As the Pakistani Taliban merge forces and strike peace deals with the government, al Qaeda’s second in command said that the Taliban is waging war against the Pakistani state.
In a videotape released on the internet on Feb. 23, Ayman al Zawahiri said that the Pakistani Taliban is fighting the Pakistani government just as the Afghan Taliban has fought the Afghan government and NATO forces.
“Your brothers in the Taliban are not fighting to liberate Afghanistan only, but also the Taliban in Pakistan are carrying out jihad to purge Pakistan from the United States and its agents in the Pakistani Government and army,” Zawahiri said.
Zawahiri’s video appeared on the internet just days after the three major Taliban factions in North and South Waziristan put aside their differences and formed the Council of United Mujahideen. Baitullah Mehsud, Mullah Nazir, and Hafiz Gul Bahadar created the umbrella group at the behest of Osama bin Laden and Taliban leader Mullah Omar. They promised to fight against “infidels” in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and the US.
Al Qaeda has advocated for the Pakistani people to fight their government since August 2007. Abu Yahya al Libi, an al Qaeda spokesman and ideologue, urged the Pakistani people and the Army to turn against then-President Pervez Musharraf’s regime after the military stormed the radical Red Mosque in the heart of Islamabad. Zawahiri has repeated this call to rebellion several times since then.
In his latest tape, Zawahiri also urged the Pakistani and Afghan people to continue to fight their governments and eject Western countries from the region.
He mocked the West and Afghan President Hamid Karzai for attempting to negotiate with Taliban outsiders “not linked to al Qaeda,” highlighting the interconnectedness of the two groups and dispelling the rumors that there is a split between al Qaeda and the Taliban.
He described the attempted negotiations as a sign of weakness. “Americans are in a serious predicament, and their agents are in a state of confusion and turbulence,” Zawahiri said.
“We saw Hamid Karzai in Munich inviting those members of Taliban residing outside Afghanistan who are not linked to al Qaeda to return to Afghanistan in order to participate in the political process,” Zawahiri said. “It is an invitation which draws out ridicule, similar to what the United States and Saudi Arabia tried to promote earlier in regard to holding negotiations with Taliban through Saudi mediation.”
The Taliban issued multiple public statements, including several statements by Mullah Omar that said the negotiations were being carried out with people who no longer represented the group. The Taliban also described these negotiations as a sign the West’s failure in Afghanistan.