My first book…The Arabs at War in Afghanistan

11/06/2014 Leave a comment

For those of you interested…my first book, co-authored with Mustafa Hamid, is finally edging towards its release in the US and UK!!!

What is it about you ask? Well this is the book’s description on the publisher’s website:

A former senior mujahidin figure and an ex-counter-terrorism analyst cooperating to write a book on the history and legacy of Arab-Afghan fighters in Afghanistan is a remarkable and improbable undertaking. Yet this is what Mustafa Hamid, aka Abu Walid al-Masri, and Leah Farrall have achieved with the publication of their ground-breaking work.

The result of thousands of hours of discussions over several years, The Arabs at War in Afghanistan offers significant new insights into the history of many of today’s militant Salafi groups and movements. By revealing the real origins of the Taliban and al-Qaeda and the jostling among the various jihadi groups, this account not only challenges conventional wisdom, but also raises uncomfortable questions as to how events from this important period have been so badly misconstrued.

Hamid-and-Farrall-Arabs-At-War-web  http://www.hurstpublishers.com/book/the-arabs-at-war-in-afghanistan/

http://www.amazon.com/The-Arabs-at-War-Afghanistan/dp/1849044201

It’s been an amazing few years and if someone had ever told either of us when we started our online debate nearly five years ago we’d end up co-authoring a book together, we would have probably had a rare moment of agreement when reaching the conclusion they were crazy. Yet, here we are. The book is done and the first pre-publication reviews are out.

You can find them over at the Hurst Website. The book is being published by Hurst in the UK and Oxford University Press in the US.

If you are interested in getting a review copy please send me an email or contact Hurst directly at the contact details on their website.

For those interested in an Arabic summary of the book, you can find one written by Mustafa here (on the book’s website, which we still need to update a little once I finish my teaching admin next week).

It’s been a while…

07/11/2014 5 comments

It’s been so long since I’ve blogged I spent the better part of a few hours tonight remembering how to use this site. Hence my grand plans to finish a longer return post discussing the issue of generational change in the militant milieu and targeted killing of terrorist leaders went a little pear shaped. I will get to it this week, however, alongside a longer update as to what I’ve been doing over the past few years, my book (which I still don’t have a confirmed release date for sorry to those of you who are asking; I’m asking too!) and my roamings around the world. It’s been an amazing and in many respects life changing journey. And it’s been deeply humbling. I got to meet a few tweeps I have interacted with over the years, which was a fantastic experience and I’m hoping to meet more in my travels later this year. I also totally lost control of my inbox so my sincere apologies to those of you who contacted me but who may not have received a reply. Several computers and email archives died in the course of my wanderings…Anyway, I digress.

The point of this little update is more about my indecisiveness about whether to continue this blog.  As you can tell I all but stopped some time ago. I was very burned out and disenchanted after a dreadful PhD experience with Monash, who even managed to be rude to my examiners. And beyond that I started to get disenchanted with the increasing competitiveness within the field. More specifically with the p*ssing contests and general huffy puffy going on (and while I was away I took a good hard look back at my own behaviour too).  I must say I’m not quite past either of these things. But withdrawing and staying silent on the latter issue doesn’t seem to me to be the answer either.

I’ve recently returned to teaching after a long break and I was disenchanted by the reluctance of some of my students to speak up, their lack of confidence in expressing their thoughts and ideas, and in particular how women, who are still so outnumbered in this field of study, often get marginalised. So, I figure I should get over myself and at least try to set a better example for my students and get back into the fray instead of withdrawing back when the huffy puffy begins, and to do so with a humility I feel that in my earlier years on the internets I was often lacking. Sometimes you have to fight so hard to get your voice heard or get equal footing that you don’t realise you are being equally aggressive. It’s a lesson I’ve learned over recent years and with the help and advice of some amazing colleagues and mentors I’ve learned other ways of dealing with these issues. In part a reason I am returning to blogging and writing is that I often feel like I let down those who went out of their way to support and encourage me, from thesis examiners through to tweeps I’ve engaged with over the years and the many people who have mentored me on my journey so far. Anyway, I’m hoping now having nearly climbed over the mountain of backlogged things I accumulated that I can push out some of my research in the coming months and do some writing, both here and in other publications.

