Taliban deny Osama bin Laden’s death will impact Afghan war

The Taliban said that the death of al Qaeda emir Osama bin Laden will not impact their operations in Afghanistan, and again praised the terror leader.

The Taliban made the claim in a statement titled “The Martyrdom of Sheikh Osama Will not Benefit America” that was released on their website, Voice of Jihad, on May 11.

The Taliban characterized the NATO presence in Afghanistan as a “wicked war against the Islamic Ummah” (community or nation). The term “ummah” is used to describe the community of Muslims worldwide, not just in Afghanistan.

“As long as the invading infidels are bent on continuing their colonialist ambitions against the Islamic Ummah, until then, every committed son of the Ummah who has wake conscience and feeling will keep on protecting the Islamic values and sovereignty,” the statement said. “Therefore, the martyrdom of Sheikh Osama will not benefit the Americans.”

In the statement, the Taliban again praised bin Laden as a “dedicated supporter” and defender of the Islamist cause, which extends far beyond Afghanistan, and into “Palestine, Afghanistan, Iraq and other Islamic lands which are occupied by the invading infidels.”

“He laid foundation of strongholds of the invincible struggle and Jihad and continued with the task of rearing, training, enlightening and equipping Mujahideen,” the statement said. “The Islamic Ummah will neither forget the struggle of this great Mujahid nor his unwavering stance against falsehood and arrogance in the way of realization of truth.”

The May 11 statement is the second by the Taliban in which they have denied that bin Laden’s death would impact the Taliban’s operations. Just four days after bin Laden’s death at the hands of US commandos in Abbottabad, Pakistan, the Taliban described bin Laden’s death as a “great tragedy” and said his death will not weaken their will to continue the fight in Afghanistan. In the May 6 statement, the Taliban described bin Laden as the leader of the global jihad, and said he led the “legitimate cause” against the Israeli state and the jihad “against the Christian and Jewish aggressions in the Islamic World” [see LWJ report, Taliban’s Quetta Shura calls death of bin Laden a ‘great tragedy’].

Senior US officials, including General David Petraeus, the commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan, have claimed that the death of bin Laden may impact the Taliban’s ability to continue the fight, and may lead to reconciliation. Petraeus stated that the links between al Qaeda and the Taliban were of a personal nature, between Taliban supreme leader Mullah Omar and bin Laden, and not institutional.

“The deal between the Afghan Taliban and al-Qaida was between Mullah Omar and Osama bin Laden, not the organizations,” Petraeus told The Associated Press on May 8. Petraues then said that the severing of the personal bond between the two leaders could allow the Taliban to break its bonds with al Qaeda.

But Mullah Omar and several powerful Taliban factions show no indication that they wish to break ties with al Qaeda now that bin Laden is dead. In the Afghan south, the Mullah Dadullah Front, a powerful faction that is commanded by Mullah Zakir, a former Gitmo detainee who also leads the Taliban’s military committee and is closely allied with al Qaeda, has continued suicide attacks and other armed assaults against ISAF and Afghan forces. In the east, the Haqqani Network continues to battle ISAF forces. Siraj Haqqani, the operational leader of the Haqqani Network, sits on al Qaeda’s executive shura and will play a role in selecting bin Laden’s successor. In the northeast, Qari Zia Rahman, a dual-hatted Taliban and al Qaeda leader who commands forces in the region, also has shown no signs of ending attacks. And in the Afghan north, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, an al Qaeda ally, remains integrated in the Taliban command structure.

For two decades, the Taliban and al Qaeda have maintained institutional ties that have extended beyond the personal bonds between bin Laden and Omar. The two groups have established and shared training camps and fought alongside each other during the 1990s and to this day. Al Qaeda’s Brigade 055 fought with Taliban troops against the Northern Alliance up until November 2001, when US troops invaded Afghanistan after al Qaeda launched the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the US. To this day, the two terror groups continue to fight side by side in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. Al Qaeda has rebuilt its military formations and has provided trainers and small units to aid the Taliban against NATO forces in Afghanistan.

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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  • Paul says:

    Time to add Omar to the hit list. I guess they just want to keep dying over there.

  • Observer says:

    The taliban didn’t broke up with Al Qaeda when the US was at the height of its power (2001).
    Why should they do this now (2011), with the unipolar moment over?

  • DANNY says:

    Observer, What? this is an English site please speak English when you taunt america. No? me believes maybe your observation skills might be skewed…

  • CDR M says:

    Bill, good points. Curious though. Why does the media and our senior commanders continue to say that they think the killing of bin Laden portends that the Taliban will be more negotiable? Both yourself, David Rohde, Nathan Hodge, and Peter Bergen point out that the Taliban will not change in their ways or in their support of Al Queda. Is it wishful thinking on the part of our leadership or are they just hoping to influence the lower ranks of the Taliban that they can negotiate their way out of fighting?

  • Bill Roggio says:

    CDR M,
    I think it is a combination of both. There is a serious lack of understanding, 10 years on, as to why the bulk of the Taliban fights. Little weight is given to the ideological motivations (jihad).
    In my humble opinion, any Taliban who could be wooed away from the insurgency (lower levels) don’t need the excuse of OBL’s death to do so.


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