media arm, As Sahab, has released yet another message from Ayman al-Zawahiri.
The elderly al Qaeda leader is a prolific commentator on world affairs, having
released a series of videos and audios over the years. As Sahab transcribed his
latest message, titled “Don’t Forget Kashmir,” in both Arabic and English.
has been grooming an upstart group to wage jihad against Indian forces in
Kashmir, and Zawahiri discusses the conflict at length.
doesn’t explicitly mention Ansar Ghazwat-ul-Hind (AGH), but the al Qaeda chief
clearly has the organization in mind. Toward the end of As Sahab’s video, an
image of AGH’s fallen leader, Zakir Musa, is displayed on screen as Zawahiri
speaks. Al Qaeda eulogized Musa after he was killed last month.
importantly, key parts of Zawahiri’s message echo a speech given by Musa’s
successor just days ago. Indeed, it is likely that Al Qaeda and AGH are
coordinating their messages.
leader, Abdul Hameed Lelhari (a.k.a. Haroon Abbas), called for the
establishment of a new Shura council, independent from Pakistani intelligence,
to decide on military operations in Kashmir. Lelhari also accused a Pakistani
“agency” of trying to rein in the jihad against the Indians by preventing big
attacks. And he stressed that the jihad in Kashmir should aim to establish
sharia, or Islamic law, to rule over the land.
in his newly-released talk, Zawahiri says that the Mujahideen must “liberate
the Kashmiri jihad from the clutches of Pakistan’s intelligence agencies,” such
that the jihad is “for the sake of Allah” (meaning for the purpose of
implementing sharia) as opposed to a struggle “for the sake of international
achieving this liberation,” Zawahiri says, “the Mujahideen must plan their
jihad by taking free and independent decisions that are guided by the
principles of sharia.” This is the same as Lelhari’s call for an independent
Qaeda chief says that he is “of the view that the Mujahideen in Kashmir- at
this stage at least- should single-mindedly focus on inflicting unrelenting
blows on the Indian Army and government, so as to bleed the Indian economy and
make India suffer sustained losses in manpower and equipment.”
recommendation stands in direct contrast to Pakistan’s supposed reticence
regarding large-scale attacks on Indian forces, as alleged by AGH’s Lelhari.
Pakistan Of Betraying The Jihadists In Afghanistan And Kashmir
Pakistani military and intelligence establishment has traditionally supported
jihadist groups focused on the Kashmiri cause, including outfits allied with al
Qaeda. But Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) and AGH have argued that
the Pakistanis are not trustworthy in this regard. Zawahiri amplifies this
critique, but parts of his story are entirely dubious.
Zawahiri’s telling, the Pakistani government and Army are “toadies of America”
who prevented the “Arab Mujahideen” from “head[ing] to Kashmir after expelling
the Russians from Afghanistan.”
as the 9/11 Commission found, al Qaeda trained fighters for the Kashmiri cause
in Afghan camps during the 1990s. The U.S. learned that Pakistan’s military
intelligence service even had a presence at one of the al Qaeda camps struck in
retaliation for the Aug. 1998 U.S. Embassy bombings. The Pakistanis were
training Kashmiri jihadists.
accuses the Pakistanis of selling out the Taliban’s Islamic Emirate of
Afghanistan, as well as the Mujahideen and emigrants who served it.
intelligence agencies provided the Crusader[s] with extensive information about
the Islamic Emirate and its Mujahideen” after 9/11, Zawahiri says. As a result,
the Pakistani government “arrested the Mujahideen of al Qaeda and the Islamic
Emirate, tortured them in its prisons and handed them over to the Crusaders.”
Pakistani intelligence provided the Americans with “safe houses, secret private
prisons, logistic routes and support,” while “secur[ing] the land route (to
Afghanistan) for them” and allowing the U.S. to fly its drones over Pakistani
airspace. In “return,” Zawahiri claims, the Pakistanis “received bribes.”
