Separating the Taliban from al-Qaeda - Center on International ...

Separating the Taliban from al-Qaeda - Center on International ...






ong>Separatingong> ong>theong> ong>Tong>along>ibanong> ong>fromong> ong>along>-ong>Qaedaong>:

The Core of Success in Afghanistan

Alex Strick van Linschoten

Felix Kuehn

February 2011

ong>Separatingong> ong>theong> ong>Tong>along>ibanong> ong>fromong> ong>along>-ong>Qaedaong>: The Core of Success in Afghanistan | A CIC Study




The world faces old and new security chong>along>lenges that are more

complex than our multilaterong>along> and nationong>along> institutions are

currently capable of managing. Internationong>along> cooperation is ever

more necessary in meeting ong>theong>se chong>along>lenges. The NYU ong>Centerong> on

Internationong>along> Cooperation (CIC) works to enhance internationong>along>

responses to conflict, insecurity, and scarcity through applied

research and direct engagement with multilaterong>along> institutions

and ong>theong> wider policy community.

CIC’s programs and research activities span ong>theong> spectrum of

conflict, insecurity, and scarcity issues. This ong>along>lows us to see criticong>along>

inter-connections and highlight ong>theong> coherence often necessary

for effective response. We have a particular concentration on ong>theong>

UN and multilaterong>along> responses to conflict.

Table of Contents

ong>Separatingong> ong>theong> ong>Tong>along>ibanong> ong>fromong> ong>along>-ong>Qaedaong>:

The Core of Success in Afghanistan | A CIC Study

Key Findings 1

1. Overview 1

2. September 11 and ong>theong> ong>Tong>along>ibanong> 5

3. An Avoidable Insurgency 6

4. Engaging ong>Tong>along>ibanong> on ong>along>-ong>Qaedaong> 7

5. U.S. Policy and ong>along>-ong>Qaedaong> 9

6. Conclusion 11

Endnotes 13




Key Findings

• The ong>Tong>along>ibanong> and ong>along>-ong>Qaedaong> remain distinct groups

with different goong>along>s, ideologies, and sources of recruits;

ong>theong>re was considerable friction between ong>theong>m before

September 11, 2001, and today that friction persists.

• Elements of current U.S. policy in Afghanistan,

especiong>along>ly night raids and attempts to fragment ong>theong> ong>Tong>along>ibanong>,

are changing ong>theong> insurgency, inadvertently creating

opportunities for ong>along>-ong>Qaedaong> to achieve its objectives and

preventing ong>theong> achievement of core goong>along>s of ong>theong> United

States and ong>theong> internationong>along> community.

• There is room to engage ong>theong> ong>Tong>along>ibanong> on ong>theong> issues

of renouncing ong>along>-ong>Qaedaong> and providing guarantees against

ong>theong> use of Afghanistan by internationong>along> terrorists in a way

that will achieve core U.S. goong>along>s.

1. Overview

For much of ong>theong> internationong>along> community, relations

between ong>theong> ong>Tong>along>ibanong> and ong>along>-ong>Qaedaong> – as well as ong>theong> ong>Tong>along>ibanong>’s

ties to ong>theong> wider universe of jihadist groups – pose ong>theong>

core obstacle to including ong>theong> Islamist movement in a

possible politicong>along> settlement in Afghanistan. Can ong>theong>

ong>Tong>along>ibanong> become part of a politicong>along> process without offering

refuge to ong>along>-ong>Qaedaong>, its affiliates, and oong>theong>r groups posing

an internationong>along> threat?

Today ong>theong> Afghan ong>Tong>along>ibanong> collaborate in some ways with ong>along>-

ong>Qaedaong> and oong>theong>r jihadist groups. Wheong>theong>r such relations

result ong>fromong> ong>theong> context – ong>theong> need for assistance against a

powerful enemy – or are based on principles or ideology

affects how possible it is to change this collaboration. Such

an assessment requires examining empiricong>along> evidence in

context. This report represents a summary of our efforts

to date.

The core leadership of ong>theong> ong>Tong>along>ibanong> and ong>along>-ong>Qaedaong> came ong>fromong>

different ideologicong>along>, sociong>along>, and culturong>along> backgrounds

and were of different nationong>along>ities and generations. The

trajectories of ong>theong> lives of ong>along>-ong>Qaedaong>’s leaders, none of ong>theong>m

Afghans, can be traced back to politicong>along> developments

in ong>theong> Middle East. More often than not ong>theong>se leaders

engaged for decades in militant campaigns against ong>theong>ir

home governments. Their movements responded to

regionong>along> events, mainly in ong>theong> Arab world, and were based

on ong>theong> militant Islamism formulated by Arab ideologues

like Sayyid Qutb in ong>theong> 1960s and earlier.

Most of those who would eventuong>along>ly form ong>theong> ong>Tong>along>ibanong> were

too young even to attend school at ong>theong> time. They grew up

in rurong>along> souong>theong>rn Afghanistan, isolated ong>fromong> both globong>along>

politicong>along> events and ong>theong> developments in politicong>along> Islam

that ong>theong> Arabs were exposed to.

The 1980s jihad against ong>theong> Soviet Union’s intervention in

Afghanistan was a turning point for both groups, however.

That war broke open ong>theong> closed world of rurong>along> Afghanistan

and swept it into globong>along> politics. Militant Islamists and

jihadists came to Pakistan and Afghanistan to support ong>theong>

Afghan jihad ong>fromong> throughout ong>theong> Middle East, Africa, and

ong>Separatingong> ong>theong> ong>Tong>along>ibanong> ong>fromong> ong>along>-ong>Qaedaong>: The Core of Success in Afghanistan | A CIC Study

eyond; some of ong>theong>se would sign up with and found ong>along>-

ong>Qaedaong>. Severong>along> Afghan mujahedeen groups, in particular

in souong>theong>astern Afghanistan, interacted and cooperated

with ong>theong> foreign mujahedeen, but those who later became

ong>theong> core ong>Tong>along>ibanong> leadership had little contact with ong>theong>m.

The experiences of ong>theong> 1980s reshaped ong>theong> Afghan Arabs’

understanding of jihad. 1 The Pong>along>estinian cleric and former

Muslim Broong>theong>rhood member Abdullah Azzam, who led

ong>theong> Services Bureau that coordinated ong>theong> foreign jihadis in

Peshawar, blazed ong>theong> way with his book Join ong>theong> Caravan.

Azzam’s teachings connected ong>theong> battles ong>theong> militants had

previously fought in ong>theong>ir home countries to ong>theong> Afghan

jihad. These teachings helped bring togeong>theong>r diverse

Islamist groups, creating a transnationong>along> network of

committed and battle-hardened jihadists.

Most of those who would later rise to prominence in ong>theong>

ong>Tong>along>ibanong> were too young to play more than minor roles in

ong>theong> war against ong>theong> Soviet Union. They participated as

members of fronts composed of religous students (tong>along>iban)

that formed most of ong>theong> fighters of ong>theong> two madrasa-

based parties of ong>theong> Afghan resistance. 2 Their conception

of jihad remained ong>along>most apoliticong>along> – an individuong>along> duty of

resistance to invasion by non-Muslims – and ong>theong> majority

returned to ong>theong>ir religious studies or communities after

ong>theong> withdrawong>along> of ong>theong> Soviet forces in 1989.

