Afghan Taliban spokesman dodges question on al Qaeda
In an interview with Asharq Al Awsat, Afghan Taliban spokesman Qari Yousuf Ahmadi was asked if the group's relationship with al Qaeda has been "irreparably damaged at this point." Ahmadi deftly deflects the question by claiming that most of the "Arab Mujahideen" have departed for their home countries in the wake of the so-called Arab Spring [Ahmadi's interview was confirmed by the Taliban, which published it in full on Voice of Jihad, the Taliban's official website]. The question and answer are reproduced in full below:
Q: Caliph Umar ibn Abd al-Aziz famously said: 'He who serves God in ignorance corrupts more than he rectifies.' Does this sentiment apply to the actions of Al-Qaeda, and has the relationship between Al-Qaeda and the Taliban been irreparably damaged at this point?
A: Before the Taliban came to power in Afghanistan, there were a few hundred Arab Mujahideen living as guests here, fighting and sacrificing for the sake of the nation. At the time, it was unfeasible for them to return to their homelands because of the oppression and persecution awaiting them there. But recently, the vast majority have returned to their homelands, especially after the events of the Arab Spring. We hold ourselves to Caliph Umar's standards, and thus education is of the utmost importance to us, as was mentioned previously. We are deeply interested in establishing the healthiest relationship between all the peoples of the world, especially among the peoples of Islamic nations. We have a lot of work to do to improve the welfare for the Afghan people and Muslim peoples generally.
The Taliban have consistently been coy about their relationship with al Qaeda, but given the opportunity to denounce al Qaeda in early 2012, or even an ill-defined "international terrorism," Zabihullah Mujahid, the other official Taliban spokesman, refused to do so.
While the Taliban are cagey when discussing their relationship with al Qaeda with the press, the group's internal communications are quite different.
Just days after Mujahid's interview was published, Abdullah al Wazir, an official Taliban representative to jihadist forums, assured forum members that the Taliban's relationship with al Qaeda is on firm ground. Al Wazir said that al Qaeda is "among the first groups and banners that pledged allegiance to the Emir of the Believers [Mullah Omar, the leader of the Afghan Taliban], and they operate in Afghanistan under the flag of the Islamic Emirate."
"They are an example of discipline and accuracy in the execution of missions and operations entrusted to them by the Military Command of the Islamic Emirate," Wazir continued, and even called al Qaeda members "lions in war."
In the fall of 2011, Sirajuddin Haqqani, the operational commander of the Haqqani Network, a Taliban subgroup, also stressed the group's strong ties with al Qaeda to his followers. In a training manual that was published in Pakistan and released to thousands of members, Sirajuddin praised al Qaeda and urged Haqqani Network members to support al Qaeda both locally and in its international operations.