Will the Taliban learn from their past?
August 1stst 2022, the Afghan press reproduced a Twitter post from former Afghan security director Rahmatullah Nabil, saying he had spotted the US drones in Kabul airspace that had attacked various locations in Kabul.
Taliban Kabul police spokesman Khalid Zardan quickly issued a statement confirming that a rocket [not a drone attack] hit a vacant house on July 31, causing no injuries. The subject was closed. No panic, no fury and no condemnation of the United States for violating Afghan sovereignty. Probably, the Taliban were not fully aware of what had already happened or they were simply amazed by the incident and were now looking for a face-saving strategy that could be suitable for both internal and external consumption.
The next day, the world press ran a feature story claiming that al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri had been eliminated in Kabul by US drone attacks. US accused Taliban of ‘grossly’ breaching Doha deal by harboring al-Qaeda’s Zawahiri; Afghan Deputy Prime Minister Abdul Salam Hanafi called the attacks a violation of both national sovereignty and the Doha agreement, but refrained from admitting the identity of the victim.
After remaining silent for a few days, the Taliban issued an official statement denying the death of the al-Qaeda leader on Afghan soil and even refused to admit if he ever arrived and remained in Afghanistan. But then who had been the target of the American drone attacks? Instead of responding to this, Hanafi opted for the rhetoric of government determination that is based on not using Afghan soil against others.
It was not the first time that the Afghan Taliban had been accused of providing shelters to terrorist groups. A day before the US drone attack, Russia’s special envoy for Afghanistan Zamir Kabulov told a press briefing that since the Islamic Emirate came to power, the number of IS (Daesh) militants has gone from 2,000 to 6,000 now.
Pakistan is another country that constantly suffers cross-border attacks carried out by Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) militants who enjoy the official protection of the Afghan Taliban. Shortly after the Afghan Taliban came to power, they freed 2,300 TTP commanders and activists who had been imprisoned by the United States. This move by the Afghan Taliban had quickly increased the strength of the TTP to more than 7,000 strong men who since then have been residing under the shelter of the Afghan Taliban and leading their sleeping cells in the country to trigger their terrorist attacks in Pakistan.
Despite the organization of peace talks between the TTP and Pakistan on their own soil, the Afghan Taliban have the guts to claim that they firmly refuse to use Afghan soil against others.
For the Afghan Taliban, terrorism seems to have a different meaning than the rest of the world. That’s why all of these militant organizations and America’s most wanted terrorist, Ayman al-Zawahiri, would have had complete freedom to live in a neighborhood of Kabul where former Afghan general and Uzbek strongman Abdul Rashid Dostum had also lived. , among other local dignitaries.
Islamic Jihad and al-Qaeda had been involved in a number of terrorist attacks in different parts of the world long before the 9/11 incident. After 9/11 they further expanded their operations and Pakistan also became a target.
So who was Ayman al-Zawahiri? A Telegraph obituary reports that Ayman al-Zawahiri was born in Giza, Egypt to an upper-middle-class family. His grandfather was the grand imam of Al-Azhar University in Cairo, his great-uncle was the first secretary general of the Arab League, while his father was a professor of pharmacology and his mother came from a wealthy political family. . From an early age, Ayman was under the influence of his maternal uncle Mahfouz Azzam, who was a disciple of the radical Islamist thinker Sayyid Qutb – the founder of the radical religious party of the Muslim Brotherhood and who preached “Jihad to abolish the authorities of the Jahili”. [ungodly] system”.
Born and raised in a religious environment, Zawahiri found the Muslim Brotherhood a suitable platform for his mindset and he joined in 1965. He went to prison at the age of 14 when Sayyid Qutb was arrested and later executed for conspiracy. Zawahiri, along with four other comrades, continued to work as an underground cell which later merged with others to form Egyptian Islamic Jihad (also known as Islamic Jihad).
To pursue the cause he considered most sacred, he established a close relationship with Osama bin Laden and both worked on different “jihadist missions” in different parts of the world, especially in Africa and Asia. The Afghan Jihad gave Zawahiri the opportunity to travel to Pakistan as early as 1980 to provide medical aid to Afghan refugees. As The Telegraph reports, he was found involved in the following high-profile terrorist attacks around the world:
1970 Zawahiri forms the Islamic Jihad party.
1981 Zawahiri is arrested as a suspect in the assassination of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat.
1988 Zawahiri and Osama bin Laden found al-Qaeda in Khost, Afghanistan, and various jihadist groups join.
1995 Suspected of having financed the suicide bombing of the Egyptian Embassy in Islamabad. Also implicated in an assassination attempt on Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in Addis Ababa.
1997 The United States appointed Zawahiri as leader of the Vanguards of Conquest – an Islamic Jihad faction behind the massacre of 70 foreign tourists in Luxor, Egypt.
1998 Suspected of involvement in the US Embassy bombings in Tanzania and Nairobi killing 200 people.
Zawahiri and Osama bin Laden issued a joint “fatwa” ordering Muslims to kill American civilians anywhere in the world.
1999 Sentenced to death in absentia by an Egyptian court for activities related to Islamic Jihad.
2006 Takes operational command of al-Qaeda, reforms the group and in the same year, Afghanistan experiences 139 suicide attacks against 27 in 2005. During the same year, seven bomb attacks in London in July. He was the mastermind behind these attacks.
2011 Zawahiri became the leader of Al-Qaeda after OBL was killed by US troops on May 2, 2011.
Islamic Jihad and al-Qaeda had been involved in a number of terrorist attacks in different parts of the world long before the 9/11 incident. After 9/11 they further expanded their operations and Pakistan also became a target. From 2013 to 2020, more than 170 AQ-affiliated activists have been arrested in Pakistan. One of them, Saifullah, claiming to be a close associate of Ayman al-Zawahiri, was arrested in Multan on November 8, 2013.
From 2014 to 2020, nearly 80 militants belonging to al-Qaeda have been killed in Pakistan during security operations and more than 22 have been killed in seven drone attacks by the United States. From 2014 to 2015, al-Qaeda in Indian Society (AQIS) claimed responsibility for terrorist attacks in Pakistan that killed 76 civilians and security personnel. The most feared attack took place at the Wagah border on November 2n/a 2014 which left 57 dead and 120 injured. An Al-Qaeda affiliate known as Jundullah was one of the perpetrators of this attack.
Zawahiri and OBL may have had their own justifications for what they did, but the newly formed Taliban government was expected to have evolved from their past. The way they governed the country after their resurrection in Afghanistan keeps reminding the world that they are back on the same path they were two decades ago.
This raises a question: how long can the Taliban continue to rule the country with an approach that does not mesh well with the rest of the world, especially in a situation where natural disasters, food and economic crisis are looming? on the horizon ? and make them more dependent on support from the global community?