That withdrawong>along> provoked crises within both groups: ong>theong>

Afghan mujahedeen factions disintegrated, and some

fell into war with each oong>theong>r. The foreign jihadis faced

ong>theong>ir own internong>along> debate in light of ong>theong> failure of ong>theong>

Afghan mujahedeen to form an Islamic government in

Afghanistan, and events in ong>theong> Middle East, especiong>along>ly ong>theong>

first Gulf War.

While Afghanistan descended into civil war, ong>theong> foreign

jihadists split into various groupings. Some stayed on to

fight in Afghanistan. Some settled in ong>theong> border region in

Pakistan. Oong>theong>rs started an itinerant life, fighting in Bosnia,

Tajikistan, and Chechnya or seeking to establish new

bases of operations in Yemen or Sudan. Much of ong>theong> top

leadership left ong>theong> region.

Security in souong>theong>rn Afghanistan deteriorated as

commanders feuded over control, and internationong>along>

interest subsided after ong>theong> Soviet withdrawong>along>. In 1994,

a group of former mujahedeen ong>fromong> ong>theong> ong>Tong>along>ibanong> fronts

mobilized against criminong>along> gangs west of Kandahar City.

This early ong>Tong>along>ibanong> movement was a locong>along> group reacting to

ong>theong> situation in its area. It mobilized a blend of locong>along> culture

and a literong>along>ist interpretation of Islam to try to impose order

on a chaotic situation. It was not a movement concerned

with anything beyond locong>along> circumstances.

As ong>theong> movement gaong>theong>red momentum, it advanced ong>fromong>

Kandahar province to Zabul, on to Helmand and Uruzgan,

capturing Herat in September 1995 and Jong>along>ong>along>abad and

Kabul in September 1996. The five years that followed

saw ong>theong> ong>Tong>along>ibanong> struggle to conquer centrong>along> and norong>theong>rn

Afghanistan and consolidate ong>theong>ir hold over ong>theong> country

and its diverse population while imposing highly

conservative sociong>along> policies. The ong>Tong>along>ibanong>’s unprecedented

rise was enabled in part by support ong>fromong> ong>theong> government

and security apparatus of Pakistan and ong>theong> arrivong>along> of

madrasa students ong>fromong> across ong>theong> border.

Osama bin Laden and his followers had returned to

Afghanistan after being expelled ong>fromong> Sudan in May

1996. They flew to Jong>along>ong>along>abad, where ong>theong>y were hosted by

commanders and ong>along>lies ong>fromong> ong>theong> region whom bin Laden

knew ong>fromong> ong>theong> 1980s war. Bin Laden did not fly to any of

ong>theong> areas under ong>Tong>along>ibanong> or Norong>theong>rn Alliance control, as

neiong>theong>r group included his main Afghan associates. En

route to capture Kabul in September 1996, ong>theong> ong>Tong>along>ibanong>

took Jong>along>ong>along>abad, thus inheriting custody of bin Laden and

ong>theong> group around him.

The relationship between ong>along>-ong>Qaedaong> and ong>theong> ong>Tong>along>ibanong> during

ong>theong> second hong>along>f of ong>theong> 1990s was complicated and often

tense. The two groups knew little about each oong>theong>r; bin

Laden pursued an independent agenda, often to ong>theong>

detriment of ong>theong> ong>Tong>along>ibanong>. Noneong>theong>less, Mullah Mohammad

Omar and bin Laden grew close – ong>along>though ong>theong> extent and

details of ong>theong>ir association remain somewhat unclear –

during ong>theong>se years, particularly ong>fromong> 2000 to 2001.

ong>Separatingong> ong>theong> ong>Tong>along>ibanong> ong>fromong> ong>along>-ong>Qaedaong>: The Core of Success in Afghanistan | A CIC Study







Bin Laden’s cong>along>ls for an internationong>along> jihad and his

attempts to mobilize support for attacks for what he saw

as a jihad against crusaders and Zionists caused a rift

within ong>theong> ong>Tong>along>ibanong> leadership. While Mullah Mohammad

Omar regarded him as an important connector to ong>theong>

wider Muslim world, a group of leaders around Mullah

Mohammad Rabbani, ong>theong> chair of ong>theong> leadership shura in

Kabul, was concerned that bin Laden’s media statements

and ong>theong> unwanted attention he attracted were ong>theong>

principong>along> obstacle to ong>theong> ong>Tong>along>ibanong> government’s gaining ong>theong>

internationong>along> recognition it sought. This group, however,

was sidelined and lost traction ong>fromong> 1999 onwards. While

publicly proclaiming his support for Mullah Mohammad

Omar, bin Laden continued his activities, often in direct

violation of Mullah Mohammad Omar’s specific directives.

Mullah Mohammad Rabbani died in April 2001, which

meant ong>theong> ong>Tong>along>ibanong>’s internong>along> opposition was effectively

marginong>along>ized ong>fromong> that point on.

When ong>theong> United States launched its offensive on October

7, 2001, ong>theong> ong>Tong>along>ibanong>’s organization disintegrated under ong>theong>

pressure of ong>theong> military campaign. Many ong>Tong>along>ibanong> returned

to ong>theong>ir villages and waited to see what would happen.

Soon ong>theong>y found ong>theong>mselves targeted by U.S. Speciong>along> Forces

and ong>theong> new Afghan elites. These actions were dictated by

President Bush’s policy of making no distinction between

members of ong>theong> ong>Tong>along>ibanong>, whose regime had harbored ong>along>-

ong>Qaedaong>, and ong>along>-ong>Qaedaong> itself. Those who escaped death or

capture and detention in Guantánamo or Bagram fled to


The politicong>along> process established by ong>theong> Bonn Agreement

of December 2001 was intended, at least by its UN

sponsors, to provide a mechanism for integrating ong>Tong>along>ibanong>

who agreed to become lawful participants in ong>theong> new

order. Isolated and in hiding in Pakistan, ong>theong> ong>Tong>along>ibanong>

leaders tentatively explored wheong>theong>r this promise might

be sincere. They discussed ong>theong> possibility of joining ong>theong>

politicong>along> process that was unfolding in Kabul – notably at

meetings in 2002 and 2004 – but ong>theong>se discussions came

to little. A combination of factors caused ong>theong> leadership

to begin an insurgency. Internong>along> factions, in particular a

younger generation, opposed a politicong>along> process. Arguably

more important, however, was ong>theong> lack of reong>along> options. The

counterterrorism policies of ong>theong> United States at that time

threatened ong>theong> security of ong>Tong>along>ibanong> who might have been

willing to join ong>theong> process, and Afghan officiong>along>s with whom

ong>theong> ong>Tong>along>ibanong> communicated said ong>theong>y could not protect

ong>theong>m ong>fromong> detention by ong>theong> United States. The strong

interests of neighboring countries such as Pakistan and

Iran ong>along>so helped steer ong>Tong>along>ibanong> leaders towards taking up

arms once again. By 2003 ong>theong>y had regrouped and put

command structures in place, connecting to locong>along> groups

inside Afghanistan to begin an insurgency.

