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.
The Taliban took over Afghanistan’s capital on Sunday after a nine-day offensive captured one provincial capital after another. The United States had already decided to abandon the country, and without the US the other NATO states had no choice but to leave. It was quite clear that the Afghan state would crumble in the absence of a Western presence, though it seems President Joe Biden thought he would have a longer “decent interval” before the Saigon evacuation scenes and the massacres began. 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
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