When the Taliban swept into the capital of Afghanistan on Sunday, little of the coverage focused on Pakistan and yet that was where this victory was made. This is a pattern that has persisted throughout the war. Continue reading
In early July, President Joe Biden confirmed his intention to withdraw all American troops from Afghanistan by September 2021. Biden cited a February 2020 U.S. “agreement” with the Taliban that he had “inherited” from the Trump administration. In truth, President Donald Trump had made no agreement. He had already begun pulling troops out by October 2019 and signed a fig leaf to cover his unconditional withdrawal.
Biden reassessed other Trump policies and could have reassessed this one, not least since the Taliban were in violation even of their vague paper promises — most notably on their commitment to deny space to al Qaeda and negotiate peace in good faith. The truth is that Biden is ideologically committed, as Barack Obama and Trump were, to ending American involvement in “forever wars.” Regardless, this does not mean those wars end or the threats that drew the United States in actually go away. Continue reading
The 285th edition of Al-Naba, the weekly newsletter of the Islamic State (IS), released on 6 May, had a biography of Abu Muhammad al-Furqan, one of the most important IS leaders, the head of its Central Media Department and its operational ruler when he was killed in September 2016. Continue reading
Abdul Munim al-Badawi (Abu Hamza al-Muhajir), the then-leader of Al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia (AQM), released his fourth audio statement on 28 September 2006. The speech was entitled, “Come to a Just Word” (تعالوا إلى كلمة سواء); an English transcript was released by the jihadists and is reproduced below. Continue reading
Hamid al-Zawi (Abu Umar al-Baghdadi), the second leader of the Islamic State movement, known at the time as the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI), made his ninth speech out of what would prove to be twenty-three, entitled “Al-Deen al-Naseeha” or “Religion is Advice” (الدين النصيحة), on 14 February 2008. The speech was something of a rarity in that it focused on Palestine. A transcript of the speech was put out by ISI and is reproduced below with edits for grammar and clarity. Continue reading
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
Abd al-Munim al-Badawi (Abu Hamza al-Muhajir) had become the leader of Al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia (AQM) after its founder, Ahmad al-Khalayleh, much better known as Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, had been killed in June 2006. AQM was the dominant faction within the Islamic State (IS) when it was announced in October 2006 as a merger of jihadist insurgents, and for that reason most analysts at the time considered IS a “front” for AQM. When IS’s emir, Hamid al-Zawi (Abu Umar al-Baghdadi), made his first speech in December 2006 affirming the statehood declaration, most read this as the foreign-led AQM putting an Iraqi face on their enterprise. In fact, as can now be seen, dynamics were essentially as presented by the jihadists.
Crucial was a speech Al-Badawi gave on 10 November 2006, his fifth of what would prove to be fifteen, released by Al-Furqan Media Foundation within IS’s “ministry of information”, entitled, “I’na al-Hukm I’la Allah” (إن الحكم إلا لله), something like “Judgment is Only for God” or “Judgment is God’s Only”, where he gave his bay’a (oath of allegiance) to Al-Zawi, put AQM’s troops under Al-Zawi’s command, and effectively dissolved Al-Qaeda’s presence in Iraq. A transcript of the speech is available here, and a summary of the speech is below. Continue reading
The world has been captivated this week by the scenes of an insurrectionary mob overrunning the United States Capitol at the behest of President Donald Trump. It is unlikely that many people remember or even know that nearly forty years ago, this building—the meeting place of the U.S. Congress, the place where laws are made—was bombed by a Communist terrorist group, a group remarkable for its all-female membership. A new book, Tonight We Bombed the Capitol: The Explosive Story of M19, America’s First Female Terrorist Group, by William Rosenau, a senior policy historian at CNA and a fellow in the International Security program at New America, examines this forgotten episode. Continue reading
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
The Islamic State (IS) published the 246th edition of its newsletter, Al-Naba, on 6 August, which highlighted the 2-3 August prison break in the Nangarhar province of Afghanistan, a massive IS operation lasting twenty-plus hours, and proclaimed that freeing IS jihadists from prisons will now be a priority for the group. In 2012, shortly after the American withdrawal from Iraq, IS announced Operation BREAKING THE WALLS, which went on for a year, breaking open Iraqi prisons. The narrative of the IS’s “defeat” by the Surge and Awakening of 2007-08 is problematic in some of its fundamentals, but among the reasons it proved to be so fleeting in practice was this prison-break campaign that restored to the battlefield key IS operatives who planned the caliphate project in 2014. It is, therefore, alarming to see the arrival of such a campaign in Afghanistan at the moment the U.S. is headed, heedlessly, for the exit. Continue reading