Tag Archives: Afghanistan

Qassem Sulaymani: Life and Ambition

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 2 March 2021

A year ago, U.S. President Donald Trump gave the order to kill Qassem Soleimani, the de facto deputy leader of Iran. Arash Azizi’s The Shadow Commander: Soleimani, the U.S., and Iran’s Global Ambitions is an effort to explain who Soleimani was, how he rose to controlling the lives of millions of people well outside the borders of Iran, and how in the end he was brought down. Continue reading

Russia’s View of the Endgame in Afghanistan

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 23 February 2021

Russia’s presidential envoy for Afghanistan Zamir Kabulov

Russian ruler Vladimir Putin’s current special envoy for Afghanistan, Zamir Kabulov, spoke to Sputnik’s Tajik service on 17 February, and a translation of the interview is published below with some interesting sections highlighted in bold. Kabulov was the KGB resident in Kabul in the 1980s and early 1990s, and later in the 1990s, during the Taliban’s reign over Kabul and much of the rest of the country, he was an adviser to the United Nations peace envoy. Continue reading

Islamic State Claims America, Asad, and Turkey Are Conspiring Against It In Syria

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 27 January 2021

Al-Naba 270, p. 3

In the 270th edition of Al-Naba, the Islamic State’s (IS) weekly newsletter, on 22 January, the main editorial on page three is entitled, “Towards A ‘Unified Syria’ Under the Rule of Unbelief!” The basic premise is that the United States is trying to orchestrate a reunification of Syria that keeps Bashar al-Asad in power, supported by Russia (with, curiously, no mention of Iran, not in the whole article); brings the PKK (“Syrian Democratic Forces”) home to Damascus; and reconciles the “Awakening” (rebel) forces supported by “secular Turkey” to this state system. Continue reading

The Jihad Factor in Bosnia

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 20 January 2021

Last week, as one of his last acts in office, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo gave a speech about Iran’s collaboration with Al-Qaeda. It was unfortunate that Pompeo did this at this time and in this way, with such blatant political intent, because the factual content of Pompeo’s speech was unassailable: the Islamic Republic’s long relationship with Al-Qaeda does stretch back about three decades, the killing of Al-Qaeda’s deputy Abdullah Ahmed Abdullah (Abu Muhammad al-Masri) in Tehran in August 2020 is demonstrative of a shift in the strategic positioning of the organisation away from Pakistan to Iran, and even the part of Pompeo’s speech that got the most pushback—about Tehran’s contact with the 9/11 killers—is not controversial and is not new.

Unmentioned in Pompeo’s speech was one of the crucibles that forged this relationship, and forged Al-Qaeda into something more than a regional menace, namely the Bosnian war of 1992-5. Continue reading

The Death of Al-Qaeda’s Leaders and the Iran Factor

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 16 November 2020

Abdullah Ahmed Abdullah (Abu Muhammad al-Masri) and Ayman al-Zawahiri. // Image sources: FBI, AFP

Credible reports over the last few days indicate that Al-Qaeda’s leader Ayman al-Zawahiri is dead, and there are even clearer reports that two of his most senior deputies have been killed. The terrorist network itself, however, will survive. Al-Qaeda has, in the last ten years, survived the killing of its charismatic founder Usama bin Laden, the upheaval of the “Arab spring”, and the rise of the Islamic State (IS)—all of them greater challenges than whatever short-term turbulence might attend the succession process. Continue reading

Islamic State Newsletter Highlights War With Al-Qaeda in Africa

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 15 November 2020

Al-Naba 260, page 10

The Islamic State (IS) put out the 260th edition of its newsletter, Al-Naba, on 13 November. Much of the focus was on IS’s war with its jihadi rival, Al-Qaeda, in northern and western Africa. There are reports of guerrilla operations from elsewhere in Africa, from the Centre (in Iraq and Syria), as well as from Egypt and Afghanistan. IS notably feels secure enough in the strength of its networks to draw attention to its responsibility for several attacks in the Turkish-held areas of northern Syria, and there is a rare report of an attack in Indonesia. Al-Naba 260 also has IS’s response to the U.S. Election. Continue reading

Islamic State Newsletter Claims the Vienna Attack

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 6 November 2020

Front page of Al-Naba 259, celebrates the Vienna attack

The Islamic State (IS) released the 259th edition of its newsletter, Al-Naba, on 5 November, which reiterated IS’s admission that it was behind the 2 November shooting rampage in Vienna that murdered four people and wounded twenty-two. IS had posted the killer’s bay’a video on Telegram during the attack, and the following day formally claimed the Vienna attack, naming the killer by his kunya as Abu Dujana al-Albani. This is the first claim of an attack in the West by IS since the stabbing in Streatham, London, by Sudesh Amman on 2 February 2020. Continue reading

Saudi Arabia and Prison Breaks: Islamic State’s Spokesman Outlines the Group’s Priorities

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 25 October 2020

The spokesman of the Islamic State (IS), Abu Hamza al-Qurayshi, released his fourth speech since his appointment a year ago on 18 October 2020, entitled, “So Relate the Stories That Perhaps They Will Give Thought”. Continue reading

Islamic State Says America and the Taliban Are Conspiring in Afghanistan, Continues to Focus on Africa

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 20 September 2020

Al-Naba 252, page 3

The 252nd edition of Al-Naba, the weekly newsletter of the Islamic State (IS), was released on 17 September.

Al-Naba 252 contained reports of guerrilla attacks and targeted assassinations at the Centre—against Iraqi security forces and the Iranian proxy militias in the Hashd al-Shabi in Iraq, and against the SDF/PKK in eastern Syria—and the “West African State”, Chad and Niger specifically. IS has been making the Maghreb a primary front since the caliphate collapsed. There was, as ever, the ideological essay on page eleven (of twelve).

The two most notable aspects of Al-Naba 252—expanded on below—were the devotion of the main editorial on page three to an attack on the Taliban for the deal they have made with the Americans over Afghanistan, and IS finally claiming responsibility for the murder of the French aid workers in Niger on 9 August, while continuing its ideological war with Al-Qaeda in Africa. Continue reading

Losing in Yemen, Winning in Afghanistan, Islamic State Weighs in on Arab-Israeli Peace

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 22 August 2020

Al-Naba 248

The Islamic State (IS) produced the 248th edition of Al-Naba, its newsletter, on 20 August. The front page was devoted to recent events in Yemen, which had not gone well for IS—although one could easily miss that fact when reading a story that a focuses almost entirely on enemy casualties and the failures of others. IS is, of course, not pleased about the Israeli normalisation of relations with the United Arab Emirates, but Al-Naba makes clear that it is more perturbed that Muslims should believe Turkey or Qatar are any better than the U.A.E., despite their different approach to Islamists. Al-Naba 248 documents IS’s continuing advances in Afghanistan—and, indeed, Iraq, Syria, Africa (the Sahel), and Egypt. There is also a report of insurgent activity in the Philippines. Continue reading