the Taliban as per their desire and our contribution for jihad,” said a manager at one of the fuel stations in Khar.

In the neighbouring Mohmand tribal region, the Taliban are not collecting Zakat, but seek contributions from harvested crops and also collect skins of sacrificed animals.

The Maulvi Nazir-led Taliban in Ahmedzai Wazir areas of South Waziristan collect neither Zakat nor Ushr, but the heavy fines they impose on the residents are one of the main sources of revenue to run the “Movement for Return of Taliban rule in Afghanistan”.

It doesn’t have to be small local businesses; it can be larger industrial operations as well.

ZIARAT, Pakistan — The Taliban’s takeover in April of the Ziarat marble quarry, a coveted national asset, is one of the boldest examples of how they have made Pakistan’s tribal areas far more than a base for training camps or a launchpad for sending fighters into Afghanistan.

A rare, unescorted visit to the region this month revealed how the Taliban are grabbing territory, using the income they exact to strengthen their hold and turn themselves into a self-sustaining fighting force. The quarry alone has brought tens of thousands of dollars, said Zaman, a tribal leader.

The seizure of the quarry is a measure of how, as the Pakistani military has pulled back under a series of peace deals, the Pakistani Taliban have extended their reach through more of the rugged 600-mile-long territory in northern Pakistan known as the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, or FATA.

The quarry here in the Mohmand tribal district, strategically situated between Peshawar and the Afghan border, is a new effort by the Taliban to harness the region’s abundant natural resources of coal, gold, copper and chromate.

Of all the minerals in the tribal areas, the marble from Ziarat is one of the most highly prized for use in expensive floors and walls in Pakistan, and in limited quantities abroad.

A government body, the FATA Development Authority, had failed over the past several years to mediate a dispute between the Masaud and Gurbaz subtribes over how the mining rights to the marble should be allocated, according to Pakistani government officials familiar with the quarry.

The Taliban came eager for a share of the business. Their reputation for brutality and the weakness of the local government allowed them to settle the dispute in short order.

The Taliban decided that one mountain in the Ziarat area belonged to the Masaud division of the main Safi tribe, and said the Gurbaz subtribe would be rewarded another mountain, Zaman, the contractor, said.

The mountain assigned to the Masauds was divided into 30 portions, he said, and each of six area villages was assigned five of the 30 portions.

Zaman said the Taliban demanded $1,500 commission upfront for each portion, giving the insurgents a quick $45,000.

The Taliban also demanded a $7 tax on each truckload of marble, he said. With a constant flow of trucks, the Taliban were collecting up to $500 a day, Zaman said.

There are no magic tricks to perform. Get rid of the poppy, and you don’t get rid of the Taliban. Get rid of the marble quarry, and you don’t get rid of the Taliban. In fact, squeezing the financiers in Saudi Arabia, while a good tactics and hopefully fully in process, won’t get rid of the Taliban.

It isn’t about the poppy, marble or financiers from the house of Saud. It’s about the religious radicals practicing jihad because of their belief system, who would fight to the death to destroy the West. There is no solution except to kill them. Many in Afghanistan suffer under their yoke, and providing security for them is the other part of the equation. This requires forces and kinetic operations.

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