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.
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 has come via Abu al-Walid al-Masri’s website. It’s short.
But nonetheless significant.
No mention of the organisation and/or succession, as to be expected.
the link is here
I may write more on this later, if time permits.
Folks Sayf al-Adl has released another five letters, via Abu al-Walid al-Masri’s website. They make for fascinating reading. And combined with other publications and machinations they show that there is some serious consolidation of thought going on that I think will see a strategic recalibration of al Qaeda’s focus. In fact, I suspect we’ve already begun to see a part of this. The big question, as per usual, is whether bin Laden takes this advice or charts his own course. I’ll try to post some more thoughts about this but it won’t be for a while. So much for the sabbatical.I knew something would come out that would get me blogging again. Always the way.
More later, hopefully. In the meantime I went of a bit of a tweeting bender and so you can find more there. It’s not well marked. I got a bit excited and just typed stream of consciousness. Sorry bout that.
FYI the link for the letters on Abu al-Walid al-Masri’s website can be found here.
For those who are not regular readers, Sayf al-Adl is a senior military figure in al-Qaeda, believed by some to be its military commander. This is the second series of five letters he has released since November last year.
For those interested there is a new book released today by Sulaiman Abu Ghaith with a sanctioning introduction by Abu Hafs al-Mauritani. The book is new. It has been released via the website of Abu Walid al-Masri.
It is a book for those on the path of jihad. It is the first in a series. Its target audience is not only foot soldiers but also the leadership.
This is a very important book and its timing is also very important. Not to mention we have not heard from either of these two figures in a very long time.
I’m so down to the wire with deadlines at the moment but I will try to post something more on this later.
AfPak Channel: The Haqqanis and al-Qaeda
A quick comment since I’ve just been tidying up some thesis stuff relating to an article I just caught on FP while sneaking a quick coffee break.
It is interesting, but if you are going to talk Haqqani and his history the first stop for reading absolutely should be Abu Walid al-Masri’s books, and his series profiling Haqqani in the Taliban magazine (who he has known since the beginning of the first Afghan War, and arguably through whose links the AQ-Haqqani relationship developed).
AQ was not really as affiliated with Haqqani as it was with Sayyaf and then Hekmatyar.
It’s actually why some former mujahideen have commented on AQ’s lack of combat experience during the first Afghan war viz other groupings. Those who wanted to fight went to join Haqqani, or at least tried to go fight with him. He was not a fan of untrained numpties trying to go to the frontlines. Those who remained with Sayyaf and co did not see as much action. AQ was in areas first under Sayyaf, and then Hekmatyar. AQ also declined to assist a training effort Abu Walid and Haqqani along with some others were trying to establish circa 86. Instead OBL went off and established al-Masada, against everyone’s advice. And the two AQ guys who were close to Haqqani, Hafs al Masri and Ubaida al Banshiri (because they fought with him in 84 I think it was), went off to Jaji to “minimise the damage” after a meeting was held in Islamabad about how to deal with OBL’s actions. After the Jaji battles, AQ went to Jihad Wal, which was Hekmatyar’s turf and OBL payed him rent to establish training camps there, which remained in operation until the US missile strikes in 98.
For those interested in Haqqani’s marriage links (mentioned in the article). He married into a Yemeni family, if memory serves. It’s in the books somewhere.
To me the question is not about the historical links because they were not that strong, but rather what factors have contributed to them being friends with benefits now. And on the basis of this how strong these links are and under what conditions they will endure, and what might cause them to fragment in the future. I am also interested in whether this relationship has strengthened in recent times, why this might be the case, and the role generational change may have played in this process. For example Haqqani’s sons and where they fit. They are mixing in a very different milieu than what existed in Afghanistan either under the Taliban or during the first Afghan war and so the potential for ideological bleed over is stronger. The question here though is whose ideology? I could go off on a tangent and talk the IMU and IJU but this is all I have time for tonight.
Also recommended reading is Sirajuddin Haqqani’s town hall meeting this year. His responses, or lack thereof in some instances, really put the spotlight on a few of these areas. I didn’t save a copy but it should be floating around out there and for those of you with OSC access I imagine it got translated.
Ok that’s the coffee break over, back to the thesis for me.
