Al Qaeda's paramilitary 'Shadow Army'


At least one squad of the joint Taliban-al Qaeda Shadow Army operating in Swat.

Al Qaeda has reorganized its notorious paramilitary formations that were devastated during the US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 and 2002. Al Qaeda has reestablished the predominantly Arab and Asian paramilitary formation that was formerly known as Brigade 055 into a larger, more effective fighting unit known as the Lashkar al Zil, or Shadow Army, a senior US intelligence official told The Long War Journal.

The Shadow Army is active primarily in Pakistan's tribal areas, the Northwest Frontier Province, and in eastern and southern Afghanistan, several US military and intelligence officials told The Long War Journal on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the subject.

The paramilitary force is well trained and equipped, and has successfully defeated the Pakistani Army in multiple engagements. Inside Pakistan, the Shadow Army has been active in successful Taliban campaigns in North and South Waziristan, Bajaur, Peshawar, Khyber, and Swat.

In Afghanistan, the Shadow Army has conducted operations against Coalition and Afghan forces in Kunar, Nuristan, Nangahar, Kabul, Logar, Wardak, Khost, Paktika, Paktia, Zabul, Ghazni, and Kandahar provinces.

"The Shadow Army has been instrumental in the Taliban's consolidation of power in Pakistan's tribal areas and in the Northwest Frontier Province," a senior intelligence official said. "They are also behind the Taliban's successes in eastern and southern Afghanistan. They are helping to pinch Kabul."

Afghan and Pakistan-based Taliban forces have integrated elements of their forces into the Shadow Army, "especially the Tehrik-e-Taliban and Haqqani Network," a senior US military intelligence official said. "It is considered a status symbol" for groups to be a part of the Shadow Army.

The Tehrik-e-Taliban is the Pakistani Taliban movement led by Baitullah Mehsud, the South Waziristan leader who has defeated Pakistani Army forces in conventional battles. The Haqqani Network straddles the Afghan-Pakistani border and has been behind some of the most high-profile attacks in Afghanistan.

The Shadow Army's effectiveness has placed the group in the crosshairs of the covert US air campaign in Pakistan's tribal areas. In October 2008, the US killed Khalid Habib al Shami, the leader of the Shadow Army, in a strike on a compound in North Waziristan.

A look at the Shadow Army

The presence of the Shadow Army has been evident for some time, as there have been numerous reports of joint operations between the Taliban, al Qaeda, the Haqqani Network, Hizb-i-Islami, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Harkat-ul-Jihad Islami, and other terror groups. In January 2008, The Long War Journal noted that the various terror groups were cycling through the numerous camps in the tribal areas and have organized under a military structure.

While the Shadow Army has been active, there has been little visual evidence of its existence until now. The Long War Journal has obtained a photograph of a unit from the Shadow Army operating in Pakistan's Taliban-controlled district of Swat.

The photograph was taken some time in January of this year. It shows what appears to be either a reinforced squad or two squads of foot soldiers. Fourteen fighters are in view, and others appear to be in the far background. All of the fighters are wearing masks, new clothes, sneakers, and web gear. One fighter is wearing a Camelbak. The weapons are uniform; six AK-47s and one RPG are in view.

A look at the clothing of the fighters gives a good indication of the identity of the fighters, an expert on al Qaeda told The Long War Journal. The length of the pants of pictured fighters is described as being at "al Qaeda height" -- meaning only al Qaeda and allied "Wahhabi/Salafi-jihadis" wear their pant legs this high.

"The extremists who follow al Qaeda's religious beliefs think that pants must be at least six inches above the ground because there's a hadith [a saying of the Prophet Mohammed] that says clothes that touch the ground are a sign of pride and vanity," the expert said. "This, along with the new dyeing of men's beards red or yellow is a sure sign of al Qaeda-ization."

