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
Mustafa al-Khadhemi, the Iraqi Prime Minister, announced on the morning of 11 October that the Iraqi National Intelligence Service (INIS) had arrested Sami Jassim al-Jaburi (Haji Hamid), the effective finance emir of the Islamic State (ISIS), in “a complex external operation”. Continue reading
Since the takeover of Afghanistan by a coalition of jihadists controlled by Pakistan, the one neighbouring state to vocally object is Tajikistan, which has extended support to the remaining anti-Taliban resistance. This is a reprise of Tajikistan’s role in the 1990s, when it provided a rear base to the United Islamic Front (UIF) or “Northern Alliance”, and was the gateway for the states supporting the UIF, notably Pakistan’s great rival India. Continue reading
The Islamic State (IS) released the 302nd edition of Al-Naba, its weekly newsletter, on 2 September. The major focus of Al-Naba 302 was the 26 August bombing of the Kabul Airport by IS’s “Khorasan Province” (ISKP) that killed nearly 200 people, including thirteen members of the U.S. military (eleven marines, one soldier, and one navy corpsman), and wounded 150 people. Continue reading
By Oved Lobel on 1 September 2021
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
Kabul fell to the Taliban on 15 August. There is so much more to be said about the disastrous decisions the United States that precipitated this calamity, not least the so-called peace process whose only concrete effects were to weaken and demoralise the Afghan government, while bolstering the ranks of the Taliban by forcing the release of thousands of jihadists. The chaotic Saigon scenes have testified to the incompetence of Joe Biden’s administration, even at administrative tasks, and the horrors are only just beginning.
This post has a slightly different focus, namely the role of Pakistan, specifically its military and Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), as the author and operator of the Taliban and allied jihadists. This factor—absolutely fundamental to the conflict—has been, for twenty years, bizarrely absent in much of the coverage, and suggestions recur to this day that the Taliban is actually a problem for Pakistan. When the Pakistan dimension does come up, it will either be to note that Pakistan has some kind of role in funding or otherwise “supporting” the Taliban, and at its strongest the Taliban will be called a “proxy” of the ISI.