Charles has graciously provided me with the translation as per below. I am already testing the patience of my dear friends who help me as my thesis deadline edges closer, so I am grateful for Charles for providing this. It is already posted at Zenpundit, but since our readerships may differ I thought I’d post it here too. Big kudos to the grad student too, who helped Charles and whose work I deeply admire (-:
Ok to the translation.
UPDATE: I can’t seem to get the formatting to stay. Sorry, I will try to fix this.
I asked a native-speaking grad student associate of mine to give me a literal translation of Abu Walid’s response to my post, and then tweaked it to give it a reasonable combination of accuracy and fluency, and my associate has kindly given the result his thumbs up — so what follows is probably fairly close to the sense of Abu Walid’s original.
Is this a return to the Age of Chivalry? — Comments on the Response of Charles Cameron
May 31, 2010
Author: Mustafa Hamed, Abu al-Walid al-Masri
MAFA: The Literature of the Outlaws
Charles Cameron’s words, in his comment on the dialog between myself and Ms. Leah Farrall, were wonderful, both for their humanitarian depth and in their high literary style, which makes it difficult for any writer to follow him. He puts me in something of a dilemma, fearing any comparison that might be made between us in terms of beauty of style or depth and originality of ideas — but in my capacity as one of those adventurous “outlaws”, I will try to contemplate, rather than compete with, his response, since this is what logic and reason call for.
Charles Cameron was deeply in touch with the roots of the problem that the world has (justly or unjustly) called the war on terror: it is a cause that relates to the sanctity of the human individual, and his rights and respect, regardless of any other considerations around which the struggle may revolve.
No one can argue about the importance of peace, or the need all humans have for it, nor can anyone argue that war is not hideous, and universally hated. And yet wars are still happening, and their scope is even increasing.
And now the West claims: it is terrorism — as if war on the face of the earth were the invention of Bin Laden and al-Qaida — and all this, while many others are arguing ever more forcefully that the opposite is true, that al-Qaida and Bin Laden are the invention of war merchants, and that no one can definitely declare as yet — in an unbiased and transparent way — who caused the events of September 11 and the deaths of three thousand persons.
It is not only the one who pulls the trigger who is the killer, as we know — the one who set the stage for a crime to be committed, who arranges the theatre, and opens the doors, and lures or hires the one who pulls the trigger is even more responsible. He’s the one, after all, who carries away the spoils of the crime, then chases down the trigger-man and finishes him off — not for the sake of justice, nor for love of humanity, but to hide the evidence of the crime, to erase his own fingerprints, and assassinate the witnesses who could implicate him.
For example: was the execution of Saddam Hussein really about bringing justice? Of course not. They executed him after a travesty of a trial for the most trivial of his crimes. Nobody, however, asked him about his most significant crimes — they killed him before he could admit to them, or name the major partners who brought him to the apex of his power, and provided him with a full range of lethal weaponry including weapons of mass destruction, so he could perform mass murder with confidence in his own impunity.
I personally (and here I speak only for myself, so Ms. Farrall need not get irritated) would have preferred to have Charles Cameron as President of the US and a united Europe and the leader of NATO — then there would have been no wars in Afghanistan or Iraq, and the problem of terrorism would have ended in minutes, along with the problems in the Middle East, and nuclear militarization, and even those of poverty and pollution. Why? Because not a single one of these problems can be solved exceptthrough the logic of humanitarianism, of justice, and love for people and peace, and hatred of oppression and discrimination between people in any form — we are all the creatures of God, and to Him we shall all return.
I am reminded of Richard the Lionheart, who came to lead a big crusade to capture Jerusalem from Muslim hands. The bloody wars he led brought fatigue to everyone and benefited neither the religious or nor the day-to-day interests of either party. Leading the Muslim campaign was Sultan Salah al-Din al-Ayyubi (Saladin), King Richard’s peer in courage, chivalry and wisdom.
Both parties finally agreed that Jerusalem should remain in Muslim hands — hands which would guarantee its security and that of its people, and of both the Islamic and Christian sanctuaries, preserving their interests and protecting the sanctuaries of all, in peace.
Thereafter, King Richard retreated from Muslim lands, carrying with him a most favorable impression of the Muslims and of Saladin as he returned to his own country, while leaving a continuing memory of respect and appreciation for himself and his chivalry with Saladin and the Muslims — which is preserved in our history books down to the present day.
It was Mr. Cameron’s spirit of fairness, chivalry and true spirituality that reminded me of King Richard’s character — but sadly, it is very difficult to find a ruler in the west like King Richard, and I find it even more regrettable that Muslims should have even greater difficulty finding among themselves a ruler like Saladin..