The type of masks worn and the tennis shoes are also strong indicators that these fighters "are non-Afghan fighters," an expert on the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan said. "Those types of masks I have seen, and they are always on the Pakistani side of the border," the expert said. "The tennis shoes and socks are a big indicator that they are non-Afghan fighters, probably Pakistanis or Arab/Central Asian fighters."

Military Organization of the Shadow Army

The Shadow Army is organized under a military structure, a US military intelligence officer familiar with the situation in northwestern Pakistan informed The Long War Journal. There are units analogous to battalion, brigade, and division formations found in Western armies.

The military organization has a clear-cut command structure with established ranks. A senior al Qaeda military leader is placed in command of the Shadow Army, while experienced officers are put in command of the brigades and subordinate battalions and companies.

The re-formed Brigade 055 is but one of an estimated three to four brigades in the Shadow Army. Several other Arab brigades have been formed, some consisting of former members of Saddam Hussein's Republican Guards as well as Iraqis, Saudis, Yemenis, Egyptians, North Africans, and others.

During the reign of the Taliban in Afghanistan prior to the US invasion in 2001, the 055 Brigade served as "the shock troops of the Taliban and functioned as an integral part of the latter's military apparatus," al Qaeda expert Rohan Gunaratna wrote in Inside al Qaeda. At its peak in 2001, the 055 Brigade had an estimated 2,000 soldiers and officers in the ranks. The brigade was comprised of Arabs, Central Asians, and South Asians, as well as Chechens, Bosnians, and Uighurs from Western China.

The 055 Brigade has "completely reformed and is surpassing pre-2001 standards," an official said. The other brigades are also considered well trained.

One official said the mixing of the various Taliban and al Qaeda units has made distinctions between the groups somewhat meaningless.

"The line between the Taliban and al Qaeda is increasingly blurred, especially from a command and control perspective," the official said. "Are Faqir Mohammed, Baitullah Mehsud, Hakeemullah Mehsud, Ilyas Kashmiri, Siraj Haqqani, and all the rest 'al Qaeda'?" the official asked, listing senior Taliban commanders in Pakistan that operate closely with al Qaeda. "Probably not in the sense that they maintain their own independent organizations, but the alliance is essentially indistinguishable at this point except at a very abstract level."

The Taliban have begun an ideological conversion to Wahhabism, the radical form of Sunni Islam practiced by al Qaeda. "The radicalization of the Taliban and their conversion away from Deobandism to Wahhabism under Sheikh Issa al Masri and other al Qaeda leaders is a clear sign of the al Qaeda's preeminence," the official noted. Sheikh Issa is the spiritual adviser for Egyptian Islamic Jihad, Ayman al Zawahiri's organization that merged into al Qaeda, and the leader of al Jihad fi Waziristan, an al Qaeda branch in North Waziristan.

The establishment of the joint Taliban and al Qaeda military formations under the overall command of the Shadow Army has been facilitated by the proliferation of terror training camps in the tribal areas and the Northwest Frontier Province.

In the summer of 2008, senior US intelligence officials told The Long War Journal that more than 150 camps and more than 400 support locations were in operation in Northwestern Pakistan. Most of the camps are considered "transient" in nature, an official said. Trainers and recruits may gather in villages and meet to conduct training in the vast mountains and valleys in Pakistan's northwest. As of last summer, an estimated 25 to 40 of the camps were considered permanent.

These camps have various functions, and not all of them are used to train the Shadow Army. Some of the camps are used to indoctrinate and train suicide bombers for attacks in Pakistan, Afghanistan, India, and the West. Some of the camps are devoted to training the various Kashmiri terror groups who have flocked to the tribal areas and are also integrating with the terror alliance. One of these camps serves as a training ground for the Black Guard, the elite bodyguard for Osama bin Laden, Ayman al Zawahiri, and other senior al Qaeda leaders.

Click map for full view. Taliban presence, by district and tribal agency, the Northwest Frontier Province and the Federally Administered Tribal Agencies. Information on Taliban presence obtained from open source and derived by The Long War Journal based on the presence of Taliban shadow governments, levels of fighting, and reports from the region. Map created by Bill Raymond for The Long War Journal.

