Did the Quetta Shura Break With al-Qaida?

Mustafa Hamid, aka Abu’l-Walid al-Masri, published a blog piece a little while ago which discussed the arrest of Mullah Baradir. It’s fascinating reading, especially the first part which deals with the historical role of Mullah Baradir in the Taliban insurgency. It’s already been covered in part by Leah Farrall. I thought I’d add some comment about the opening lines of the article, in which Mustafa Hamid says that the Taliban’s high council made three important decisions after 2001, one of which was to “break the ties between the Taliban and al-Qaida.” Mustafa Hamid has previously said that al-Qaida and the Taliban have moved further apart after 2001, although I don’t think he’s ever been this specific. We have heard similar things in the media, but the reports are hard to confirm. Was there actually a decision in the Quetta shura, led by Mullah Baradir at the time, to break ties

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The Taliban, the UN and al-Qaida

(Editor’s note: Anne tried to post a comment on Vahid Brown’s landmark post on Al-Qaida-Taliban relations. Given that she is one of the world’s foremost experts on this issue, there was no way I was going to let her remarks “disappear” into the comments section. So here they are. Her text begins with a response to an earlier comment about Taliban’s view of the UN). “Mullah Omar’s statement should not be interpreted to mean that he or other Taliban leaders are ready to recognize the United Nations. In fact, the Taliban’s leaders have criticized the UN on a number of occasions, in addition to the one you mention. In 2006 Mullah Omar accused the UN of being nothing but a “tool for America” and Mullah Baradir echoed this in 2008, saying that “we regard all the decisions of the United Nations towards Afghanistan, as American orders.” I do not think

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Taliban’s View of the Upcoming Elections

Afghanistan’s next presidential elections have been scheduled for 20 August 2009, and Taliban’s media committee has already started its campaign. That is, a campaign to discredit the election process and defame its candidates. President Karzai is the most popular target, but the others are also starting to receive their portion of insults. This is of course in line with Taliban’s broader media campaign, described in detail in this International Crisis Group report. The headlines in last months’ issues of al-Sumud are telling enough: The March issue featured an article entitled “The coming presidential elections, or an agreement to sell Afghanistan to the occupiers?” The May issue followed suit with a similar rhetorical question: “Will the replacement of Karzai with another agent solve the Afghan problem?” In both articles, the line of argumentation is simple: As long as foreign troops are present in Afghanistan, there can never be free and fair elections. The

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The History of the Jihadi Forums

One of the most intriguing questions about the jihadi internet is how it came into being. The early history of jihadi websites remains very poorly understood. Most of us started studying them too late, and we are too busy keeping track of present developments to examine the past. My curiosity was therefore piqued by a recent article by ‘Mihdar’ on Midad al-Suyuf, who provides what he calls a ‘complete historical analysis’ of the jihadi forums on the web. Considering Mihdar’s record as a somewhat controversial figure – for other controversies involving Madad al-Suyuf, see here or here, the study should be taken with a grain of salt. And indeed, Mihdar is more interested in politics than in facts. He devotes a considerable part of his ‘analysis’ to lashing out at other jihadi forums, in particular criticising the policy of closing forums to registered members only. This, he argues, both restricts

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A Unified Strategy towards Germany?

Over the past few months, several German-speaking jihadists have appeared in propaganda videos emanating from Afghanistan and Pakistan. Bekkay Harrach (aka Abu Talha al-Almani), who was recently featured in a production by al-Qaida’s official media arm al-Sahab, is only the most recent example. As described in this article, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) and its offshoot, the Islamic Jihadi Union (IJU), also boast Germans in their ranks, and have actively used them in their media productions. Meanwhile, a suicide bomber, believed to be from the Taliban, attacked the German embassy in Kabul on 17 January 2009. All of this has been interpreted  as a sign that Germany is being targeted by al-Qaida. The German focus is indeed intriguing. But what I find even more interesting are the differences between these productions and what they tell us about the landscape of jihadi groups in Afghanistan. Too often, groups like al-Qaida,

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