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 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
At the beginning of September, New America published a paper, based on recovered al-Qaeda documents, which concluded that there was “no evidence of cooperation” between the terrorist group and the Islamic Republic of Iran. New America’s study lauds itself for taking an approach that “avoids much of the challenge of politicization” in the discussion of Iran’s relationship with al-Qaeda. This is, to put it mildly, questionable.
A narrative gained currency in certain parts of the foreign policy community during the days of the Iraq war, and gained traction since the rise of the Islamic State (IS) in 2014, that Iran can be a partner in the region, at least against (Sunni) terrorism, since Tehran shares this goal with the West. Under President Barack Obama, this notion became policy: the US moved to bring Iran’s revolutionary government in from the cold, to integrate it into the international system. Continue reading
The new book by the investigative journalists Adrian Levy and Catherine Scott-Clark, The Exile: The Flight of Osama bin Laden, charts the career of al-Qaeda’s founder, Osama bin Laden, up to the day he became a household name—11 September 2001—through his downfall in 2011, to the end of 2016, when al-Qaeda was more powerful than ever. It is a thoroughly absorbing account, bringing to light vast tranches of new facts, including many intricate details of how al-Qaeda operated on a human, day-to-day level, and of those states and para-states that shielded the terror network, collaborated with it, and enabled it—and still do.
The gathering of the Bin Laden network in Sudan and then in the Taliban-held areas of Afghanistan in the 1990s is a familiar story, but the splits and debates among the Arab jihadists around Bin Laden, including the opposition of significant numbers of them to the 9/11 massacre, is perhaps less well known. The authors trace out how Bin Laden manipulated his own quasi-institutions to get his way. First, Bin Laden took on the plan of a man, Khalid Shaykh Muhammad (KSM), who was not even a member of al-Qaeda, and then, ahead of the crucial vote, packed the shura (consultation) council with ultra-zealous Egyptians by engineering a merger between al-Qaeda and Islamic Jihad, led by Ayman al-Zawahiri. Continue reading
The 22 March attack outside Westminster by Khalid Masood is the most significant act of Islamist terrorism since the 7 July 2005 bombing by al-Qaeda of the London public transport system. Masood’s attack highlights a number of historic trends in British jihadism and starkly poses the question of the extent of IS’s penetration of the United Kingdom. Continue reading