An effective fighting force

The Shadow Army has distinguished itself during multiple battles over the past several years, particularly in Pakistan's tribal areas and in the Northwest Frontier Province. Taliban forces under the command of Baitullah Mehsud defeated the Pakistani Army in South Waziristan during fighting in 2005-2006, and again fended off the Pakistani Army in 2008 after fighting pitched battles and overrunning a series of forts.

In Swat, the Pakistani military was twice defeated by forces under the command of Mullah Fazlullah during 2007 and 2008. Earlier this year, the military launched its third attempt to secure Swat, which has been solidly under the control of the Taliban. The most recent operation was initiated after Fazlullah issued an amnesty to certain government officials and called for others to be tried in a sharia court. The military regained control of a small region last week, but fighting has been heavy. A few days ago, Taliban forces overran a police station and captured 30 members of the police and paramilitary Frontier Corps.

In Bajaur, the hidden hand of the Shadow Army has been seen in multiple reports from the region. Taliban forces dug a series of sophisticated trench and tunnel networks as well as bunkers and pillboxes. The Pakistani military took more than a month to clear a six-mile stretch of road in the Loisam region. Pakistani military officials also said the Taliban "have good weaponry and a better communication system (than ours)."

"Even the sniper rifles they use are better than some of ours," the Pakistani official told Dawn "Their tactics are mind-boggling and they have defenses that would take us days to build. It does not look as though we are fighting a rag-tag militia; they are fighting like an organized force."

Taliban forces have also conducted battalion-sized operations in Hangu. In July 2008, a Taliban unit laid siege to a police station and a fort in Hangu. The fort was abandoned by the Frontier Corps and the Taliban destroyed it.

The Shadow Army has had some recent successes in Afghanistan over the past year. In July 2008, the unit made up of al Qaeda, the Taliban, Lashkar-e-Taiba, and Hizb-e-Islami joined forces and conducted a complex assault on a US outpost in Wanat in Nuristan province. The attack was repelled after the force nearly overran the base. Nine US soldiers were killed in the assault, the largest loss by US forces in a single engagement in Afghanistan to date.

Another engagement in the Surobi region in Kabul province was likely the work of the Shadow Army. A force ambushed a French military convoy in a valley just outside of the capital and pinned down the unit for hours. Ten French soldiers were killed, and the Taliban was able to seize French weapons abandoned on the battlefield.

The effectiveness of the Shadow Army can be seen in a video taken by an Al Jazeera reporter during an operation in Loisam in the Bajaur tribal agency in the fall of 2008 [see video below]. The Taliban forces drive off a battalion-sized assault from regular Pakistani Army troops that are supported by at least a platoon of tanks. The Pakistani tanks are seen racing away from the fighting, and the Pakistani infantry moving in behind them does the same after taking fire. The reporter describes the Pakistani tank commander as "quite shaken." The tank commander calls for airstrikes to take out the Taliban positions, but the infantry and tanks go into full retreat and return to base after the Taliban counterattacks.

The Pakistani unit involved in the fighting was the 63rd Battalion of the Frontier Force Regiment. This is a regular Army unit, not part of the paramilitary Frontier Corps. The 63rd was deployed to Somalia during the peacekeeping mission in the 1990s. More than 8,000 Pakistan troops were deployed in the Loisam region to clear the Taliban and al Qaeda forces, but only took the village after leveling the town.

The Pakistani retreat sent a chill up the spine of a US Army officer who was shown the video. "Clearly the Pakistani forces lack discipline and morale, but even with these problems the combined armor and infantry attack, backed by air support, should have gone better," the officer said.

"Those troops have obviously met stiff resistance," the Army officer continued. "You just watched a full battalion, supported by tanks, break contact after an attack by a supposedly undisciplined, 'rag-tag' force of Taliban fighters. For the Taliban to drive off that unit, it has to be organized, disciplined, well-armed, and competent."


