Monthly Archives: September 2021

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.
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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

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

The Leaders of the Islamic State in Afghanistan

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 3 September 2021

The Islamic State’s “Khorasan Province” (ISKP) was announced in January 2015 and swiftly given formal, public recognition by IS-Centre, which had sent a high-level delegation to Afghanistan in November 2014 to oversee the final stages before they announced their project. ISKP has had seven leaders. Continue reading

The Islamic State Benefits From the Taliban Takeover of Afghanistan

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 1 September 2021

In his speech last night announcing the end of the American presence in Afghanistan and what happens next, Secretary of State Blinken said: “The Taliban seeks international legitimacy and support”, and “the Taliban can do that by meeting commitments and obligations”, which include “counter-terrorism”.

To most people it will seem strange that the Taliban could be regarded as a counter-terrorism partner, and it is. Despite the U.S. never formally listing the Taliban as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO), the Taliban is fully integrated in a jihadist network under the control of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) that includes Al-Qaeda. Continue reading

A Historical Look at the Taliban’s Capabilities and Popularity

By Oved Lobel on 1 September 2021

Ahmad Shah Massoud meeting with his fighters in Afghanistan | IMAGE CREDIT: Sandy Gall

Below is a translation of a report by the Russian outlet Kommersant on 20 June 1997 by Oved Lobel, an analyst focused on inter alia Russia’s role in the Islamic world and who recently wrote a report on the history of Afghanistan’s war dating back to the early 1970s. The article is interesting in many respects, perhaps most of all in showing the very limited military capacity of the Taliban, intimately linked to its overwhelming unpopularity among Afghans. The article discusses some of the draconian practices of the Taliban that made it so despised, as well as its governing structure, and focuses on the situation in the summer of 1997, when the Northern Alliance broke the Taliban’s hold on Pul-i-Khumri and halted their offensive on Mazar-i-Sharif. As we now know with hindsight, Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and Army would rescue the Taliban from this predicament. The Pakistani role in underwriting the Taliban’s military advances is covered in the article, and this pattern of Taliban retreats that forced an escalation of Pakistani intervention was a repetitive one during the late 1990s. Ultimately, indeed, as covered in Oved’s report, the Taliban enterprise would basically crumble in 2000 and the Pakistan Army had to overtly invade to allow the jihadists to conquer Taloqan. This history remains relevant at the present. As Afghan President Ashraf Ghani told U.S. President Joe Biden three weeks before his government was overwhelmed by the Taliban on 15 August: “We are facing a full-scale invasion, composed of Taliban [with] full Pakistani planning and logistical support”. Continue reading