Al Qaeda Leader Threatens: ‘The U.S. Doesn’t Know What’s Coming Its Way.’
This article first appeared on the Brookings Institution site.
After an unprecedented 11 months of silence, Ayman al-Zawahri, the emir of Al Qaeda, this week issued a video message proclaiming his loyalty to the new head of the Afghan Taliban, Mullah Akhtar Mansoor. The almost 10-minute long message dramatically reaffirms the alliance between Al Qaeda and the Taliban, a setback for efforts to bring the Taliban into a political process.
The video was released by Al Qaeda’s media arm As-Sahab, meaning “in the clouds” or an allusion to the jihadi symbolism that Al Qaeda operates in the mountains of the Hindu Kush.
According to the Pakistan newspaper Dawn, As-Sahab recently relocated its real ground game from Pakistan (where it has been operating since 2002) back to Afghanistan in Helmand province. The Afghan Taliban supported the move and provides safe haven for Al Qaeda, which means 14 years after Operation Enduring Freedom began, Al Qaeda is again running operations out of Afghanistan.
Al-Zawahri’s message underscores that Al Qaeda remains close to the Taliban. According to Dawn, a senior As-Sahab official, Qari Abu Bakr, said “the bond between us and our Taliban brothers is a solid ideological bond. The Taliban opted to lose their government and family members just to protect us. There is no question of us moving apart now after going through this war together.” In a warning to the United States, he says, “Our common enemy does not know what is coming its way.”
In his new message, al-Zawahri eulogizes Mullah Mohammad Omar, the founder of the Taliban, as a hero of the global jihad along with Osama bin Laden and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Mullah Omar is lauded by al-Zawahri for creating the first true Islamic emirate since the fall of the Ottoman Empire a century ago. He makes no mention of reports Mullah Omar died two years ago in a Pakistan hospital in Karachi under the protection of the Pakistani intelligence service, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).
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