Al-ong>Qaedaong>, while surprised by ong>theong> swift demise of ong>theong>

ong>Tong>along>ibanong> resistance, was better prepared to pursue its own

agenda during ong>theong>se years, organizing and administering

a series of attacks around ong>theong> world. The September 11

attacks polarized ong>theong> Islamic world and reshuffled ong>theong>

jihadist universe. An undifferentiated response by ong>theong>

United States – as expressed in ong>theong> Bush doctrine that one

was “with us or against us” promoted ong>theong> perception that

ong>theong> ong>Tong>along>ibanong> and ong>along>-ong>Qaedaong> were integrated into one group.

Cooperation against a common enemy, however, did not

resolve or dissolve ong>theong> underlying tensions and even ul-

timate incompatibility of ong>theong> two groups’ aims. The claim

that ong>theong> link between ong>theong> ong>Tong>along>ibanong> and ong>along>-ong>Qaedaong> is stron-

ger than ever, or unbreakable, is potentiong>along>ly a major in-

telligence failure that hinders ong>theong> United States and ong>theong>

internationong>along> community ong>fromong> achieving ong>theong>ir core objec-

tives. Al-ong>Qaedaong> and ong>theong> Afghan ong>Tong>along>ibanong> remain two distinct

groups, with different membership, agendas, ideologies,

and objectives. The interaction and contacts between

ong>theong> two groups are found in three main forms: personong>along>/

individuong>along> ties, a shared religion, and ong>theong>ir circumstances

(a shared location and enemy). Some of ong>theong> Kandahari

leadership of ong>theong> ong>Tong>along>ibanong>, however, recognize ong>theong> damag-

ing impact of ong>theong> foreign jihadists and navigate a cautious

path seeking to demonstrate ong>theong>ir independence and dif-

ference to ong>theong> internationong>along> community while avoiding

friction or tension. The ong>along>-ong>Qaedaong> leadership has relied on

and coordinated with a group led by Jong>along>ong>along>uddin Haqqani, a

former mujahedeen commander and ong>Tong>along>ibanong> minister. The

Haqqani network remains a part of ong>theong> ong>Tong>along>ibanong>, and ong>theong>y

too confine ong>theong>ir activities and aspirations to Afghanistan.

ong>Separatingong> ong>theong> ong>Tong>along>ibanong> ong>fromong> ong>along>-ong>Qaedaong>: The Core of Success in Afghanistan | A CIC Study

Arrests by Pakistani authorities in early 2010 of a significant

number of members of ong>theong> ong>Tong>along>ibanong> leadership council,

togeong>theong>r with ong>theong> military campaign targeting insurgent

leaders within Afghanistan, has weakened ong>theong> overong>along>l

command structure and ong>theong> ability of ong>theong> centrong>along> leadership

to enforce decisions. A reshuffling of ong>theong> leadership, ong>along>ong

with ong>along>l layers of ranks of commanders, has seen ong>theong> rise of

a younger and more radicong>along> generation. This in turn has

weakened Mullah Mohammad Omar’s influence; he is now

more of a symbolic religious figure than an authoritative


The new and younger generation of Afghan ong>Tong>along>ibanong>

is more susceptible to advances by foreign jihadist

groups, including ong>along>-ong>Qaedaong>, resulting in an increasing

ideologization of ong>theong> conflict. This development, paired

with an overong>along>l increase in suspicion among ong>theong> Afghan

population of ong>theong> United States and its “reong>along> intentions,”

bodes ill for ong>theong> future. Current policies pursued by

domestic and internationong>along> actors – led by ong>theong> United

States – are a key factor driving ong>theong> Afghan ong>Tong>along>ibanong> and ong>along>-

ong>Qaedaong> togeong>theong>r.

2. September 11 and ong>theong> ong>Tong>along>ibanong>

The ong>Tong>along>ibanong> leaders do not seem to have had foreknowledge

of ong>theong> September 11 attacks. Bin Laden effectively

manipulated ong>theong> ong>Tong>along>ibanong>, using ong>theong>ir lack of internationong>along>

experience to advance his own goong>along>s.

Considerable disagreement over bin Laden broke out

among ong>theong> ong>Tong>along>ibanong> following ong>theong> attacks. Significant parts

of ong>theong> senior ong>Tong>along>ibanong> leadership, ong>along>ong with rank-and-file

commanders, were outraged at bin Laden’s abuse of ong>theong>ir

hospitong>along>ity and his blatant disregard for ong>theong>ir government.

The combative internationong>along> stance towards ong>theong> ong>Tong>along>ibanong>,

ong>theong> polarization of ong>theong> Islamic world, and ong>theong> fear of

Mullah Mohammad Omar and oong>theong>rs of losing ong>theong> few

ong>along>lies ong>theong>y believed ong>theong>y had left pushed ong>theong>m into a de

facto defense of bin Laden. There can be little doubt that

ong>theong> leaders ong>theong>n and since have gained more insight into

ong>theong> complex world of internationong>along> politicong>along> Islam and ong>theong>

costs of ong>theong>ir policy of hospitong>along>ity.

Initiong>along> statements by ong>theong> ong>Tong>along>ibanong> condemned ong>theong>

September 11 attacks while expressing disbelief that

ong>theong>y were ong>theong> work of bin Laden. There was considerable

disagreement among ong>theong> senior leadership, as to ong>theong> likely

repercussions. As pressure ong>fromong> ong>theong> United States and its

ong>along>lies mounted (ong>along>ong with a revivong>along> of ong>along>l ong>theong> criticisms of

ong>theong> ong>Tong>along>ibanong> government over human rights abuses and

its treatment of women), ong>theong> ong>Tong>along>ibanong> movement’s public

stance grew increasingly belligerent.

While many ong>Tong>along>ibanong> saw any effort to compromise or

negotiate with ong>theong> United States as capitulation, one group

of ong>Tong>along>ibanong> leaders approached Mullah Mohammad Omar

and asked him to consider handing over bin Laden, but he

rejected ong>theong> proposong>along>. According to former leaders, Mullah

Mohammad Omar claimed that bin Laden had sworn he

had nothing to do with ong>theong> September 11 attacks, while

Pakistani security officiong>along>s assured ong>theong> inexperienced

leader that ong>theong> United States would react in a limited

way, as in 1998 following ong>theong> African bombings of U.S.

embassies. Oong>theong>rs, however, knew that ong>theong> survivong>along> of ong>theong>

ong>Tong>along>ibanong> government was at stake.

Mullah Mohammad Omar saw few options in deong>along>ing with

bin Laden. The ong>Tong>along>ibanong> presented ong>theong> United States with

ong>theong> same solution ong>theong>y had suggested in ong>theong> aftermath of

ong>theong> African embassy bombings in 1998: ong>theong>y would assess

any evidence ong>theong>y received against bin Laden to determine

if ong>theong>y would hand him over for triong>along> in anoong>theong>r Islamic

country or even before a multinationong>along> Islamic court.

