Is al-Qaeda making a move from Afghanistan to Syria?

Does the appearance of prominent al-Qaeda leadership figures in Syria signal a direct intervention in the conflict?

al-monitor Ayman al-Zawahri speaks from an unknown location, in this still image taken from video uploaded on a social media website, June 8, 2011 Photo by REUTERS/Social Media Website.

İşlenmiş konular

syria, jihad, islamic state, al-qaeda, afghanistan

Tem 24, 2014

Al-Qaeda, headed by Ayman al-Zawahri, is preparing to take a new step in the course of its struggle with the Islamic State (IS). According to leaks from jihadist sources close to al-Qaeda, the organization is planning to [militarily] commit the Taliban movement to this bloody conflict.

The influx of jihadists from Afghanistan to Syria is a further indicator of the upcoming escalation of the conflict between the two sides. However, it also raises questions as to the border crossings used by the jihadist convoys and the regional and international intelligence services that must have facilitated the opening of these crossings. The crossings must have turned a blind eye on the travelers, although some of them are wanted criminals at the international level. Despite these lapses in security, intelligence apparatuses still claim they are on alert due to the "fallout" of the jihadists returning to their countries.

In a remarkable move, the General Command of al-Qaeda renewed its pledge of allegiance to the amir al-muminin [commander of the faithful], Mullah Mohammad Omar Mujahid in its first edition of al-Nafir [the call to arms], which is an online bulletin issued by as-Sahab Foundation — al-Qaeda's media arm.

The first edition stated, “Al-Qaeda and its branches everywhere are soldiers among his soldiers, fighting under [God’s] banner to uphold the word of God, spread Sharia and liberate every spot of the land of Islam.”

The renewal of the pledge of allegiance came a few days after a leaked video of former al-Qaeda leader, the late Osama Bin Laden, which sparked controversy among jihadist circles as Bin Laden described his oath of allegiance to Mullah Omar to be "the great pledge." He said, "Those who die without pledging allegiance to Omar will die the death of the time of jahiliyya [time before Islam]."

This coincided with the first statement of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan about the situation in the Levant, which demanded the establishment of a Shura Council including the leaders of all factions and staying away from unbelievers and infidels, in a clear reference to IS.

However, it remains unclear whether or not the Emirate of Afghanistan and Mullah Omar have given the green light to the leader of Jabhat al-Nusra, Mohammed al-Golani, to establish an Emirate in the Levant. There is some doubt that this has been issued, on the part of the Emirate, since its official website Shahamat Net did not mention anything to this regard. This suggests that Golani’s declaration of the implementation of Sharia and the [expected] imminent announcement of the Emirate of the Levant happened in coordination with and the blessing of the Emirate of Afghanistan, through coordination with Zawahri.

Thus, in contradiction to previous media reports, there is no conflict in vision between Jabhat al-Nusra and its leadership in Khorasan regarding the implementation of Sharia as a prelude to the establishment of an emirate. It is most likely that this step was made upon the directives of the leader of the Emirate of Afghanistan, who is trying to depict his emirate as being a national emirate within the territorial borders of this country. However, the truth is that he seeks to expand his emirate had it not been for the unfavorable conditions.

Thus, the alternative would be to use all the branches of al-Qaeda that owe allegiance to him as a way to stress "his presence." Also significant is the Emirate of Afghanistan did not feel the need to issue a statement on the issue of the situation in the Levant, until after Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s proclamation of the caliphate and thus the emergence of a rival to Mullah Omar in the leadership of al-Qaeda International.

This engagement of Taliban in the jihadist sedition in the Levant, with the encouragement of Zawahri, will cause possible rifts in the jihadist structure in Afghanistan, in general, and in the leadership of Khorasan in particular. With some of these rifts, one ought to mention the defection of some emirs from the leadership of Khorasan who are pledging allegiance to IS and Baghdadi

In this context, a prominent figure in al-Qaeda, Abu Jarir al-Shamali, arrived in Syria a few days ago from the northern mountains of Afghanistan where he was supposed to be hiding from the prosecution of US and international intelligence services.

Upon his arrival, a website close to IS derided the news. The man arrived along with other eight men who did not reveal their names. Shamali was one of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's close friends and had left Iraq in 2006 for Afghanistan, following the death of his friend in 2006.

Before Shamali, Abu Hamid al-Barqawi, another leader, traveled the 2,500 kilometers (1,553 miles) separating Afghanistan and Syria, settled in the town of Jarablos in the countryside of Aleppo on the border with Turkey and pledged allegiance to Baghdadi.

As-Safir previously mentioned in a report that Abu Malek al-Tamimi from Saudi Arabia, whose real name is Ali Abdul Aziz al-Nashwan, had arrived to Syria without being stopped or hindered on his way despite his name appearing on the list of international wanted terrorists. He is now settled, mainly, in the Raqqa province.

This easy and safe transition of the most dangerous terrorist leaders from Baghdad [and Afghanistan], mostly through European countries, to Syria poses the same old question regarding the serious measures by Western and European countries, which have repeatedly expressed their concerns about the return of jihadists to their countries.

How did all these wanted leaders manage to enter European capitals and stay there for several days before heading to Turkey and then Syria? Is there any real control on their movements? Is it a lack of good measures on the part of international intelligence services, or are they turning a blind eye to the terrorist leaders heading to Syria?

The route from Afghanistan to Damascus has been traveled many times by international wanted terrorist leaders, including the emirs who defected from Khorasan and pledged allegiance to IS, in addition to many other members sent the Khorasan leadership itself to Jabhat al-Nusra after its resounding defeat in the eastern region of Syria and the fleeing of its leaders.

Will this path become a safe route for terrorist, just as the main pretext for the occupation of Afghanistan was the combating of terrorism?

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