It is true
that Pakistan helped conduct counterterrorism operations against al Qaeda and
provided other assistance after 9/11. However, as everyone knows, the
Pakistanis played a double game by simultaneously harboring the Taliban’s
senior leadership, including members of the al Qaeda-allied Haqqani Network.
Therefore, Zawahiri’s summary of Pakistan’s behaviour is incomplete.
Qaeda leader implicitly concedes that the Pakistani military-intelligence
establishment is willing to work with the jihadists, but he casts this support
in an entirely negative light.
Pakistani Army and government are interested in is exploiting the Mujahideen
for specific political objectives, only to dump or persecute them later,”
Zawahiri claims. The “beneficiaries” of this policy are nothing more than a
“bunch of traitors who fill their pockets with bribes and illegitimate wealth.”
reasons, Zawahiri argues, it is “impossible for these [Pakistani] agencies to
support the Islamic cause, defend Muslims, or liberate their lands.” Pakistan’s
“conflict with India is essentially a secular rivalry over borders managed by
the American intelligence.”
Jihad Part of the Ummah’s Struggle
theme in Zawahiri’s message is that the fight in Kashmir shouldn’t be thought
of as separate conflict, but is instead part of the Ummah’s (worldwide
community of Muslims) jihad against a vast array of forces. The Egyptian al
Qaeda chief calls on unnamed scholars to emphasize this point.
scholars] must clearly state that supporting the jihad in Kashmir, the
Philippines, Chechnya, Central Asia, Iraq, Syria, the Arabian Peninsula,
Somalia, the Islamic Maghreb and Turkistan is an individual obligation on all
Muslims, until sufficient strength is achieved to expel the disbelieving occupier
from Muslim lands,” Zawahiri says.
same vein, Zawahiri says the “Mujahideen in Kashmir must benefit from the
jihadi awakening in the different theatres of jihad.” The fighters in Kashmir
“must communicate with the Mujahideen in different parts of the world, and
ensure that their voice reaches them, so that the Kashmir issue is raised at
the popular level within the Ummah and its latest developments are continuously
brought to light.” Moreover, Zawahiri elaborates, the Kashmiri jihadists “need
to establish stronger channels of communication with their Muslim brethren all
over the Muslim world.”
Zawahiri issued his general guidelines for waging jihad. This code of conduct
was drafted with an eye toward building and preserving popular support by,
among other things, avoiding operations that alienate the common man.
specifically mentioning these guidelines, Zawahiri calls for something similar
in Kashmir. He says that “mosques, markets, and gathering places of Muslims”
should not “become targets of explosions.”
especially concerned that “crimes” could “distort the image of the Mujahideen
and divert the attention of the Muslim masses from the core issues, turning
them into [a] receptive audience for the propaganda campaigns of governments.
and Western-controlled media.” In addition, Zawahiri claims, the Pakistani Army
and intelligence services use the media under their control to exploit “these
deviations” and “distort” the jihad for their own ends.
“absence of sharia guidelines,” Zawahiri warns, the Mujahideen could be turned
“into murderers” and mere criminals. Some of “these deviations and diseases
have [already] penetrated into the ranks of the Mujahideen, and there is no
choice but to confront this phenomenon by enjoining good and forbidding evil.”
behalf of Taliban’s Islamic Emirate is an “individual obligation”
his remarks Zawahiri calls on scholars to inform Muslims that it is their
individual duty to wage jihad in Afghanistan.
exclaims: “Esteemed scholars! It is your duty to preach to the Ummah that the
Jihad against America in Afghanistan today is an individual obligation (fard
ayn), just as the jihad against Russia was three decades earlier.”
the people that we are a single ummah, and our jihad is one jihad,” the al
Qaeda honcho says to scholars. Moreover these same scholars should explain that
“support of the Islamic Emirate in Afghanistan is an individual obligation on
the people of Afghanistan and those in their proximity, and after them on all
Muslims, until sufficient strength is achieved to defeat America, its allies,
and its agents.”
Joscelyn is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and
the Senior Editor for FDD's Long War Journal.
Source: The Long War Journal