A Pakistani battalion retreats from a Taliban counterattack. Video from Al Jazeera English.




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READER COMMENTS: "Al Qaeda's paramilitary 'Shadow Army'"

Posted by Render at February 9, 2009 3:11 AM ET:

Reign.

;),
R

Posted by flyonthwall at February 9, 2009 6:56 AM ET:

I'm wondering if AlQ-Tban can now be identified by uniform. Or will their casualties still be identified as civilians? Is a "Shadow" army, accountable to the Geneve Convention? Bill, I hope and pray this mind blowing report is but the tip of an iceberg recognized by our U.S. Intelligence, and that we have a strategy that precedes your expose`. (cannot find accent on keyboard).
Render,
I'm hoping for reign.

Posted by JusCruzn at February 9, 2009 8:48 AM ET:

Didn't Musharraf say there are no Al Qaeda or Taliban in Pakistan when he was in office? Yet they were both conceived of and born in Pakistan.

Posted by Thanos at February 9, 2009 9:06 AM ET:

All of the terror groups have their own aims, but most of the MSM doesn't realize how welll AQ has consolidated that power the past two years. They drop those aims and what they are doing when called on by AQ.
A recent piece in OED tries to paint another schism, but all that ended in '06 during the Lal Masjid period.

It's interesting that the fellow toting the RPG is also the only turban in the crowd.

Posted by Hugh at February 9, 2009 11:04 AM ET:

You can't help but wonder had AQ not attacked the us and our allies if they would not already be in control of Pakistan. The video is further proof the Pakistani Army is not capable, or does not have the will to fight the militancy/terrorist. It will be interesting to see how the new Administration deals with the growing problem in that neighborhood.

Posted by C. Jordan at February 9, 2009 11:47 AM ET:

Is there any difference between this "Shadow Force" and the one coalition troops fought in Iraq? It appears to be a re-centralization of forces.

Bravo, to whom ever took that photo.
Hopefully it isn't one of the "spies" that AQ
has been executing.

Posted by T Ruth at February 9, 2009 12:25 PM ET:

My caption for the photograph "Anyone for tennis?"

And for the video..."Why did the chicken cross the road?"

Very chilling x-rated report! (For which, thank you!) Followed by very pertinent remarks above....so far!

Maybe Biden needs to go re-visit Pakistan and repeat his half-a-(chicken)-dinner-act as he did with Karzai, this time with Zardari, Gilani and Co. so that we can get on with the WAR!

For how long have we been hearing in the mainstream media about the euphemistic 'tribal areas bordering Afghanistan and Pakistan"? Diplomacy may have its boundaries, but the War needs to recognise that these borders are artificial--that is not theory, it is actually so. These are non-state states, factually.

Just sending in the occasional drone is like fighting with paper planes....wonder why we haven't seen one in awhile...

Posted by C. Jordan at February 9, 2009 2:07 PM ET:

The people in the photo look very similar to the people who beheaded the polish worker...

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/worldnews/article-1139505/Horrifying-video-militants-beheading-Polish-engineer-released-Pakistani-Taliban.html

Only difference I can see is that they aren't wearing shoes.

Posted by David M at February 9, 2009 2:23 PM ET:

The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the blog post From the Front: 02/09/2009 News and Personal dispatches from the front and the home front.

Posted by 13times at February 9, 2009 3:47 PM ET:

The troops are green and when confronted by veteran Taliban soldiers they immediately panic and retreat. Where is the general and his staff during the attack? Hiding back at the base?

If the Pakistani leadership can't be bothered to fight, hold and control ground in their own country we will be seeing more and more of these videos.

This will not end well.

Posted by Bill Roggio at February 9, 2009 3:54 PM ET:

13 times, Watch that video again. The colonel was at the front, his unit was ambushed. In his defense, I wouldn't expect the general to be at the front of a battalion/brigade sized push.

