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

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

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

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