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 →
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 →
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 →
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 →
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 →
Al-Qaeda’s General Command released a statement earlier today through As-Sahab Media congratulating the Taliban on its victory in Afghanistan. This is the first statement from Al-Qaeda Central since the cataclysmic events in Afghanistan over the past few weeks. The official silence of the organisation heretofore—even as its operatives worked in lock-step with the rest of the coalition of jihadists run by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) to conquer the country—is almost certainly deliberate, to allow the Taliban and the United States political cover to ensure the American departure while avoiding the ramifications of Al-Qaeda controlling the Afghan state, the very thing the mission in Afghanistan was intended to (and had succeeded in, so long as it was sustained) undoing. The statement itself is exactly what one would expect: gloating about the West’s defeat and the damage to American hegemony, saying this proves that jihad is the only way, and that the Taliban’s “Islamic Emirate” is merely the first step in a global campaign to bring the world under the rule of the shari’a. The text of the English-language statement is posted below, with some minor editions for transliteration and translation. Continue reading →
The suicide bombings at the Kabul airport are almost certainly the work of the Islamic State’s “Khorasan Province” (ISKP), the branch of the organisation in Afghanistan and Pakistan that was officially recognised by Islamic State (ISIS) “Centre” in 2015. The group had been oddly quiet since the fall of Kabul, and we can now see why. Continue reading →
Taliban patrol in Wazir Akbar Khan, Kabul, 18 August 2021 [image source]
Having recently complained about the lack of emphasis in the media coverage of Afghanistan on the fact that Pakistan controls the Taliban, it is only right to note that there have been some recent signs of improvement. Continue reading →