Also, the 63rd Battalion of the Frontier Force is a regular Army unit that is well established. As mentioned, this unit was deployed to Mogadishu in the early 1990s. I found out after publishing that the unit is part of the 14th Pakistani Army Division, which has for some time been deployed in the NWFP in the Dir/Swat region. While some of the troops may be new (no way to tell based on the video) the general mentions a morale problem, indicating this unit has seen some action and had some problems in the past.

Posted by Peter at February 9, 2009 4:56 PM ET:

Hi Bill!
Excellent article on the 'Shadow Army' . Excellent writing and great information. I've heard about the 055 Brigade before while the Taliban were in control of Afghanistan. It seems they've rebuilt it to be even better now?
One question if you have the time. The color coded maps that show control in the NW of Pakistan. How do you get your information? I guess you have intel sources from your friends in the military!
Very good and keep up the good work!
:)
Peter in NS Canada

Posted by don juice at February 9, 2009 5:25 PM ET:

good article bill....its sad to see the pakistan army getting defeated by these well organized terrorists and they still refuse any real effective assistance

Posted by EdGi at February 9, 2009 5:53 PM ET:

Are the attacks on the French and the US force the same as those previosly reported on? If so, the ambush of the French was not of a convoy and the attack on the US was not as stated, at least as I remember the subsequent clarifications. Great job on the report as it clearly sees the skill and sophistication of the enemy, and is a solid wakeup to those who think they could not simply transport to London or here as easily as we transport to theater.

Posted by Bill Roggio at February 9, 2009 10:42 PM ET:

Peter,

Thanks. I largely rely on the open source info for the maps. I'm putting together a project on this, it will be much clearer as to how this is determined. But basically, I primarily rely on open source new reports and then check with sources for opinions. Most of them tell me to color the entire province red.

Here is a basic breakdown of how I rate an area.

Red: these are areas the military and government have essentially given up (troops confined to base or control small pockets, no services), the Taliban has declared sharia and is running a parallel government, and/or the government has negotiated a peace accord with the Taliban.

Orange: These are contested areas, the Taliban is strong but there are still military/government functions, police/military fighting Taliban.

Yellow: Taliban presence but government controlled.Basically low to mid-level insurgency.

EdGi,

Thanks. Perhaps with the French incident I could have used "patrol" or some other such term. It was a large force. I read the French AAR and don't think I was too far off base here. On the Wanat incident, I am unclear what the problem is. I think I am guilty of skimping a bit on both descriptions, the dangers of trying to be brief while trying to make a bigger point.

Posted by Neo at February 9, 2009 10:49 PM ET:

One thing that struck me about the movie was the scene where the general addresses the troops. I get the impression that the general and enlisted men are worlds apart in both social class and life experiences. The system that produced the general seems to be a few steps removed from the old British colonial system for training civil servants during the Raj. The enlisted men on the other hand, especially the grunts, have more in common with the people they are fighting.

Posted by Ron at February 9, 2009 11:33 PM ET:

That video reminds me of an experience I had with the 36th Cammandos in Iraq. We were deployed to Fallujah in April 04 shortly 6-8 months after they were created from the 5 political parties. We stood (not ecactly stand, we were near or on the front line and watched them run back) there and watched them retreat. We did everything that we could to remarshal them and 90% of the force quit. We went back in with a bunch of the kurds but the little momentum that we had was killed and Fallujah was put off till Sept of that year I think. We ended up, for political reasons and not to have a complete disaster give all of them medals just to save the unit. eventually by my second tour a year later they became a pretty good force very effective by Iraqi standards. So there is hope they just need some more backbone.

Very good info by the way about the Shadow Army, I have noticed a lot of salt and peppering in previous entries but did not realize the extent of the seasoning.