This is because things are on the wrong track, and people are not in their rightful positions. The wrong people are in power and leading us, while the best among us are weak and under siege.
No human likes or wants this state of affairs — but are the people who are in control of this planet real human beings? Can we consider those who own 50% of the earth’s wealth human, even though they comprise no more than 2% of the human population?
In my opinion, the situation is much worse than these international statistics suggest. I believe the number of those who rule the world is far fewer, and that they own much more. They are the ones who invest in all kinds of wars wherever, and under whatever name or banner, they may be found. The mention of war translates to these people as an immediate waterfall of gold tumbling into their usurious bank vaults, which hold the world — both leaders and led — by the neck.
I speak here of all wars without exception, whether they be the First and Second World Wars, or the wars in Korea and Vietnam, or the First and Second Gulf Wars, or the Third and Fourth, yet to come — whether it be a war in Afghanistan (to hunt for the “Bin Laden and al-Qaida” mirage) or in Iraq (looking for illusory “weapons of mass destruction”) or in Bosnia, Somalia or Africa — that continent of eternal wars for the sake of gold or oil fields — Africa, that colonized continent of disease, covertly modernized in the labs of the secret services and giant pharmaceutical companies.
I wish we could return to the age of chivalry– of courageous and rightly religious knights — for then wisdom would prevail and peace would spread, and we could leave this age of the brokers and merchants of war behind us.
Muslims always call on God to bless them with a leader such as Saladin , and I think they should also pray for God to bless the West with a ruler such as Richard the Lionheart — because without a Saladin here and a Richard there, the fires of war will continue to blaze. That’s the reason the brokers of wars will not allow the appearance of a Saladdin here, nor a Richard there.
By means of the laws to fight terrorism, the emergency laws, NATO, the Security Council and the International Court of Justice, the various counter-terrorism forces around the world, the CIA and FBI, and the Army and National Guard, the Patriot Act in the US, the jails at Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib and Bagram — and the secret “black sites” and “floating prison ships”– by all these means and many others, they kill and jail and start wars, so that humans (and terrorists) are not threatened by the likes of the two great kings, Saladin and Richard.
Therefore in the situation we find ourselves in now — despite our noble dreams of an age of knighthood and chivalry as an alternative to this age of broker kings — the destiny of all humanity, and even planet earth itself, remains in question. Of course there will be an end to all this someday… but how??… and when?? I do not think any one of us has the answer.
Finally I would like to thank Charles Cameron for his care in writing and commenting, and to express again my thanks to Ms. Leah Farrall, who deserves all the credit for initiating these dialogues.
Signed: Mustafa Hamed, Abu al-Walid al-Masri
Abu Walid has responded a letter from Charles Cameron. Abu Walid’s response to Charles can be found here. You’ll notice when following the link, that he has a new website.
It’s well worth a look. There is also an interesting comment from a reader below Abu Walid’s response to Charles; it’s from “one of the victims of Guantanamo”.
As you’ll see from his website Abu Walid is also engaging in a number of other interesting dialogues at the moment, which I am interested to read as they progress.
Charles wrote his letter in response to the dialogue Abu Walid and I had a little while back. For those of you new to the site, you can find this dialogue to the right in the page links section. The letter from Charles can be found on my blog here.
I’m grateful to both Charles and Abu Walid for their time and effort to write their respective letters and willingness to participate in such a unique dialogue. I think both letters are quite amazing. And I’m envious of the way both Abu Walid and Charles write.
These letters may not change anything, but they are important because in mass media sometimes only the most controversial and polarising views tend to make it into the news.
I think person to person contact, especially via mediums like this, can go some way to providing opportunities for all of us to discover or be reminded that there is more than one viewpoint and along with differences there are also similarities. Contact like this humanizes people, and in my book that’s never a bad thing.
A translation of Abu Walid’s letter won’t be in the works for quite some time, but I will add it to the stack of things I hope to return to as soon as the dissertation goes in.
That’s not due to happen for another month or so and then there will be the inevitable back and forth from both supervisor’s final comments, before submission, so it may still be several months before I can catch up on all the things outstanding here. Apologies for that, but I will get to it all as best I can, once the thesis is out of the way.
My thanks again to Abu Walid and Charles for taking the time to write their letters.