The sacrifice Mullah Mohammad Omar made for not

handing over bin Laden is difficult to rationong>along>ize. The

ong>Tong>along>ibanong>’s worldview and ong>theong>ir underlying fear of ong>along>ienating

ong>theong> Muslim umma, however, formed ong>theong> basis for his

decision. He regarded ong>theong> protection of guests as a

religious and culturong>along> duty. Even more so, he believed that

ong>theong> ong>Tong>along>ibanong>’s standing in ong>theong> Islamic world depended on

resisting U.S. demands about bin Laden. In ong>theong> run-up

to ong>theong> start of Operation Enduring Freedom, Pakistan ong>along>so

repeatedly assured ong>theong> ong>Tong>along>ibanong> of its support, contributing

to Mullah Mohammad Omar’s determination.

ong>Separatingong> ong>theong> ong>Tong>along>ibanong> ong>fromong> ong>along>-ong>Qaedaong>: The Core of Success in Afghanistan | A CIC Study







3. An Avoidable Insurgency

The insurgency that emerged ong>fromong> 2003 onwards was not

an inevitable response to ong>theong> internationong>along> intervention

in Afghanistan. It resulted in part ong>fromong> policies that

created an environment in which both segments of ong>theong>

Afghan population as well as ong>theong> senior ong>Tong>along>ibanong> leadership

perceived that ong>theong>y lacked reong>along> ong>along>ternatives. Elements

of ong>theong> Pakistani state ong>along>so thought ong>theong>y could use an

insurgency in Afghanistan as pressure against ong>theong> Afghan

government and ong>theong> U.S. Al-ong>Qaedaong> has had little or no

influence on ong>theong> origin and course of ong>theong> insurgency,

though it has assisted with training and fundraising.

Little known, for example, are ong>theong> attempts of ong>theong> ong>Tong>along>ibanong>

and Haqqanis to reconcile with ong>theong> Karzai government

after 2001, a possibility totong>along>ly ong>along>ien to ong>along>-ong>Qaedaong> ideology

but logicong>along> for ong>Tong>along>ibanong> who still saw ong>theong>mselves as part of

Afghanistan. There was no coherent response, though,

ong>fromong> eiong>theong>r Afghan actors or ong>theong>ir internationong>along> backers.

Some ong>Tong>along>ibanong> (by and large ong>fromong> ong>theong> politicong>along> cohorts of

ong>theong> movement) were accepted as individuong>along>s without

much fanfare, often after lengthy detention, while oong>theong>rs

found ong>theong>mselves confined in Guantanamo or oong>theong>r

detention facilities.

In November 2002, senior ong>Tong>along>ibanong> figures gaong>theong>red

in Pakistan and considered ong>theong> possibility of politicong>along>

engagement and reconciliation with ong>theong> new Afghan

government. One participant later described ong>theong> meeting:

“Mullah Mohammad Omar wasn’t ong>theong>re, but everyone else

was, ong>along>l ong>theong> high-ranking ministers and cabinet members

of ong>theong> ong>Tong>along>ibanong>. We discussed wheong>theong>r to join ong>theong> politicong>along>

process in Afghanistan or not and we took a decision that,

yes, we should go and join ong>theong> process.” 3

One interlocutor who was asked to engage with this

group has since stated that this was an important moment

for ong>theong> ong>Tong>along>ibanong> leadership; if ong>theong>y had been given some

assurance that ong>theong>y would not be arrested upon returning

to Afghanistan, he said, ong>theong>y would have come, but neiong>theong>r

ong>theong> Afghan government nor ong>theong>ir internationong>along> sponsors

saw any reason to engage with ong>theong> ong>Tong>along>ibanong> at that time

ong>theong>y considered ong>theong>m a spent force. Similarly, in 2002,

Jong>along>ong>along>uddin Haqqani’s broong>theong>r Ibrahim came to Kabul to

meet with American and Afghan government officiong>along>s

to inquire about this possibility. He was detained and

ong>along>legedly mistreated. 4

The leadership ong>along>one, however, could not have launched

ong>theong> insurgency. It required both an ong>along>ienated Afghan

population ong>fromong> which to recruit and Pakistani support

for ong>theong> creation of secure areas of operationong>along> retreat.

The Afghan population in ong>theong> immediate aftermath of

ong>theong> ong>Tong>along>ibanong>’s ouster was supportive of ong>theong> internationong>along>

intervention, particularly as ong>theong> new government

promised positive changes in ong>theong>ir lives. Within two years,

however, this attitude began to change. The new Afghan

government, supported by ong>theong> internationong>along> community,

was plagued by entrenched corruption and nepotism.

Individuong>along>s and certain groups found ong>theong>mselves in

conflict with ong>theong> new powers in charge.

The U.S. reliance on a strategy driven by immediate

military objectives led to ong>along>liances with commanders such

as Gul Agha Shirzai, a Karzai rivong>along>, who became governor

of Kandahar as a result of U.S. support to ong>theong> militias

he led. (Today Shirzai is ong>theong> governor of Nangarhar in

eastern Afghanistan). These locong>along> ong>along>lies captured ong>theong> state

apparatus for personong>along> gain. While not identicong>along> in ong>along>l parts

of Afghanistan, individuong>along>s, warlords, and semi-warlords

fought over shares of ong>theong> state and monopolized access to

ong>theong> government, foreign forces, and resources, including

contracts with those same forces.

The politicong>along> vacuum that followed ong>theong> ouster of ong>theong>

ong>Tong>along>ibanong> gave ample space for old and new conflicts to

erupt. In Kandahar, U.S. ong>along>ly Shirzai and his ong>along>lies moved to

consolidate ong>theong>ir power and to settle old and new scores.

President Karzai’s broong>theong>r, Ahmed Wong>along>i, belatedly developed

a power base to counter that of ong>theong> family’s rivong>along>, using ong>theong>

same methods but attracting far more public criticism.

The United States became an unknowing instrument of

locong>along> feuds and power struggles, at times manipulated

by misleading intelligence provided by Afghan partners.

Entire tribes – ong>theong> Eshaqzai in Maiwand, a district west of

Kandahar City, for example – were systematicong>along>ly targeted

and denounced as ong>Tong>along>ibanong> members. Family and tribong>along>

ong>Separatingong> ong>theong> ong>Tong>along>ibanong> ong>fromong> ong>along>-ong>Qaedaong>: The Core of Success in Afghanistan | A CIC Study

members of senior ong>Tong>along>ibanong> were harassed and deprived

of access to ong>theong> government, marginong>along>izing ong>theong>m. The

Noorzai tribe, members of which had previously held many

government positions in ong>theong> border district of Spin Boldak,

was completely sidelined by anoong>theong>r tribe – ong>theong> Achekzai

– with ong>theong> help of Shirzai, leading to ong>theong> rise of Colonel

Raziq, commander of ong>theong> border police. Today Raziq leads

a militia that is an important partner of ong>theong> internationong>along>

forces in ong>theong> campaign to wrest Kandahar province ong>fromong>

ong>Tong>along>ibanong> control. 5

Bandits and rogue commanders seized ong>theong> opportunity to

operate, while family members of ong>Tong>along>ibanong> and tribong>along> elders

fell victim to abuses by individuong>along>s associated with ong>theong> new

interim government and were ong>along>ienated and sidelined. 6

Many of those who found ong>theong>mselves targeted began

actively reaching out to ong>theong> ong>Tong>along>ibanong> leadership that was

regrouping across ong>theong> border ong>fromong> Kandahar in Quetta,

Pakistan. Domestic developments in Afghanistan gave

ong>theong> fledgling resurgent movement a contact network and

footholds in locong>along> communities throughout 2003. 7 The

United States soon diverted its attention to Iraq.

The internationong>along> presence in Afghanistan was minimong>along>.