Posted by trac at February 10, 2009 2:57 AM ET:

Excellent article. Otleechno! The video was sad but not surprising. If they were in Somalia, would they be the same unit that was ambushed by Mohammed Aideed and lost 18 men in June of 93? Also not surprising, is that the Talibs and AQ has had a long time to dig in/fortify their sanctuary. The trenches/tunnels/bunkers is the same thing Hezbollah did in south Lebanon. Its mainly a no brainer. BUT it makes for a harder nut to crack. One that the Pakistanis do not have the will to do. Nor I fear, our own government now.
As Monte Cassino proved in WWII, a defender in a fortified mountainous area can be bombed back in the stone age but you still someone to go in by ground to clear and hold it. Precision strikes are good, but they always have someone to replace their casualties. So who is it going to be?
Great article again

Posted by T Ruth at February 10, 2009 4:53 AM ET:

C Jordan, thank you for that link and yes they seem to have the same uniform.

I wonder if Holbrookes remarks, in that report, provide a clue to a new more realistic definition of the new "theatre of war"...
"At a security conference in Germany over the weekend, Holbrooke described the Afghan campaign as 'one theatre of war straddling an ill-defined border.'
'We have to think of it that way and not distinguish between the two,' he said"
Sorry LWJ, don't mean to advertise another site, but that comment is very relevant to the way forward, since the Pakistani Army doesn't seem to be winning much these days..... There's no way out...they are too corrupted, and are bound to need serious help.

Posted by Micah at February 10, 2009 8:16 AM ET:

Can anyone go into more detail on the theological differentiation between Taliban's former extremist-Deobandi stance, to the Al Qaida influenced wahabi/salafi stance? im still not getting the clear picture, and theology of terror networks is something im very interested in. There was a short paragraph in the article on this, and i am sure theres more details out there. Im a comparative religion university student, and sometimes its hard to find real big differences between the two.

Posted by Henrik at February 10, 2009 8:51 AM ET:

I may be missing something: a battalion of infantry, supported by a platoon of tanks, attacks. It is engaged in "heavy fighting". It then retreats in a hurry. And in all this, it loses 2 KIA and 7 WIA.

These losses sound awfully light to make a battalion+ retreat. Am I missing something?

Henrik

Posted by Philip Cassini at February 10, 2009 9:53 AM ET:

Henrik,

you are missing the difference between professional western forces and Asian conscripts. These guys don't want to fight the Taliban. As Neo points out, they have more in common with the guys they're fighting than with their own aristocratic officer corps. It's a recipe for the government to be overrun very rapidly. Obama may have to order an invasion of Pakistan to save the weak government if this continues.

Posted by Raven at February 10, 2009 11:39 AM ET:

Sad to see Pak Army has come down to this. The video is very telling (Thanks Bill). One person from a charity saying: "Muslims consider other muslims as brothers" which probably most foot soldiers on the video agree to as they listened to the general trying to draw a different line. Also, the same charity will end up helping the families of those lost soldiers, lost taliban fighters and displaced public as well. All in the name of: "muslims consider other muslims as brothers". What a PR mess for the army...

Posted by DBrown at February 10, 2009 1:43 PM ET:

I am no expert on the conflict in Pakistan but, given what I have read and seen recently, it appears to me that some majority of people in Pakistan do not want to live in a restrictive, rigid Taliban/AQ Wahabi-dominated society. If that is true, then why will they not fight harder to prevent it from happening? "Muslims are all brothers" is great and all but did the people of Pakistan not see what happened in Afghanistan when the fanatics were in charge?

Posted by JS at February 10, 2009 4:09 PM ET:

This one video is being taken slightly out of context and does not define the entire operation. I would recommend viewers to see the entire Al Jazeera story on youtube before coming to conclusions.

The retreat happened after an operation to retrieve a trapped unit which was completed before the unit retreated. The original unit got trapped when they underestimated the resistant in the village and lost 7 men, and others injured, including a Col. who lost a leg. This unit that you see in the video was sent to provide cover for them.

