ji·had·ica

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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Abu Ghaith and al-Qa’ida’s Dissident Faction in Iran

With the recent arrest of Sulaiman Abu Ghaith (Abu Yusuf Sulayman Jasim Bu Ghayth), al-Qa’ida’s former spokesman and Bin Ladin’s son-in-law, there has been much speculation in the press about a group of senior al-Qa’ida figures who have spent much of the last decade in Iran. In this post I will revisit the writings of these men, all of whom appeared online in unusual circumstances at the end of 2010, and the light that their writings shed on the Iranian sojourn of this group of al-Qa’ida’s pre-9/11 senior leadership. Taken together, these sources suggest that these men constituted a dissident faction within al-Qa’ida, one which in recent years had become increasingly vocal in their criticism of Bin Ladin, Zawahiri, and the direction that the latter had taken al-Qa’ida since the September 11 attacks. It also emerges that Abu Ghaith, while not a member of this faction at the beginning of this

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Abbottabad Documents

The US government has released some of the documents it captured during its raid on Bin Laden’s compound. The documents have been released through West Point’s CTC, which has provided an excellent overview and hand list. Since the documents are being circulated in a .zip file, I thought it’d be useful to put them online in an easy-to-access format. Date: Unknown, From: Unknown, To: Unknown (Eng) (Ar) [SOCOM-2012-0000009] Date: Unknown, From: Unknown, To: Unknown (Eng) (Ar) [SOCOM-2012-0000017] Date: Unknown, From: Unknown (probably Bin Laden or `Atiyya), To: Nasir al-Wuhayshi (Eng) (Ar) [SOCOM-2012-0000016] Date: 14 Sept 2006, From: Unknown, To: Bin Laden (Eng) (Ar) [SOCOM-2012-0000018] Date: Between 24 Oct and 22 Nov 2006, From: `Atiyya, To: Jaysh al-Islam (Eng) (Ar) [SOCOM-2012-0000008] Date: after Jan 2007, From: Unknown, To: `Atiyya (Eng) (Ar) [SOCOM-2012-0000014] Date: 28 Mar 2007, From: Unknown (an Egyptian), To: Hafiz Sultan (Eng) (Ar) [SOCOM-2012-0000011] Date: 11 June 2009, From: `Atiyya,

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Al-Qaida Advises the Arab Spring: Egypt

The number of jihadi publications on the Arab Spring is increasing dramatically as the months go by and my time has – as always – been very limited, hence my recent absence from Jihadica. I have several posts about al-Qaida’s advice to the Arab Spring lined up, however, including this one about Egypt. Scepticism When one thinks of Egypt and jihadis, the first person that comes to mind is probably Ayman al-Zawahiri. Al-Qaida’s leader has issued many a “letter of hope and good tidings to our people in Egypt” since the beginning of the Arab Spring and although that title may sound as if these epistles contain Christmas greetings to the country’s Coptic community, they offer nothing of the sort. In part three of his series of letters to the Egyptian people, al-Zawahiri spends most of his time warning his countrymen about the supposedly evil intentions of the United States

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Al-Qaida advises the Arab Spring: Libya

Unlike the Arab uprising in Syria, which was the subject of my previous post, the one in Libya seems to have reached its end. The regime has been overthrown and Mu’ammar al-Qadhafi and some of his sons are dead. Although it is by no means certain that Libya is on its way to becoming a fully-fledged liberal democracy, the Libyan people have achieved things that most Syrians can still only dream of. In this post, I will look at how some scholars and ideologues associated with al-Qaida responded to the situation in Libya. The West One member of al-Qaida Central who responds to the situation in Libya is, perhaps unsurprisingly since he is a Libyan himself, Abu Yahya al-Libi. His comments stress that the United States is “the idol (taghut) of the age” (i.e., the country that other countries “serve”) and “the source of terrorism”. He asks rhetorically: “Isn’t America the one

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Al-Qaida advises the Arab Spring: Syria