The Internationong>along> Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in

September 2003 had only 5,000 troops stationed in

Afghanistan, ong>along>l in Kabul, with U.S. troops numbering 9,800

in totong>along>. ISAF would expand out to ong>theong> provinces only years

after ong>theong> ong>Tong>along>ibanong> were ousted. Little attention was paid to

locong>along> politicong>along> developments.

This process continues across ong>theong> country today: locong>along>

communities in souong>theong>rn Afghanistan regard ong>theong>

government as corrupt and unjust. Often actively targeted

and excluded, ong>theong>y side with ong>theong> ong>Tong>along>ibanong> in various ways

(ong>fromong> tacit non-objection to offering direct support),

more out of pragmatism than ong>fromong> ideologicong>along> motives.

The ong>Tong>along>ibanong>, meanwhile, have employed mixed tactics of

intimidation and resolution of locong>along> conflicts in order to

coerce and reward locong>along> communities. The ISAF campaign

in Kandahar has curbed ong>Tong>along>ibanong> operations in some

communities; it has not yet proven that it can establish an

ong>along>ternative sustainable form of governance.

From a Pakistani perspective, ong>theong> post-2001 period was

a bong>along>ancing act in which publicly expressed interests

differed ong>fromong> those expressed privately. Generong>along> Musharraf

and oong>theong>r officiong>along>s made numerous public statements

pledging support for U.S. goong>along>s, but at ong>theong> same time drew

private conclusions that ong>theong> interests of Pakistan were

not best served by moving against ong>theong> ong>Tong>along>ibanong> and ong>theong>ir

associates. They regarded ong>theong> government in Kabul as

too close to India and maintained ong>theong> former rulers ong>theong>y

had supported as a tool of pressure to protect Pakistan’s

security interests.

4. Engaging ong>Tong>along>ibanong> on ong>along>-ong>Qaedaong>

The issue of ong>theong> relationship between ong>theong> ong>Tong>along>ibanong> and ong>along>-

ong>Qaedaong> is not as big a potentiong>along> stumbling block among

old-generation ong>Tong>along>ibanong> as common wisdom holds. For

circumstantiong>along> reasons, in ong>theong> last three years (2007-

10) ong>theong> ong>Tong>along>ibanong> have taken considerable care in ong>theong>ir

public statements to implicitly distance ong>theong>mselves

ong>fromong> ong>along>-ong>Qaedaong>, while offering clear indications of ong>theong>ir

disaffection with ong>theong> foreign militants in private. Public

statements and interviews explicitly opposing ong>along>-ong>Qaedaong>

and foreign militants have been seen as extremely risky

for ong>along>l but ong>theong> most senior politicong>along> members, many of

whom refused to speak frankly about ong>theong> topic on ong>theong>

record. Even non-active ong>Tong>along>ibanong> members like Mullah

Abdul Song>along>am Zaeef have remained relatively silent over

ong>theong> issue; his book My Life With ong>theong> ong>Tong>along>ibanong>, published in

2010, contained very little that substantively deong>along>t with

ong>theong> relationship between ong>theong> ong>Tong>along>ibanong> and ong>along>-ong>Qaedaong>. They

could not publicly indicate ong>theong>ir differences with ong>theong>

foreign militants since, for ong>theong> moment, ong>theong>y were caught

in a marriage of convenience brought about by ong>theong> need

to fight a war against ong>theong> internationong>along> ISAF/NATO military

forces. Noneong>theong>less, signong>along>s had been passed – ong>theong> ong>Tong>along>ibanong>

leaders had long ago reong>along>ized ong>theong> importance of ong>theong> issue

to ong>theong> internationong>along>s and, in hedging ong>theong>ir bets given

ong>theong> increased tong>along>k of a possible negotiated settlement,

seemed to concede in public commentary that ong>theong>y would

be required to provide guarantees against Afghanistan

being used as a terrorist sanctuary. There have been some

pledges ong>along>ong ong>theong>se lines. A statement released at ong>theong>

time of ong>theong> London Conference in January 2010 included

ong>Separatingong> ong>theong> ong>Tong>along>ibanong> ong>fromong> ong>along>-ong>Qaedaong>: The Core of Success in Afghanistan | A CIC Study







ong>theong> following declaration: “We do not intend to harm

neighboring countries as well as oong>theong>r countries of ong>theong>

world, nor do we want ong>theong>m to harm us. We will not ong>along>low

our soil to be used against any oong>theong>r country.” 8

Mullah Mohammad Omar’s eid ul-fitr message of

September 2010 ong>along>so stated:

Our upcoming system will be based on mutuong>along>

interactions with neighboring Islamic and non-

Islamic countries. We want to frame our foreign

policy on ong>theong> principle that we will not harm oong>theong>rs

nor ong>along>low oong>theong>rs to harm us. Our upcoming system

of government will participate in ong>along>l regionong>along> and

globong>along> efforts aimed at establishing peace and

stability... 9

In a recent interview in Al-Masry ong>along>-Youm newspaper

(Egypt), Mullah Zaeef acknowledged both bin Laden’s

responsibility for ong>theong> September 11 attacks and his

culpability for lying to Mullah Muhammad Omar, a new

level of frankness, even for reconciled ong>Tong>along>ibanong>. 10

A discussion of ong>theong> ong>Tong>along>ibanong>’s position on ong>along>-ong>Qaedaong> must

be – at least on ong>theong> surface – exactly that: a discussion. A

precondition that ong>theong> ong>Tong>along>ibanong> renounce or denounce ong>along>-

ong>Qaedaong> prior to ong>theong> start of a diong>along>ogue – as Saudi Arabia has

demanded 11 – is not an option for ong>theong> ong>Tong>along>ibanong> unless ong>theong>y

receive assurances of security in return. The importance

of actionable and observable signs of cooperation

confidence-building measures – as opposed to symbolic

statements (whereby ong>theong> ong>Tong>along>ibanong> publicly reject ong>along>-

ong>Qaedaong>, for example) should not be underestimated.

These measures can include ceasefires, cooperation

over independent humanitarian aid provision, or even

a commitment to ending ong>theong> targeted assassination of

unaffiliated tribong>along> elders.

An examination of ong>theong> ong>Tong>along>ibanong>’s public statements –

particularly those ong>fromong> ong>theong> past two years – shows ong>theong>

care being taken over any reference to ong>along>-ong>Qaedaong> and its

affiliates. There are no congratulatory postings in response

to ong>theong> actions of internationong>along>ist jihadist groups, but raong>theong>r

a sense that ong>theong> ong>Tong>along>ibanong> leaders are acutely conscious of ong>theong>

problem that ong>theong>ir relationship – both ong>theong> reong>along>ities and ong>theong>

perception – continues to cause ong>theong>m. In statements on

ong>theong> London and Lisbon conferences on Afghanistan, ong>theong>

Afghan elections, ong>theong> U.S.-NATO offensive in Kandahar, and

many oong>theong>r subjects, ong>theong> “Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan,”

as ong>theong> ong>Tong>along>ibanong> cong>along>l ong>theong>mselves, has consistently stated that

as far as it is concerned Afghanistan will never threaten

any oong>theong>r country. Thus far, however, it has stopped short

of explicit condemnation of ong>along>-ong>Qaedaong>.

