Pakistani Taliban denies declaring allegiance to Islamic State

Remember the reports from last weekend, such as this one from Reuters, that the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan swore allegiance to the Islamic State? Here is the title and an excerpt of the Reuters report, emphasis mine:

Pakistani Taliban declare allegiance to IS militants

The Pakistani Taliban declared allegiance to Islamic State on Saturday and ordered militants across the region to help the Middle Eastern jihadist group in its campaign to set up a global Islamic caliphate.

Islamic State, which controls swathes of land in Syria and Iraq, has been making inroads into South Asia, which has traditionally been dominated by local Taliban insurgencies against both the Pakistan and Afghanistan governments.

The announcement comes after a September move by al Qaeda chief, Ayman al-Zawahri, to name former Taliban commander Asim Umar as the “emir” of a new South Asia branch of the network that masterminded the 2001 attacks on the United States.

On Twitter, Caleb Weiss and I expressed extreme skepticism of this report immediately after it was published:

And yesterday, the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan’s spokesman explicitly denied it swore allegiance to Abu Bakr al Baghdadi and the Islamic State. Again, from Reuters:

The Pakistani Taliban on Monday denied reports that it had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State movement fighting in Syria and Iraq, saying that its statement to the media had been misinterpreted.

Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) spokesman Shahid Shahidullah said that a statement on Saturday had been intended as an expression of support for all Islamist militants fighting in Syria and Iraq and struggling against Western interests.

“Some media did not publish our statement correctly,” Shahidullah told Reuters by telephone from an undisclosed location. “We are not supporting any specific group in Syria or Iraq; all groups there are noble and they are our brothers.”

On Saturday, Shahidullah said the Taliban would offer “every possible support” to Islamic State, a statement which several media outlets, including Reuters, reported as a declaration of allegiance to the group.

In the past, the press has erroneously claimed that al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, Ansar al Sharia Tunisia, and other groups have sworn allegiance to the Islamic State. The New York Times even wrongly claimed that Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, a splinter group of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, was “galvanized” and “inspired by the success of the Islamic State.” This is a serious misreading of the formation of Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, which was born out of a leadership dispute.

Expressions of support for the Islamic State’s advances in Iraq are constantly being misinterpreted as pledges of allegiance to the group. The fact is that all of al Qaeda’s branches that have spoken up about the dispute between the Islamic State and the Al Nusrah Front, al Qaeda’s official branch Syria, have come out in support of al Qaeda and Ayman al Zawahiri.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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1 Comment

  • True, they didn’t express allegiance to IS, to the exclusion of allegiance to any competing group/s.
    Still, they appear not to have condemned its taking of Jihad into an ultra-hardline-Wahhabist “Management of Savagery” mode.
    IMHO, there are elements of both internal politics and external PR in the TTP announcement/s. The difficulty is sorting them out.

    I agree that the Western Press (especially the Editors and copy editors in the home offices) is a gaggle of idiots. I would very much like to read of whazzizface at Canary Wharf attempting to justify his “One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter” mantra while faced by IS.

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