Tag Archives: Afghanistan

What Can We Learn From Iran’s Foreign Minister?

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 3 May 2021

Iranian Foreign Minister Muhammad Javad Zarif, December 2020, during an interview with Lotfullah Najafizada of TOLO News

Iran’s Foreign Minister, Muhammad Javad Zarif, took part in an oral history project intended for internal use by the clerical dictatorship in February and on 25 April the audio was leaked—so goes the story. There is every reason to think this is a controlled leak, which is to say an information operation or a piece of strategic messaging—more pejoratively, propaganda or disinformation: choose the terminology as you will—intended to assist the Iranian theocracy as it works through its negotiations on the nuclear file with the new American administration of President Joe Biden. Still, there are some insights from this episode, as with an interview Zarif gave—focused on Afghanistan—in December. Continue reading

Islamic State Newsletter Claims an Attack on Russia in Syria, Operations in Pakistan and Afghanistan

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 25 April 2021

Al-Naba 283, p. 8

The 283rd edition of Islamic State’s (IS) weekly newsletter, Al-Naba, released on 22 April 2021, contained the usual reports on IS’s guerrilla and terrorist operations, stretching from Africa to Syria and Iraq at the “Centre” to South Asia, plus the main editorial and an ideological essay. Amid the reports was IS’s response to a controversial episode in eastern Syria involving the Russians, and a sign of an uptick in IS’s operations in Afghanistan and Pakistan as the U.S.-led NATO forces prepare to abandon Afghanistan. Continue reading

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