Afghans have not been involved in internationong>along> terrorism,

nor have ong>theong> Afghan ong>Tong>along>ibanong> adopted ong>theong> internationong>along>ist

jihadi rhetoric of affiliates of ong>along>-ong>Qaedaong>. The late Mullah

Dadullah had begun to echo ong>along>-ong>Qaedaong> rhetoric before he

was killed in 2007; his broong>theong>r Mansour was later expelled

ong>fromong> ong>theong> ong>Tong>along>ibanong> movement, reportedly for ong>theong> same

offense. None of ong>theong> September 11 hijackers were Afghan,

and ong>theong> only reported case of an Afghan involved in an

act of internationong>along> terrorism is that of Najibullah Zazi, who

had lived in ong>theong> United States since ong>theong> age of 14. In this

respect he fits ong>theong> profile of second- and third-generation

ong>along>-ong>Qaedaong> recruits – many of whom became radicong>along>ized in

ong>theong> West – raong>theong>r than that of ong>theong> ong>Tong>along>ibanong>. There has even

been some debate among ong>theong> Afghan ong>Tong>along>ibanong> about ong>theong>

legitimacy of suicide bombing, a tactic ong>theong>y learnt ong>fromong> ong>along>-

ong>Qaedaong>. 12

Some senior leaders of ong>theong> Afghan ong>Tong>along>ibanong> acknowledge

ong>theong> damage done by ong>theong> September 11 attacks and ong>theong>

movement’s association with bin Laden/ong>along>-ong>Qaedaong>. In

many ways, ong>theong> years since September 11 have been a

crash course in ong>theong> reong>along>ities of internationong>along> relations for

ong>theong> politicong>along> leadership of ong>theong> ong>Tong>along>ibanong>. 13

This review and rethinking of ong>theong> past came about

only following ong>theong> collapse of ong>theong>ir government, and

it took severong>along> years for ong>theong> leadership to come to some

consensus in acknowledging this even in private. They

reevong>along>uated not only ong>theong> foreign jihadi groups, but ong>along>so

ong>theong>ir movement’s own capacity for governance.

The leaders of ong>theong> Afghan ong>Tong>along>ibanong> do not see ong>theong>mselves in

a conflict that extends beyond ong>theong> borders of Afghanistan.

The“Islamic Emirate”has not cong>along>led for attacks to be carried

ong>Separatingong> ong>theong> ong>Tong>along>ibanong> ong>fromong> ong>along>-ong>Qaedaong>: The Core of Success in Afghanistan | A CIC Study

out in foreign countries against what ong>along>-ong>Qaedaong> cong>along>ls ong>theong>

“far enemy”; cong>along>ls to jihad have been limited to assets or

troops within Afghanistan. Moreover, ong>theong>re have been

continuong>along> and repeated statements noting that ong>theong> goong>along>s

of ong>theong> Afghan ong>Tong>along>ibanong> movement do not extend outside

ong>theong> borders of Afghanistan.

This is a basic reong>along>ity that ong>theong> United States and oong>theong>rs

should recognize and incorporate into ong>theong>ir strategy. U.S.

and NATO policies have a direct impact on ong>theong> trajectory

of ong>theong> ideologicong>along> development of ong>theong> movement and

its relationship to oong>theong>r radicong>along> Islamic groups, which see

ong>theong>mselves engaged in a different war with different goong>along>s,

and who ong>theong>refore pose a different threat.

Stakeholders and policymakers need to move beyond oft-

proclaimed preconceived ideas regarding ong>theong> ong>Tong>along>ibanong>. It

takes considerable imagination, for example, to envision

commonong>along>ities between ong>theong> ong>Tong>along>ibanong> and ong>theong> United

States. One such vision – recently suggested in private by

a senior ong>Tong>along>ibanong> politicong>along> strategist – is that ong>Tong>along>ibanong> forces

could conduct counterterrorism operations, including

joint operations togeong>theong>r with U.S. Speciong>along> Forces, against

ong>along>-ong>Qaedaong> and possibly its affiliates ong>along>ong ong>theong> Afghanistan-

Pakistan border. 14 While this idea seems impossible to

implement at present, it signifies considerable flexibility

within ong>theong> senior ong>Tong>along>ibanong> leadership.

5. U.S. Policy and ong>along>-ong>Qaedaong>

In his speech at West Point on December 1, 2009,

President Obama announced a temporary troop “surge” in

Afghanistan to reverse ong>theong> momentum of ong>theong> insurgency

and win back ong>theong> trust of Afghans in ong>theong> internationong>along>

engagement as well as in ong>theong> Afghan government.

While part of ong>theong> counter-insurgency strategy aims at

protecting ong>theong> population, anoong>theong>r part directly targets

insurgent leaders for capture or killing. In July 2010, ong>theong>

New York Times quoted NATO military statistics that showed

that in ong>theong> prior six months 130 important insurgency

figures had been captured or killed in Afghanistan. 15 Later

in ong>theong> year, according to NATO, in ong>theong> ninety days prior

to November 11, 2010, Speciong>along> Operations forces had

conducted 1,572 operations that resulted in 368 insurgent

leaders killed or captured, and 968 lower-level insurgents

killed and 2,477 captured, indicating a significant uptick in

tempo. 16 In ong>theong> face of ong>theong> offensive, ong>theong> older generation

of ong>Tong>along>ibanong> leadership is struggling to maintain its hold over

ong>theong> insurgency.

This, when taken togeong>theong>r with ong>theong> arrest of a number

of members of ong>theong> Afghan ong>Tong>along>ibanong>’s leadership council

in Pakistan in early 2010, 17 indicates how ong>theong> insurgency

has seen a turnover ong>fromong> its highest executive council to

ong>theong> regionong>along> and locong>along> levels, often down to district level

commanders. While ong>theong>re seems to be ample manpower

to fill ong>theong>se positions, as reflected in ong>theong> still increasing

number of insurgent attacks per month in comparison

to 2009, ong>theong> change of leadership of entire networks has

weakened ong>theong> chain of command, and threatens ong>theong> overong>along>l

integrity of ong>theong> leadership’s hold over ong>theong> insurgency.

Younger ong>Tong>along>ibanong> members have moved into ong>theong> command

structures and leadership positions.

Members of ong>theong> old generation who are still active have

seen ong>theong>ir authority decrease over ong>theong> past twelve months.

This applies not only to ong>theong> leader, Mullah Mohammad

Omar, but ong>along>so to those one level below him: Mullah

Obaidullah and Mullah Beradar are but two of ong>theong> best-

known examples of senior leaders now in detention and

ong>theong>refore out of action. 18 Mullah Beradar was removed

ong>fromong> ong>theong> field by Pakistan’s security services in what

seemed to be a cong>along>culated move to reaffirm and stress ong>theong>

brokering role that Pakistan seeks for itself in any future

politicong>along> settlement.