With the Arab Spring going strong in several countries, al-Qaida (in a broad sense, so including ideologues and scholars supportive of the organisation) still finds it necessary to comment on what is happening. In a series of posts, I will deal with the advice al-Qaida is giving the people of several countries, starting with Syria. Praise One of the men “advising” the Syrians currently revolting against the regime of President al-Asad is Ayman al-Zawahiri, the current leader of al-Qaida. In an epistle meant solely to greet, encourage and heap praise on the people he is addressing, al-Zawahiri spends one of the first paragraphs of his letter saying “salamun ‘alaykum” to his audience no fewer than eight times. He addresses them as “the mujahidun who command good and forbid evil”. This seems to be an attempt to claim that al-Qaida-like people are the ones trying to overthrow the Syrian regime, which is a good

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Decade of Fear

As is the case for many others, the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks has made me reflect on their impact over the past decade. To this end, Michelle Shephard‘s Decade of Fear has been indispensable. A very personal account of her journalistic efforts to chronicle the war on terrorism over the past decade, Michelle weaves the weft of her narrative over the warp of New York just after 9/11; Somalia after the rise of the Islamic Courts Union and, later, the emergence of al-Shabab; Pakistan after the rebound of the Taliban and al-Qaeda; and Yemen at the formation of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and the retreat of President Saleh. Michelle’s account puts a human face on the knotty legal, ethical, and political problems the United States and its allies have grappled with as they tried to stop al-Qaeda and its supporters: torture for information, overthrowing stable governments who might align with

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Al-Qaeda’s Past and Present

The newest issue of Foreign Affairs on the ten-year anniversary of 9/11 includes an essay by me (free registration required) on the history of al-Qaeda and its prospects after the Arab Spring. The essay covers the reasons for al-Qaeda’s founding, its targeting of the United States, its strategic thinking under Zawahiri’s leadership, its concept of an Islamic state, and its enduring problem with Islamist parliamentary politics. Regular readers of Jihadica will find much that is familiar but the essay makes one point I have not seen elsewhere: al-Qaeda is not against democratic elections, just parliamentary politics. The misperception that it is against democratic elections arises from a general ignorance of al-Qaeda’s thought on Islamic states and statecraft, a subject I also treat in the essay. Islamic states, not the caliphate, are central to al-Qaeda’s strategic planning and its interpretation of the aftermath of the Arab Spring. I look forward to your comments.

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Sayf al-`Adl a Nobody

Shmukh forum user Amal wa-Alam complains that the brothers are disparaging Sayf al-`Adl, the operational leader of al-Qaeda.  “They are beginning to talk about him as if he is a nobody.” Amal strongly disagrees and adduces as evidence West Point’s study of his handiwork in Africa that Clint Watts, Jake Shapiro, and Vahid Brown had a hand in. “It’s strange that the Americans know” and the brothers do not. It’s not clear who these naysaying brothers are, and another Shmukh user disagrees with Amal, saying that he has heard no disparaging remarks. But if it is true that Sayf is being criticized in some jihadi circles as irrelevant, it is quite a change from the rumors two months ago that he was the acting head of al-Qaeda after Bin Laden’s death. This isn’t the first time that jihadi leaders have referenced the studies of American and European analysts to bolster

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Zawahiri at the Helm

In a statement released online nine hours ago via the Fajr Media Center and dated June 2011, the General Command of al-Qaeda declared its decision to appoint Ayman al-Zawahiri the new head of al-Qaeda.  This move was not unanticipated except by those with strange Awlaki/Libi fixations.  Leah Farrall guessed it would be so on organizational grounds and Murad and I parsed Zawahiri’s eulogy to Bin Laden to arrive at the same conclusion. In addition to naming Zawahiri as the new amir, here are other highlights from the statement: A special shout out to Palestine, promising its people that al-Qaeda is fighting for their liberation. A reaffirmation of Zawahiri’s oath of allegiance to Mullah Omar, saying that “We stress to our brothers in Afghanistan that we are with you, in spirit and what we possess, under the leadership of commander of the faithful Mullah Muhammad Omar. “ A shout out to Umar Abd

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