The 304th edition of Al-Naba, the Islamic State’s (IS) weekly newsletter, published on 16 September, mostly consists of reports from the various wilayats (provinces) about military activities: at the Centre in Iraq and Syria, in Egypt, Nigeria, and even further south in Africa, in the Congo. Notably IS keeps quiet about Afghanistan in Al-Naba 304, perhaps related to the series of attacks by the Islamic State’s Khorasan Province (ISKP) over the weekend: ISKP is often silent before planned attacks. Al-Naba 304 devotes pages ten and eleven to a profile of a veteran Iraqi jihadist, Abu Umar al-Khlifawi, who led the jihadists for a time in the final pocket of the caliphate at Baghuz, Syria, despite previous injuries that nearly cost him his hand and blinded him in one eye, before he trekked on foot for a month back to Iraq and ended his life as the military emir of Fallujah. A summary of that profile is below.
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
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
The fifth speech of the Islamic State’s spokesman, Abu Hamza al-Qurayshi, was released earlier today by Al-Furqan Media under the title, “You Are Most Exalted If You Are [True] Believers” (وأنتم متفوقون إذا كنتم مؤمنين), drawn from Qur’an 3:139. Continue reading
Taha Falaha (Abu Muhammad al-Adnani) is probably most famous for the September 2014 speech he made as the official spokesman for the Islamic State (IS) calling for international terrorist attacks, which initiated a wave of atrocities in Europe and beyond lasting about three years. But Falaha had been in office by that time, formally, since the summer of 2011, and in total he would make two-dozen speeches before he was killed at the end of August 2016. The twelfth speech, entitled, “The Scout Doesn’t Lie to His People”, and reproduced below, was made on 7 January 2014, four days after the onset of a massive assault on IS by the Syrian rebellion that inter alia killed senior jihadist commanders like Samir al-Khlifawi (Haji Bakr or Abu Bakr al-Iraqi). What is interesting about this speech, as revealed in the recent Al-Naba profile of Falaha’s great friend and collaborator, the media emir Wael al-Ta’i (Abu Muhammad al-Furqan), is that Falaha composed this speech while he was besieged by the rebels in Aleppo. Al-Ta’i had evacuated the IS media department and their families, then slipped back into the area surrounded by the rebels to help Falaha compose IS’s first political counter-measure to this unexpected development in Syria, which was followed nearly a fortnight afterwards by a speech from the caliph himself, Ibrahim al-Badri (Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi). Continue reading
The 283rd edition of Islamic State’s (IS) weekly newsletter, Al-Naba, released on 22 April 2021, contained the usual reports on IS’s guerrilla and terrorist operations, stretching from Africa to Syria and Iraq at the “Centre” to South Asia, plus the main editorial and an ideological essay. Amid the reports was IS’s response to a controversial episode in eastern Syria involving the Russians, and a sign of an uptick in IS’s operations in Afghanistan and Pakistan as the U.S.-led NATO forces prepare to abandon Afghanistan. Continue reading