The campaign to target ong>theong> mid and high-ranking

leadership appears to be a key part of ong>theong> U.S. strategy

against ong>theong> ong>Tong>along>ibanong> at ong>theong> moment. 19 Its impact has been

felt. As ong>theong> older generation decreases in size, ong>theong> vacant

positions and power vacuum are filled by two groups ong>fromong>

younger generations: ong>theong> clerics and bureaucrats involved

in ong>theong> ong>Tong>along>ibanong>’s government during ong>theong> 1990s and an even

younger set of commanders. These newer generations are

potentiong>along>ly a more serious threat. With little or no memory

of Afghan society prior to ong>theong> Soviet war in ong>theong> 1980s, this

new generation of commanders is more ideologicong>along>ly

ong>Separatingong> ong>theong> ong>Tong>along>ibanong> ong>fromong> ong>along>-ong>Qaedaong>: The Core of Success in Afghanistan | A CIC Study







motivated and less nationong>along>istic than previous generations,

and ong>theong>refore less pragmatic. It is not interested in

negotiations or compromise with foreigners. They have

never lived in an Afghanistan that was at peace. Members

of ong>theong> youngest generation, often raised solely in refugee

camps and madrasas in Pakistan, have no experience of

traditionong>along> communities, productive economic activity,

or citizenship in any state; ong>theong>y are citizens of jihad. Al-

ong>Qaedaong> operatives have been known to seek out direct

contact with such younger ong>Tong>along>ibanong> field commanders

inside Afghanistan. 20 Where ong>theong> old leadership speaks

of a fight against foreign invaders, ong>theong> new generation

is adopting ong>theong> discourse of fighting against infidel

crusaders. With ong>along>-ong>Qaedaong> making tentative advances, its

worldview increasingly infiltrates ong>theong> younger generation

of ong>theong> Afghan ong>Tong>along>ibanong>. This trend is not yet widespread, but

it is noticeable.

The U.S. military appears to hope that aggressive targeting

of ong>theong> insurgency leadership leave locong>along> networks more

open to reconciling with ong>theong> government, thus avoiding

ong>theong> need to deong>along> politicong>along>ly with ong>theong> movement. This

strategy will, ong>theong> argument runs, lead to ong>theong> demise of ong>theong>

movement at large. 21 The more likely outcome, however,

is potentiong>along>ly very different: a still growing and ever more

radicong>along> but largely leaderless insurgency.

The United States claims that it is supporting a policy of

fighting ong>theong> insurgency while supporting Afghan-led rec-

onciliation. But this tactic often leads to unresolved and

contradictory messages about ong>theong> U.S. position on nego-

tiations. A September 12, 2010, U.S. Treasury Department

statement blacklisted three ong>along>leged ong>Tong>along>ibanong> and Haqqani

“financiers.” 22 The three figures, Mullah Gul Agha, Amir

Abdullah, and Nasiruddin Haqqani, had ong>along>l recently been

engaged in discussions with ong>theong> Karzai government – in

April, early spring, and June, respectively. 23 While ong>theong>re

could be oong>theong>r reasons for ong>theong>ir blacklisting, this move was

seen by ong>theong> ong>Tong>along>ibanong>’s leadership as a direct U.S. attempt to

control ong>theong> start of any negotiation process and prevent

ong>theong>se groups ong>fromong> reaching out independently of ong>theong>ir in-

fluence. Generong>along> Petraeus himself is frequently cited as ong>theong>

source of this interference. 24

One interview conducted for this study with a ong>Tong>along>ibanong>

leader who requested anonymity to protect his security is

worth quoting at length in this regard:

If ong>theong>re is financiong>along> support, military and politicong>along>

support, and diplomatic support, it will influence

ong>theong> policy of any society, any party, any country,

or any side that is being supported. Their policies

will be affected by this support. ... Everything is

possible if ong>theong>ir intention or politicong>along> will is present,

but so far it is difficult to locate this intent to go to

ong>theong> negotiating table. The actions of ong>theong> western

countries and ong>theong> U.S. government offer proof in

ong>theong> opposite direction. ... The policy of ong>theong> United

States so far is totong>along>ly ambiguous, and it is unclear

both for ong>theong> people of Afghanistan and ong>theong> people

of ong>theong> whole region. This is ong>theong> main problem and

contradiction in ong>theong>ir policies. They divide people

into black and white, radicong>along> and moderate, but

ong>theong>re is no clear policy. Why are ong>theong>y fighting here

in Afghanistan? What do ong>theong>y want for ong>theong> people

of Afghanistan? What do ong>theong>y want for ong>theong>mselves?

The people of Afghanistan do not seek to deny

ong>theong>ir legitimate interests in ong>theong> region, but still our

nationong>along> interest is dear to us, so why do ong>theong>y not

coordinate ong>theong>ir policies with our high interests? By

neglecting our nationong>along> interest ong>theong>y are following

ong>theong>ir own interest in an ambiguous environment. 25

Some of ong>theong> information that forms ong>theong> basis for arrests

and night raids to extract individuong>along>s appears to be based

on faulty intelligence. 26 While civilian casuong>along>ties caused by

foreign troops have decreased since mid-2009, night raids

and ong>theong> imprisonment of individuong>along>s who find ong>theong>mselves

handed over to Afghanistan’s corrupt security services

and justice system have increased. This state of affairs

sometimes has severe repercussions for ong>theong> United States

and foreign troops’ relationships to entire communities. 27

The current processes aimed at fragmenting ong>theong> insurgency

are unlikely to lead to its demise. The insurgency’s structure

– its fighters and subcommand – are proving considerably

more durable. Much of ong>theong> support structure is provided

by separate networks of people. Weapons, ammunition,

ong>Separatingong> ong>theong> ong>Tong>along>ibanong> ong>fromong> ong>along>-ong>Qaedaong>: The Core of Success in Afghanistan | A CIC Study

and oong>theong>r supplies are provided by a diverse set of traders

and smugglers, some of whom are affiliated with ong>theong>

Afghan government and security forces. 28 Alongside ong>theong>

weakening of ong>theong> chain of command within ong>theong> Afghan

ong>Tong>along>ibanong>, locong>along> ong>Tong>along>ibanong> commanders are gaining more and

more financiong>along> independence: ong>Tong>along>ibanong> field commanders

are mostly responsible for ong>theong>ir own weapons and logistics

supplies, for which ong>theong>y seek and find independent

funding. 29

The ong>Tong>along>ibanong> leadership are continuously trying to maintain

ong>theong> cohesion of ong>theong> overong>along>l insurgency but only managing

to control parts and sections. While ong>theong> overong>along>l strength

of ong>theong> insurgency is unlikely to be diminished by ong>theong>se

processes, its increasing fragmentation gives room to

groups like ong>along>-ong>Qaedaong> to infiltrate and manipulate ong>theong>

Afghan ong>Tong>along>ibanong>. That fragmentation fosters a shift towards

a more ideologicong>along>ly driven insurgency that holds ong>theong>

potentiong>along> to become an even greater internationong>along> threat.

6. Conclusion

Many ong>Tong>along>ibanong> leaders of ong>theong> older generation are still

potentiong>along> partners for a negotiated settlement. They are

not implacably opposed to ong>theong> U.S. or West in generong>along>

but to specific actions or policies in Afghanistan. These

figures now understand ong>theong> position of ong>theong> internationong>along>

community much better than ong>theong>y did before 2001. They

are not seeking a return to ong>theong> failed interactions between

ong>theong> ong>Tong>along>ibanong> and ong>theong> internationong>along> community of ong>theong> 1990s.

At present ong>theong>y still represent ong>theong> movement.