The Colonel's interview can be seen in later parts of the documentary from his hospital bed.

The bigger military problem I think is the lack if proper intel and air assets for Pakistan. Of course there are also more important political and religious hurdles to overcome.

Again, please see the entire video series. It's both depressing and insightful at the same time.

Posted by Peter at February 10, 2009 7:51 PM ET:

Thanks Bill for the response to my question! and again keep up the good work and accurate reporting!

Peter

Posted by Herschel Smith at February 11, 2009 12:41 AM ET:

EdGi and Bill,

I see no problem with the discussion of the Battle of Wanat in the article. It's short, but I knew that this was a sophisticated TTP attack, notwithstanding the U.S. mistakes that occurred. That AQ participated doesn't surprise me a bit.

http://www.captainsjournal.com/2008/11/11/analysis-of-the-battle-of-wanat/

It was a heavily kinetic operation, sophisticated tactics, not with standoff weapons or measures, and quite well-planned and organized in its scope.

Disappointing to say the least. Our delay in doing legitimate COIN in Afghanistan has caused the radicalization of the Taliban and TTP. Our HVT program is an abject failure. Time to leave the cloak and dagger stuff behind and do COIN.

Nice report Bill.

Posted by Talib at February 11, 2009 6:53 PM ET:

Hello

First I'd like to say that I appreciate the information that LWJ provides. Love the site, check it every day.

I do have a comment however. In regards to this part of the article...

A look at the clothing of the fighters gives a good indication of the identity of the fighters, an expert on al Qaeda told The Long War Journal. The length of the pants of pictured fighters is described as being at "al Qaeda height" -- meaning only al Qaeda and allied "Wahhabi/Salafi-jihadis" wear their pant legs this high.

"The extremists who follow al Qaeda's religious beliefs think that pants must be at least six inches above the ground because there's a hadith [a saying of the Prophet Mohammed] that says clothes that touch the ground are a sign of pride and vanity," the expert said. "This, along with the new dyeing of men's beards red or yellow is a sure sign of al Qaeda-ization."

Now, as a Muslim who tries to practice my religion to the best of my ability, I too happen to keep my pant legs above my ankles. I don't believe someone should be condemned to the ranks of Al Qaida for following this commandment by Prophet Muhammad {SAWS}.

Narrated Abu Huraira: The Prophet said, "The part of an Izar (lower garment) which hangs below the ankles is in the Fire." (Sahih Bukhari-Book #72, Hadith #678)

Yahya related to me from Malik from al Ala ibn Abd ar-Rahman that his father said, "I asked Abu Said al-Khudri about the lower garment. He said that he would inform me with knowledge and that he had heard the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, say, 'The lower garment of the mumin should reach to the middle of his calves. There is no harm in what is between that and the ankles. What is lower than that is in the Fire. What is lower than that is in the Fire. On the Day of Rising, Allah will not look at a person who trails his lower garment in arrogance.' " (Muwatta of Imam Malik-Book #48, Hadith #48.5.12)

In regards to the beard, this is a practice that alot of older male Muslims practice, for instance the Hadith:

Narrated Abdullah ibn Umar: Zayd ibn Aslam said: Ibn Umar used to dye his beard with yellow colour so much so that his clothes were filled (dyed) with yellowness. He was asked: Why do you dye with yellow colour? He replied: I saw the Apostle of Allah (peace be upon him) dyeing with yellow colour, and nothing was dearer to him than it. He would dye all his clothes with it, even his turban. (Sunan Abu Dawud-Book #32, Hadith #4053)

I would beg that these practices not be used as an indicator of "extremism", when many ordinary Muslims who have no connections with the activities of those who are at war with the United States and its allies. Thank you very much.

Please keep up the good work.

Posted by Talib at February 11, 2009 6:55 PM ET:

EDIT: Many ordinary Muslims practice these things and have no connections with the activities of those who are at war with the United States and its allies.