Usama bin Laden Called Yunus Khalis “the Father Sheikh:” Weird But Possibly True

Many authors have tried to fill in the gaps in the historical account of how al-Qa’ida’s central leadership came to reside in Jalalabad for part of 1996, with mixed results. Yunus Khalis has become a fixture in these narratives largely because he was the best known person that Bin Laden interacted with in the summer after al-Qa’ida’s leadership fled Sudan for Nangarhar. For many authors, Khalis’s fame and prominence in the region combined with his known interactions with Bin Laden provide an adequate explanation: al-Qa’ida must have come to Nangarhar in 1996 because of the importance of the Khalis-Bin Laden relationship. This is, of course, a vast oversimplification, and I hope that the report I recently published for West Point’s Combating Terrorism Center will go some way towards exposing the most obviously untenable parts of this narrative. But as part of the research for this monograph, I have also found

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Yunus Khalis’s Poem to a (Very) Young Wife: “I Am a Simple Man…”

Western authors commenting on various mujahidin leaders involved with Usama bin Laden often seem to go out of their way to make the individuals in question seem extra villainous. This has been especially clear in the case of Yunus Khalis. In English works on al-Qa’ida, we learn little about Khalis except that he a) helped to host Bin Laden in Jalalabad in 1996, and b) he apparently married a much younger woman when he was already an old man. There is disagreement about her age, but estimates range from 14-18 or so, with several homing in on the age of 17 years.

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Yunis Khalis and Social Justice: an early political discussion in Nangarhar

Much of the secondary literature in the West depicts Professor Ghulam Niazi as the progenitor of the mujahidin movement in Afghanistan in the 1960s. For a variety of reasons this contradicts primary sources that focus more on the various resistance efforts elsewhere in Afghanistan during this period. Of course, the primary sources are also influenced by the political projects of their authors. Take, for example, the case of Yunis Khalis. Khalis’s biographers are more interested in a narrative that gives their subject a prominent role in the fight against the Soviets than they are in writing about the creation of an Afghan Islamist movement initiated by Professor Niazi at Kabul University. On the other hand, the two mujahidin parties that trace their founding mythology directly to Professor Niazi (Hizb-e Islami (Gulbuddin) and Jami’at-e Islami) have also been remarkably successful at setting the terms of the historical debate about the origins of the

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A Jihadi Homeopath

[Editor’s note: We are very pleased to welcome Kevin Bell to Jihadica. Kevin has lived in Afghanistan and Tajikistan for a number of years and recently wrote a master’s thesis on Yunis Khalis for Princeton’s Near Eastern Studies Department. He’s hunting for a job in Afghanistan–probably not for long given his proficiency in Pashto. You can follow him on Twitter @allegorycave] Yunis Khalis is best known for his role as the leader of the Hizb-e Islami (Khalis) mujahidin political party, and as a host to Osama bin Laden in 1996 in Jalalabad. However, even a cursory review of the various Khalis biographies written in Pashto reveals that there was far more to his life, interests, and influence on Afghan politics than might be indicated by a discussion limited to his role as a jihadi leader. I extensively discuss many of these new perspectives about Khalis in my forthcoming report from

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