Could ong>theong> older-generation leadership be relied on to keep

Afghanistan terror-free? The reaction of ong>theong> insurgents

depends in part on how ong>theong>ir opponents choose to engage

ong>theong>m. There would be support for a break with ong>along>-ong>Qaedaong>

within ong>theong> senior leadership, but how this is addressed will

determine how effective ong>theong> break is to be. What is highly

likely is that engagement on a politicong>along> level will create

opportunities that do not yet exist.

For a process of politicong>along> negotiation to have a chance of

addressing ong>theong> core grievances and politicong>along> inequong>along>ities

that help ong>theong> insurgency by ong>along>ienating ong>theong> population, it

must occur on multiple levels nearly simultaneously. These

various tables around which negotiations need to be held

are important to reinforce ong>theong> message – and ong>theong> reong>along>ity –

that discussions about Afghanistan’s politicong>along> future must

include ong>along>l parties and not just be a quick-fix deong>along>.

Fighting and negotiating are not mutuong>along>ly exclusive; ong>theong>se

can and will happen in parong>along>lel. But ong>theong> way ong>theong> conflict is

conducted is important. If a politicong>along> settlement is indeed

being sought, ong>theong>re is little sense in trying to destroy ong>theong>

organizations one wants to tong>along>k to.

Alex Strick van Linschoten and Felix Kuehn are

researchers and writers based in Kandahar. They have

worked in Afghanistan since 2006, focusing on ong>theong> ong>Tong>along>ibanong>

insurgency and ong>theong> history of souong>theong>rn Afghanistan over

ong>theong> past four decades. Their research extends to oong>theong>r

Muslim countries, and ong>theong>y are regular commentators on

major western news channels. They are ong>theong> editors of ong>theong>

acclaimed memoir of Abdul Song>along>am Zaeef, My Life With ong>theong>

ong>Tong>along>ibanong>, published by Hurst in 2010. A book-length study

of ong>theong> ong>theong>mes explored in this paper will be published in

April 2011 by Hurst (UK) entitled An Enemy We Created: The

Myth of ong>theong> ong>Tong>along>ibanong>/Al ong>Qaedaong> Merger in Afghanistan, 1970-


ong>Separatingong> ong>theong> ong>Tong>along>ibanong> ong>fromong> ong>along>-ong>Qaedaong>: The Core of Success in Afghanistan | A CIC Study








1 “Afghan Arab” was ong>theong> name by which ong>theong> foreign jihadis in Afghanistan came to be known during and after ong>theong> 1980s jihad against ong>theong> Soviet Union.

2These were ong>theong> Harakat-i Inqilab-i Islami, led by Mawlawi Muhammad Nabi Muhammadi, and ong>theong> Hizb-i Islami faction, led by Mawlawi Yunus Khong>along>is.

Today’s Haqqani Network in Waziristan and souong>theong>astern Afghanistan is led by former fighters of Khong>along>is’s party.

3Interview, Kabul, July 2010 (with senior ong>Tong>along>ibanong> politicong>along> figure who attended ong>theong> meeting).

4Jay Solomon,“Eager for Allies, Army Tries Turning Insurgents; Chaos Embroils Pakistan,”The Wong>along>l Street Journong>along>, November 8, 2007. Also, interview, Anand

Gopong>along>, Washington D.C., June 2010.

5Matthieu Aikins, “The Master of Spin Boldak: Undercover with Afghanistan’s Drug-Trafficking Border Police,” Harper’s Magazine, December 2009. http:// (accessed December 19, 2010).

6Anand Gopong>along>, The Battle for Afghanistan: Kandahar. (Washington D.C.: New America Foundation, 2010).

7Interviews, Kandahar, 2009-10.

8http://ong>theong>>theong>%20Leadership%20Council%20of%20ong>theong>%20Islamic%20 Emirate%20of%20Afghanistan%20regarding%20ong>theong>%20London%20Conference.htm (accessed December 19, 2010).

9http://ong>theong>>theong>%20Esteemed%20Amir-ul-Momineen,%20 on%20ong>theong>%20Eve%20of%20Eid-ul-Fitr.htm (accessed December 19, 2010).

10 See>along>masryong>along>>along>iban-stronger-says-group-leader (accessed November 26, 2010).

11AP/MSNBC,“Saudi Arabia Wants ong>Tong>along>ibanong> to Expel Bin Laden,”February 2, 2010. (accessed September 1, 2010).

12 The rise in instances of suicide bombings ong>fromong> 2005 onwards is frequently attributed to information flows ong>fromong> Iraq, where ong>theong> insurgency employed

both of ong>theong>se to great effect; ong>theong> directly causong>along> nature of this relationship, however, is less than certain. Evidence points raong>theong>r to ong>theong> influence of Pakistani

militants in providing ong>theong> expertise and ong>theong> rise of certain commanders within ong>theong> ong>Tong>along>ibanong> as an explanation, ong>theong>refore offering a far more diffuse linking

of different groups than straight connections.

13Interviews, Kabul, Kandahar, and Khost, 2006-10.

14In this scenario, ong>Tong>along>ibanong> fighters would conduct joint operations with American or oong>theong>r Speciong>along> Forces.

15Thom Shanker and Alissa Rubin, “Quest to Neutrong>along>ize Afghan Militants Is Showing Glimpses of Success, NATO Says,” The New York Times, June 28, 2010. (accessed October 19, 2010).

16Thom Shanker, Elizabeth Bumiller, and Rod Norland, “Despite Gains, Night Raids Split U.S. and Karzai,” The New York Times, November 15, 2010.

17Dexter Filkins, “Pakistanis Tell of Motive in ong>Tong>along>ibanong> Leader’s Arrest,” The New York Times, August 22, 2010.

asia/23tong>along>iban.html?pagewanted=print (accessed October 5, 2010).

18Mullah Berader is believed to have been released ong>fromong> detention, but this has not been confirmed.

19Kimberly Dozier, “Petraeus Fights Time, Enemy in Afghanistan,” Associated Press, October 29, 2010.

ALeqM5gKQgVdBxfhWneF-UNXpCJfoEDcPgD9IHC3P80?docId=D9IHC3P80 (accessed October 5, 2010).

20Interview, Kabul, July 2010.

21Con Coughlin, “We May Be Beating ong>theong> ong>Tong>along>ibanong>, But in this Country You’d Never Know It,” The Daily Telegraph, September 24, 2010. http://www.telegraph.>theong>-ong>Tong>along>ibanong>-but-in-this-country-youd-never-know-it.html (accessed October 5,


22 (accessed September 12, 2010).

23Interviews, Kabul and Kandahar, July and August 2010.

24Interviews, Kandahar, July and August 2010.

25Interview, Kabul, July 2010.

26For ong>theong> significant problems with ong>theong> intelligence in Afghanistan see Major Generong>along> Michael T. Flynn, Captain Matt Pottinger, and Paul D. Batchelor, Fixing

Intel: A Blueprint for Making Intelligence Relevant in Afghanistan. (Washington D.C.: ong>Centerong> for a New American Security, 2010).

27Authors’ observation, Kandahar, 2009-10.

28 Interviews, Kandahar, 2008-2010.

29 Authors’ observation and interviews, Kabul and Kandahar, 2008-10.

ong>Separatingong> ong>theong> ong>Tong>along>ibanong> ong>fromong> ong>along>-ong>Qaedaong>: The Core of Success in Afghanistan | A CIC Study

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