The Taliban Supreme Leader Emerges—Maybe

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 1 November 2021

Hibatullah Akhundzada

A ten-minute audio tape attributed to the Taliban’s Supreme Leader Hibatullah Akhundzada appeared on 30 October, the first such communication since the jihadist takeover of Afghanistan in August. Hailed as Akhundzada’s “first public appearance” or his decision to step into “the limelight”, the reality is more complicated. Continue reading

The Capture of the Islamic State “Finance Minister” and the Impact of Leadership Losses

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 22 October 2021

Sami Jassim al-Jaburi (Haji Hamid) | IMAGE SOURCE

Mustafa al-Khadhemi, the Iraqi Prime Minister, announced on the morning of 11 October that the Iraqi National Intelligence Service (INIS) had arrested Sami Jassim al-Jaburi (Haji Hamid), the effective finance emir of the Islamic State (ISIS), in “a complex external operation”. Continue reading

A Case of Red Terror in Spain: The Cárcel Modelo Massacre

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 8 October 2021

Cárcel Modelo, 1937 || MINISTERIO DE CULTURA. ESPAÑA

A fire was started at the Cárcel Modelo (Model Jail) in Madrid on 22 August 1936 by “common” criminals displeased with the pace of releases promised by the Republican government. The Republicans convinced themselves that the Carcel Modelo fire was a “fascist” uprising, brought about by conspiracy with General Franco’s forces outside the prison walls, who had initiated their rebellion a month earlier. The fire was used as a pretext by the Republicans to carry out a massacre of prisoners that lasted into the early hours of 23 August, in scenes reminiscent of the French Revolution’s September 1792 atrocities that signalled the onset of the Terror. There were Rightist among the victims and some military men; there were also many liberals and non-Soviet Leftists. Continue reading

India’s Options in Afghanistan

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 6 October 2021

Army Jawans hold the National Flag near the snow-covered border on the 71st Republic Day (ANI Photo)

The U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman arrived in India today for a three-day visit. Afghanistan will be high on the agenda. Continue reading

Tajikistan and the Afghan Resistance

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 1 October 2021

Since the takeover of Afghanistan by a coalition of jihadists controlled by Pakistan, the one neighbouring state to vocally object is Tajikistan, which has extended support to the remaining anti-Taliban resistance. This is a reprise of Tajikistan’s role in the 1990s, when it provided a rear base to the United Islamic Front (UIF) or “Northern Alliance”, and was the gateway for the states supporting the UIF, notably Pakistan’s great rival India. Continue reading

Islamic State Escalates in Afghanistan

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 30 September 2021

Al-Naba 305, page four. Caption on the picture reads: “The moment an explosive device blew up a vehicle of the apostate Taliban militia in the city of Jalalabad.”

The 305th edition of Al-Naba, the Islamic State (IS) newsletter, released on 23 September, documents the serious escalation in Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP) attacks over the preceding week. This consequence of the NATO withdrawal was entirely predictable—and predicted. Continue reading

Islamic State Profiles the Man Who Led the Last Stand of the Caliphate

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 20 September 2021

Al-Naba 304, page 10

The 304th edition of Al-Naba, the Islamic State’s (IS) weekly newsletter, published on 16 September, mostly consists of reports from the various wilayats (provinces) about military activities: at the Centre in Iraq and Syria, in Egypt, Nigeria, and even further south in Africa, in the Congo. Notably IS keeps quiet about Afghanistan in Al-Naba 304, perhaps related to the series of attacks by the Islamic State’s Khorasan Province (ISKP) over the weekend: ISKP is often silent before planned attacks. Al-Naba 304 devotes pages ten and eleven to a profile of a veteran Iraqi jihadist, Abu Umar al-Khlifawi, who led the jihadists for a time in the final pocket of the caliphate at Baghuz, Syria, despite previous injuries that nearly cost him his hand and blinded him in one eye, before he trekked on foot for a month back to Iraq and ended his life as the military emir of Fallujah. A summary of that profile is below.
Continue reading

The Special Risks to Britain from the Jihadist Takeover of Afghanistan

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 10 September 2021

Members of a Taliban Red Unit in the Alingar District of Laghman province in Afghanistan, 2020 || Image credit: Jim Huylebroek, The New York Times

The restoration of the Taliban-Qaeda regime in Afghanistan is a terrorism threat to the whole world, but Britain has some unique vulnerabilities, as MI5 Director general Ken McCallum warned today. Continue reading

Islamic State Says the Massacre at Kabul Airport Shows They Are the True Jihadists

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 9 September 2021

Front page of Al-Naba 302

The Islamic State (IS) released the 302nd edition of Al-Naba, its weekly newsletter, on 2 September. The major focus of Al-Naba 302 was the 26 August bombing of the Kabul Airport by IS’s “Khorasan Province” (ISKP) that killed nearly 200 people, including thirteen members of the U.S. military (eleven marines, one soldier, and one navy corpsman), and wounded 150 people. Continue reading

The Haqqani Network, Al-Qaeda, and Pakistan’s Jihad in Afghanistan

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 7 September 2021

Anti-Taliban fighters watch U.S. airstrikes at Tora Bora, 16 December 2001 || REUTERS/Erik de Castro

The State Department spokesman Ned Price said, on 27 August, “The Taliban and the Haqqani Network are separate entities”. The next day, the Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby slightly modulated this, having first tried to dismiss the question, by conceding there was “a certain amount of … commingling … there’s a marbling … of Taliban and Haqqani”, before saying he was “pushing back … [on] the relevance of that discussion”.

What these officials were trying to do was two-fold: (1) to refute press reports that U.S. officials in Kabul had shared “a list of names of American citizens, green card holders, and Afghan allies” with the Taliban, amounting to having “put all those Afghans on a kill list”, as one “defense official” put it; and (2) to deny that the U.S. coordination with the Taliban to evacuate people the jihadists wanted to kill—a surreal enough situation—had involved the additional political and legal problems of coordinating with a formally registered Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO), as the Haqqani Network is. Continue reading