Speaking of writing, I’m also setting up another blog which will go live soon. It’s on security issues more generally and is called Securified, a bit of a tongue in cheek reference to how everything is a scary existential threat and how we also invent such a wide array of fancy words in academia to describe and conceptualise security issues. The twitter account @Securified is already live, although I’m still tweaking how I will work that as it will be a more high volume feed of links. The primary purpose of both the blog and the twitter account is for my students but I figure a few other people might be interested. Anyway, there’ll be more about that and the other things I’ve got on the boil or have been up to recently in my longer update post which is next up to finish this week.

In the meantime, below is a link to a translated article written by Yassin Musharbash (@abususu) on his thoughts about covering terrorism related issues. It stemmed in part from an interview Yassin did with Mustafa Hamid and I in Alexandria last year.  The article originally featured in Zeit Magazin.

http://abususu.blogspot.co.nz/2014/06/ambiguity-truth-and-covering-terrorism.html

Wishing you all a lovely weekend.

L

Categories: Uncategorized

Differentiating analysis

03/13/2013 1 comment

I found this guidance note on the ABC’s website; it’s about differentiating analysis from opinion. Although it’s predominantly for a TV medium, it struck home a little, particularly in the last two points…

Typically, ‘analysis’ –
• carries the name of the author
• is made by a person with professional expertise or
specialist knowledge aboutthe subject matter being analysed
• is grounded in reporting work, usually done by the
person making the analysis
• refers to the information on which it is based
• is based on information that can be verified
• is not purely speculative or based only on faith or belief
• is not partisan or ideological
• will often discuss options and their pros and cons
• refrains from public advocacy
• aims to inform and explain more than to rouse or persuade
• does not prescribe what should be done nor urge what the audience should conclude.
It’s very easy to slide into arguing for a solution at the expense of explanation. Take a look at most terrorism studies writing and you’ll notice it’s nearly all prescriptive, and solution based.   There are lots of reasons for this, but one worth noting is that it is  exceptionally hard to get work published that is not prescriptive.  In my view, this needs to change.
These guidelines are not perfect but it’s nice to see that at least there is an awareness of this problem on the part of the ABC.  Sadly, it doesn’t seem to be common place among media, or in the terrorism studies area of academia for that matter (and International Relations more broadly).
I’m putting this up now as I’ll be referring to it in a forthcoming post or two, if I ever get my workspace sorted and internet back on before I leave on my next adventure.  As thankful as I am to my friend for her hospitality in letting me come over, commandeer the couch and use her internet, I don’t want to subject the household to my blog writing rituals, or efforts to rediscover how to format blog posts, which as this mangled post shows,  I’ve managed to forget.

Back on deck, finally…

02/08/2013 2 comments

Hey folks,

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged.  My trip to Egypt after handing in my PhD turned into a little bit of an adventure, which is partly why posts were a bit thin on the ground. (For some reason the wordpress site didn’t often work on my Egyptian ISP and neither did an assortment of other random newsy websites. I could have posted via the phone but given my hatred of touchscreen typing you’d have probably ended up with a heap of cranky unintelligible posts and not much else, assuming of course the phone internet connection worked, which it often didn’t.)

Now that I’m  in Oz and recovered from the bugs that laid me out for the first few months I was home, it’s catch up time.

Once I’ve tied up remaining loose ends I’ll be returning to regular blogging and updating the blog with links to some things I wrote while I was away, as well as some new material.

Anyway, this is just a short note to thank you all for your readership and continuing visits.  I’m pleased to see the site is being used as a reference point, and for this I owe a hearty thanks to the National Library of Australia who asked two years ago to archive the site for reference purposes.

My goal this year for the blog is to spur debate and discussion about issues in counter terrorism and terrorism studies that have escaped critical scrutiny and the reasons why efforts at such scrutiny seem to be drowned out. This all feeds into one of the research themes I’ve had of late: “The Counter Terrorism Industry.”

If I can get back to the blog this afternoon, it will also be the subject of my first ‘Cynical Friday’ post of the year. Otherwise stay tuned next week.

Cheers.

