On 28 July 2009 the popular jihadi blogger Akram Hijazi initiated a series of articles under the title, “The Power of God in the Great Empires.” He titled the first installment “The American Strategy in Afghanistan,” the second “Dismembering the Strategy,” the third “Strategic Crisis and NATO’s Humiliations,” and the fourth, which is the last and not yet published, “The Realities of the Taliban’s War.”
In the first article, Hijazi questions if there ever really was an American strategy in Afghanistan and he asserts that observers will have to wait and see how the new strategy will play out given Afghanistan’s history as the “Graveyard of Empires.” However, his tone is not optimistic. He then continues to describe the evolution of the US Afghanistan strategy by quoting from US public officials and Western media. The strategy he describes is basic counterinsurgency, increased troop levels, and eliminating safe havens in Pakistan.
Hijazi’s second article starts by stating that the old strategy was to destroy al-Qaida and the Taliban, but instead they have become stronger. He claims that the strategic logic for the US is “killing and destruction, nothing else. This is barbarism, not strategy…. This barbaric logic is what the US and its allies have implemented, through targeting civilians, in frantic attempts to eliminate al-Qaida and the Taliban from [their] popular embrace.” Hijazi continues that after seven years of failure the US decided to change its strategy from killing civilians to protecting them in addition to helping the Afghan government impose its will in Afghanistan. Finally, he states that the new strategy is an attempt to plug the holes in the old strategy, which respected nothing about Afghanistan and built a corrupt central government lacking institutions, infrastructure, a military, or capabilities.
He cites the debate (see here) in the US on whether or not US forces should continue its counterinsurgency efforts in Afghanistan. He mentions calls for a withdrawal from the AFPAK region because al-Qaida is no longer a strategic threat to the US, which means Afghanistan and Pakistan also are not strategic threats. With this he implies that the US is engaged in the region for ulterior motives, which are to divide Muslim lands. Supporting his first implication, he makes a second point stating that the fight against al-Qaida is futile because it is not a nationalist organization or political entity controlling territory.
He also attacks other Arab and Islamic organizations, claiming that for the global jihadi movement, the age of patriotic, nationalist, leftist, and Islam-nationalist battles is over because they have failed. He adds that the “great powers” will not return to Muslim lands because if they do, “domesticated Arab armies or those who claim ‘Islam is the solution’” [the Muslim Brotherhood], will not oppose them; rather, the jihadis will.
According to Hijazi, the US will attempt to implement its strategy on three levels. First, on the military level, Hijazi indicates that the US prompted Pakistan to engage the Taliban in the Swat Valley in order to isolate the area from Afghanistan and deprive the movement of people and supplies between the two counties. Additionally, he states that US analysts believe the Iraq model is appropriate for Afghanistan despite historical, geographic, and environmental differences. Hijazi maintains that efforts to turn tribes against al-Qaida and the Taliban are evidence of this belief, which is really an effort to turn the tribes against each other. He concludes that the changing US military strategy is an indication of increasing Taliban power.
Second, on the civilian or cultural level, he posits that the US has no civilization or history and is not aware of the history of other nations or civilizations such as Afghanistan. As such, the US only knows how to revert to violence and force in dealing with others. He adds that the US military is undergoing a cultural shift from traditional concepts of warfare to counterinsurgency. He concludes with two questions that imply the supposed brutality inherent in the American psyche: 1) If the US does not achieve its goals through protecting populations, will it use force against all who oppose its goals? 2) Will the US also use this force against civilians under its protection?
Finally, on the political level, Hijazi states that the US wants stability and change. However, he believes it will fail in achieving these goals because the US is like someone who “prepares for the trip but misses the train.” He adds that the US wants a “non-centralized” government where every Afghan state would be like its own country and that non-centralization is really an attempt to sow local discord.
Hijazi concludes his report with several statements confirming supposed military, civil, and political gains the Taliban have made recently, which, he states, are indications of the Taliban’s rising power.
Hijazi’s overall message is that the US continues to blunder, while the Taliban are making great strides. His subtle assertions that al-Qaida and the Taliban are better at protecting Muslims indicate that his audience is politically minded Muslims who have not yet aspired to global jihad. Hijazi’s references to common anti-American grievances, such as the perceived use of excessive force and sowing of discord among Muslims, support this assumption. Moreover, he says nothing of al-Qaida’s targeted campaigns against civilians.
Finally, Hijazi’s remarks on the public debate regarding counterinsurgency and the future structure of the US military are interesting. His insistence that the real US strategy is creating discord among Muslims may be an indication that the shift in US policy is worrying jihadis. Similar statements by other jihadi ideologues would add credence to the effectiveness of the new plan.
My next posts will outline part three and, if available, part four of Hijazi’s report.