Tag Archives: Osama bin Laden

The Challenge for Western Intelligence in Talibanized Afghanistan

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 18 June 2022

A U.S. helicopter above the American Embassy in Kabul, 15 August 2021 | AP

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Islamic State Attacks Israel for the First Time in Five Years

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 31 March 2022

Israeli security forces reacting to the terrorist attack in Bnei Brak near Tel Aviv, 29 March 2022 || Photo by JACK GUEZ / AFP

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has said his country is “facing a new wave of terrorism” after five attacks in the last ten days have killed eleven people. The Islamic State (IS) has effectively admitted to carrying out two of the atrocities, the first time in five years the terrorist group has carried out attacks in the Jewish state. This hiatus, partly a reflection of the fact that, unlike some other Islamist extremists, IS does not make the anti-Israel cause a central plank of its propaganda, also reflects the relatively small inroads IS’s ideology has made to this point among Palestinian and Israeli Arabs. Whether this is now changing is unclear. Continue reading

The Haqqani Network, Al-Qaeda, and Pakistan’s Jihad in Afghanistan

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 7 September 2021

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

Al-Qaeda Congratulates the Taliban on its Victory in Afghanistan

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 31 August 2021

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

Getting Real About Pakistan After the Jihadist Takeover of Afghanistan

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 20 August 2021

Khalil Haqqani, a senior Taliban leader and simultaneously a leader of Al-Qaeda’s Haqqani Network, leads Friday prayers at the Pul-i-Khishti, the largest mosque in Kabul, 20 August 2021

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

New Speech Does Not Provide Proof of Life for Al-Qaeda’s Leader

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 12 March 2021

A nearly-22-minute video was released by As-Sahab, the media wing of Al-Qaeda, on 12 March 2021, entitled, “The Wound of the Rohingya is the Wound of the Umma” or “The Wound of the Rohingya is the Wound of the Islamic Nation”. More than anything actually said or presented, the video itself was the story since it comes after credible reports in November 2020 that Al-Qaeda’s emir, Ayman al-Zawahiri, had died a month earlier. The only question was whether the video would provide proof-of-life for Al-Zawahiri, and it pointedly did not. Continue reading

The Jihad Factor in Bosnia

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 20 January 2021

Last week, as one of his last acts in office, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo gave a speech about Iran’s collaboration with Al-Qaeda. It was unfortunate that Pompeo did this at this time and in this way, with such blatant political intent, because the factual content of Pompeo’s speech was unassailable: the Islamic Republic’s long relationship with Al-Qaeda does stretch back about three decades, the killing of Al-Qaeda’s deputy Abdullah Ahmed Abdullah (Abu Muhammad al-Masri) in Tehran in August 2020 is demonstrative of a shift in the strategic positioning of the organisation away from Pakistan to Iran, and even the part of Pompeo’s speech that got the most pushback—about Tehran’s contact with the 9/11 killers—is not controversial and is not new.

Unmentioned in Pompeo’s speech was one of the crucibles that forged this relationship, and forged Al-Qaeda into something more than a regional menace, namely the Bosnian war of 1992-5. Continue reading

The Death of Al-Qaeda’s Leaders and the Iran Factor

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 16 November 2020

Abdullah Ahmed Abdullah (Abu Muhammad al-Masri) and Ayman al-Zawahiri. // Image sources: FBI, AFP

Credible reports over the last few days indicate that Al-Qaeda’s leader Ayman al-Zawahiri is dead, and there are even clearer reports that two of his most senior deputies have been killed. The terrorist network itself, however, will survive. Al-Qaeda has, in the last ten years, survived the killing of its charismatic founder Usama bin Laden, the upheaval of the “Arab spring”, and the rise of the Islamic State (IS)—all of them greater challenges than whatever short-term turbulence might attend the succession process. Continue reading

Iran Admits Collaborating with Al-Qaeda in Bosnia

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 5 February 2020

The Mujahideen Battalion (El-Mudžahid) in Bosnia in the early 1990s [image source]

The clerical regime in Iran established a relationship with Al-Qaeda shortly after its foundation thirty years ago. One of Tehran’s and Al-Qaeda’s first joint projects was in Bosnia during the war (1992-5), where Iran helped to make Al-Qaeda a truly global phenomenon—with a foothold in Europe. For various reasons—some well-intended, some not—this fact has been either unknown or (shall we say) “controversial” in the West in the decades since. It is, therefore, important to note that there have been several recent revelations from in and around the Iranian regime itself that confirm the Islamic Republic’s involvement in the Balkans in the early 1990s. Continue reading

Qassem Sulaymani and the Future of Iran’s Imperial Project

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 7 January 2020

At 1 AM on 3 January, an American drone strike killed the head of Iran’s Quds Force, the division of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) charged with exporting the Islamic revolution, and his Iraqi deputy, Jamal al-Ibrahimi (Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis). Sulaymani was the strategic driver of Iran’s expansionist policy in the Middle East, as well as the orchestrator of its terrorism and assassinations further afield. Unlike with the killing of Al-Qaeda’s Usama bin Laden in 2011 or the Islamic State’s Ibrahim al-Badri (Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi) in October, where the dynamics shifted little, Sulaymani’s death opens up questions about the direction in which the Middle East will now move. Continue reading