Categories: Uncategorized

Were these comments about Awlaki authorised?

06/15/2012 1 comment

Reading this article yesterday…I wondered whether the former FBI SAIC’s comments in this article were cleared by FBI.

American cleric used more than 60 email accounts to reach followers, including Hasan

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2012/06/14/al-awlaki-used-dozens-email-accounts-to-reach-followers-including-hasan/#ixzz1xr9wpwOh

Especially since it appears that reporting in relation to the emails beyond that already known through indictments etc was at least  as of last month, apparently still classified.

“In a letter to FBI Director Robert Mueller, Republican Rep. Frank Wolf has demanded a copy of the still-classified report about the alleged Fort Hood shooter’s email exchanges with Al Qaeda operative Anwar al-Awlaki.”

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2012/05/16/gop-rep-demands-copy-report-on-awlaki-emails-with-alleged-fort-hood-shooter/#ixzz1xrAqAutq

Be interested to hear more about this, especially in light of recent attention placed on leaking and inappropriate comments made to media.

 

Categories: Articles of interest

Some quick thoughts on reports Abu Yahya al-Libi has been killed

06/06/2012 20 comments

 

First, I’ll believe it when al Qaeda acknowledges it.

This of course won’t stop the chest beating celebrating his killing.

And if he has in fact been killed, I wonder if those who think this is a victory (and those supporting the strategy of extrajudicial killings more generally)  have given ample thought to the fact that he along with others who have been assassinated were actually a moderating force within a far more virulent current that has taken hold in the milieu. And yes, given his teachings I do note a certain irony in this, but sadly, it’s true.

What is coming next is a generation whose ideological positions are more virulent and who owing to the removal of older figures with clout, are less likely to be amenable to restraining their actions. And contrary to popular belief, actions have been restrained. Attacks  have thus far been used strategically rather than indiscriminately. Just take a look at AQ’s history and its documents and this is blatantly clear.

In the years to come, owing to this generation being killed off, this type of restraint will disappear; in fact it is clearly already heading in this direction. A significant part of this change  is directly attributable to the counter terrorism strategies being employed today. I’m working on a more detailed, research driven piece on this. But in the meantime, the best way of summing up the consequences of a strategy of killing off leadership instead of using a criminal justice approach lies with what happened in a wildlife sanctuary in South Africa many years ago.

A culling program was implemented to kill off all the older generation elephants owing to overcrowding. Juveniles were spared. However, without the presence of the older elephants they then proceeded to go on rampages, killing other animals and causing such havoc that the rangers thought they’d have to cull them too. Until that is, someone chanced upon the idea of bringing in older elephants from another wildlife park, who ended up bringing the juveniles into line and enforcing discipline, something that had been missing since the cull of the older generation.

Right now you’re probably scoffing at this. Scoff away, because this example has come up time and time again in conversations I’ve had with folks who know this milieu very well because they’ve lived in it. Along with it has been concern expressed for the future, for what will happen when authoritative voices who can restrain the actions of those left and, importantly, those newer folks still seeking to join the cause, no longer exist.  When indiscriminate becomes the norm.

So before anyone goes off celebrating another “number” in the death count, it is worthwhile remembering there will be consequences from this short sighted and reactionary path chosen to deal with threat.  These consequences will not play out in areas where extrajudicial killings take place, but in indiscriminate attacks in capital cities in the west.  I wonder then how those who advocate the current policy plan to deal with this and the implications it will pose for the social contract.  But hey, they’re “winning” right????

More on this later.

Official: Al Qaeda leader killed by drone strike in Pakistan – This Just In – CNN.com Blogs.

Categories: AQ General, Commentary

The Costs of U.S. Counterterrorism Policy |

05/31/2012 2 comments

 

The more the US distances itself from the weight of applicable international law, and more importantly, from the weight of international opinion about applicable international law, the higher the cost in terms of national security and national reputation as a supporter of human rights.

But if none of this impresses you and all you want to hear about is dollars and sense then consider this:

The annual cost of detaining an individual in Federal prison: $27,251

The annual cost of detaining an individual in Guantanamo: $800,000

via The Costs of U.S. Counterterrorism Policy | Human Rights First.

Categories: Articles of interest
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