Folks Abu Walid al Masri’s response to my questions for the BBC Radio interview I did last week are up. The topic was militant use of the internet. The response is in Arabic, and I’ve copied it onto my blog for safe keeping.
You can find it here, where I’ve also included the original link to his blog. [update: links are fixed. I was checking out microsoft’s new translator program which @lewisshepherd pointed out to me and had too many windows open, accidentally copied original from there with wrong hyperlinks. all fixed now]
The translation will go up on the weekend. It’s just being tidied up.
I don’t have a link to the radio piece yet, will chase that up tonight/tomorrow.
The questions are now in and I think close today for the upcoming forum ‘town hall’ meeting with Sirajuddin Haqqani. There is no indication of how long it will take him to respond to the questions posed by forum readers.
The questions make for fascinating reading as to the issues on the mind of those in the forums. Below is a pretty random list of some of the issues covered off and the questions posed. One thing that strikes me about the questions readers are asking is that these types of questions are normally posed to a Sheikh/senior figure with authority. It’s been something AQ usually only does, so I find this quite fascinating and it will be very interesting to see how Haqqani answers the questions, some of which are seeking guidance on issues outside his scope of operations/authority.
Ok, to the list of questions
- the impact of recent arrests
- the attack by Abu Dujana al Khorasani
- the difference between Pakistan Taliban and Afghanistan Taliban
- whether Haqqani or the Pakistan or Afghan Taliban support global jihad and an extension of their operations into the global realm
- his opinion on other militant groups in Iraq, Somalia, the Arabian Penisula, Kashmir, Turkestan, Sudan, Morocco, Algeria
- lots of questions about Hamas and general questions about whether the Taliban wish push beyond jihad in Afghanistan to liberate Jerusalem
- position on Iran, questions about Baluchistan
- position on Hekmatyar
- position on Pakistan
- the David Rhode escape
- the US soldier held captive and prisoner exchanges more generally as well as recent claims about exchange for Siddiqui
- his position on elections in Afghanistan after a US withdrawal
- the role of women in the Afghan jihad
- jihadist media and his exposure to it
- position on China
- position on using drug money to fund jihad
- whether the Taliban will demand reparations after US withdrawal
- whether he is getting support from groups in the Arabian Peninsula
- whether Mullah Omar has authority to approve attacks outside of Afghanistan and whether he would globalise the jihad
- his position in relation to Mullah Omar and bin Laden
- the relationship between the Taliban and al Qaeda–quite a few questions on this
- whether or not bin Laden would be put on trial by Omar if he returned to Afghanistan under new Taliban rule (clearly this reader has read Abu Walid’s work
As I said earlier, many of these types of questions are normally thrown at al Qaeda leaders, as the defacto leaders of global jihad, so I find it fascinating that Haqqani is being asked similar questions.
I wonder whether this is because they genuinely think he has this authority or because he is more accessible (especially since AQ’s As Sahaab has totally gone down the toilet courtesy of Adam Gadahn taking over the reins) and Q&A’s with al Qaeda have been few and far between. Although having said that, there was one a few months ago. These questions to Haqqani weren’t quite at the level of that Q&A in terms of explicitly seeking fatwas, but they are moving in that direction.
How he responds to these I think will be telling and will reveal how this particular wing is setting itself up, with an eye on the US withdrawal from Afghanistan and what comes next. Haqqani will have to be careful because a lot of these questions fall firmly into al Qaeda’s ambit and bin Laden is not at all fond of strategic competition. Mind you with Sahaab the way it is and bin Laden’s absence from the scene and Yahya and co being unusually quiet, AQ may not be able to do much about this. Or alternatively we may see it put something out in the future that attempts to put it firmly back in the mix in relation to the issues that are being raised in this Q&A. If I were AQ I’d be seriously worried about my brand value and strategic control when my adherents are asking a group with a thus far local agenda all about my ambit of global jihad. This leads me back to Sahaab being down the toilet and AQ having a serious strategic communication problem of late.
Anyway, that’s just my off the top of my head thoughts on the matter. I wish I had time to write something more considered about this, but I’m knee deep in chapter edits. Link is below (in Arabic for those interested)
I’ve been reading through the earlier chapters of my thesis today trying to cull words and quite frankly would prefer to stab myself in the eye with a pen. However, I digress.
Anyway, I came across this quote from an interview by Robert Kaplan in 1988 with an old mujahideen commander from the first Afghan war, who was executed by the Taliban in October 2001.
You want to know why it’s dumb to attack Jalalabad? Because it’s dumb to lose ten thousand lives. There’s no way the mujahidin can take the city now. It’s surrounded by a river, mountains, and minefields. And if we do take it, what’s going to happen? The Russians will bomb the shit out of us, that’s what….
And if they don’t bomb the shit out of us, then we have Jalalabad and they have Kabul—parity, two Afghan governments. Then there will be pressure for us to negotiate. No, we must take no cities. Take everything but.
The last three sentences struck me, and to my mind, little has changed in mujahideen strategy since then. The Taliban may carry out attacks in the big cities, but they too follow this strategy. Of course after a US withdrawal this would no doubt change, but until then this strategy will stand.
The remaining nine members of the Quetta Shura who are still at large are believed to be Mullah Hassan Rehmani, the former governor of Kandahar province in Taliban regime; Hafiz Abdul Majeed, the former chief of the Afghan Intelligence and the surge commander of the Taliban in southern Afghanistan; Amir Khan Muttaqi, a former minister in Taliban regime; Agha Jan Mutasim, the Taliban’s head of political affairs; Mullah Abdul Jalil, the head of the Taliban’s shadowy interior ministry, Sirajuddin Haqqani, the son of Maulvi Jalaluddin Haqqani and the commander of the Haqqani militant network; Mullah Abdul Latif Mansoor, the commander of the Mansoor network in Paktika and Khost; Mullah Abdur Razaq Akhundzada, the former corps commander for northern Afghanistan; and Abdullah Mutmain, a former minister during the Taliban regime who currently looks after the financial affairs of the extremist militia.
That’s my 2am effort at stating the rather obvious. But I do have a point to make as to why we can expect to see more..
I won’t weigh in on the “why now” aspect of yesterday’s attacks in Kabul but it is my belief that we can expect to see a lot more of these types of attack and in particular the targeting of aid projects and their infrastructure, aid workers and their places of residence.
The Taliban’s magazine (the issue number escapes me) recently reprinted parts of Abu Walid al Masri’s strategic guidance from late last year, wherein he suggested attacking these particular target sets, along with others, as a means to force the withdrawal of foreign forces and foreigners from Afghanistan. It was also suggested as a tactic because it would force more troops into protection roles thus reducing their capacity for offensive action.
I can’t remember if they re-printed the whole article, or if Abu Walid included it in one of his articles, but I definitely remember seeing some of it again in a recent Taliban publication.
As I’ve noted previously, republication of such guidance amounts to official sanction of these types of tactics against these target classes, and probably portends to a broader adoption of them–if the previous example of Abu Walid’s suggestion of hostage taking and the ensuing fatwa by Mullah Omar is anything to go by.
I would be interested to hear Alex and Felix’s opinion on this as they generally have their ear to the ground on how much traction guidance like this actually has in the field.
I had planned to write an article about this guidance, and got halfway through it, then hit thesis wall, so it’s on pause. Hopefully I can get to it soon.
Update: re-reading this made me realise I should clarify that I haven’t seen Abu Walid directly encourage suicide attacks against these target sets; my comments were more directed at the target sets, rather than the tactic.
Update 2 : Alex has graciously taken the time to answer in the comments section below. Thanks Alex!
This is interesting…
It’s substantially smaller than recent editions, which has me curious in light of recent round ups and the ripples from those arrests….
UPDATE: On the menu tonight is humble pie. Mmmm yummy.
Seems I caught the mag when the TOC was still being uploaded, and being lazy I tend to just look at the online version rather than download. So it is a full edition. I plan to procrastinate later tonight and see what other articles are in it.
Anyway, Abu Walid has two articles in there. One is an interesting historical piece on Haqqani and the beginnings of the first Afghan jihad, which I plan on adding to the stack of reading I hope to get to one of these days.