“Important Milestone”

~~~

by Alexander Mallin & Arlette Saenz

Yahoo News / Good Morning America

May 23, 2016

~~~

President Obama has released a statement confirming the death of Taliban leader Akhtar Mohammad Mansoor, following an airstrike Saturday along the Afghanistan  and Pakistan border.

Obama called Mansoor’s death “an important milestone in our longstanding effort to bring peace and prosperity to Afghanistan.”

“We have removed the leader of an organization that has continued to plot against and unleash attacks on American and Coalition forces, to wage war against the Afghan people, and align itself with extremist groups like al Qa’ida,” Obama said in a paper statement.

The statement calls on the Taliban to “seize the opportunity” to re-engage in peace talks with Afghanistan’s government, with Obama warning that “we will continue taking action against extremist networks that target the United States.”

While Pakistan’s government said Sunday the airstrike amounted to a violation of its sovereignty, Obama noted the U.S. will work with the country but that “terrorists that threaten all our nations must be denied safe haven.”

President Obama personally authorized the strike against Mansoor before leaving on a week-long trip to Vietnam and Japan.

Speaking in Hanoi Monday, Obama told reporters Mansoor’s death sends a message that the U.S. will protect its people.

“Where we have a high profile leader who has been consistently part of operations and plans to potentially harm U.S. personnel and who has been resistant to the kinds of peace talks and reconciliation that ultimately could bring an end to decades of war in Afghanistan,” Obama said. “Then it is my responsibility as commander in chief not to stand by but to make sure that we send a clear signal to the Taliban and others that we are going to protect our people and that’s exactly the message that has been sent.”

~~~

https://gma.yahoo.com/obama-calls-taliban-leaders-death-important-milestone-afghanistan-053107187–abc-news-topstories.html

~~~

Taliban Capture Islamic-State Bases

~~~

by Ayaz Gul

Voice of America

January 05, 2016  (more than a month ago)

~~~

Fierce clashes have reportedly erupted between Taliban and Islamic State (IS) fighters in eastern Afghanistan, leaving dozens of people dead on both sides.

Afghan police reported Tuesday the fighting in the remote Batikot and Chaparhar districts of Nangarhar province, which borders Pakistan, began after hundreds of Taliban insurgents mounted a big attack on IS bases earlier this week.

The Taliban offensive is said to have captured the two districts but attempts to dislodge the rival group from the nearby Nazyan district, which is considered the IS stronghold in Afghanistan, could not succeed.

Separately, the provincial governor’s office told media that security forces ambushed and killed at least 15 IS fighters near the conflict zone late on Monday.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid confirmed to VOA that clashes have taken place and claimed Taliban fighters ousted IS militants from the two districts. Mujahid did not give further details.

The Taliban apparently considers IS a threat to its ongoing violence campaign against the NATO-backed Afghan government.

The Islamist insurgency initiated attacks against IS militants from southern Zabul and western Farah provinces in November and succeeded in dislodging them from the area, a development acknowledged by local Afghan officials.

IS, which controls large areas in Syria and Iraq, has recently established bases in parts of Nangarhar before attempting to extend influence to other parts of the war-ravaged country.

Afghan authorities insist most of the IS fighters are Pakistani nationals hailing from areas such as Orakzai, Khyber and Bajaur, three of the seven semiautonomous tribal districts of Pakistan lining the border with Afghanistan.

IS has recently launched its propaganda FM radio station from an unknown location in Nangarhar to encourage Afghan youth to join the group.

Afghan authorities recently claimed to have jammed the broadcast but residents and local media say the transmission is continuing uninterrupted, encouraging the public to join the IS fight against the Kabul government, its NATO allies and the Taliban.

Meanwhile, local media in Pakistan has also quoted officials as confirming the Taliban assault on IS militants in the Afghan border areas, saying the hostilities killed more than 150 militants, mostly Islamic State supporters and commanders.

Pakistan has been conducting counterterrorism army operations on its side of the volatile border and officials have acknowledged some insurgents have fled to Afghanistan.

Pakistani authorities have also stepped up a crackdown on suspected IS hideouts in major cities, rounding up dozens of militants linked to the Middle Eastern terror group.

Rana Sanaullah, law minister of the country’s populous Punjab province, revealed on Monday as many as 100 suspected extremists have left Pakistan for Syria to take part in the conflict there.

The revelation contradicted repeated claims by the federal authorities that IS has “no organized presence in Pakistan.”

~~~

story

http://www.voanews.com/content/taliban-captures-islamic-state-bases-in-afghanistan/3131609.html

art

http://hellbat.deviantart.com/art/Sikh-Warrior-349538717

~~~

 

Islamic State on Af-Pak Border

~~~

by Casey Garret Johnson and Sanaullah Tassal

Foreign Policy via Fractured Atlas

November 26, 2015

~~~

JALALABAD — When the security situation in Nangarhar deteriorated sharply in early 2014, no one in this Afghan border province had ever heard of the so-called Islamic State (IS). A year and a half later, the black and white banners of IS are stenciled on the walls of the largest state-run university, and a former Guantánamo Bay detainee — and Nangarhar native — has appointed himself emir of IS’ Khorosan regional group. Some of the loudest IS supporters in this province, known as one of the most educated in all of Afghanistan, are the young and intelligent aspiring engineers and journalists. In August, 10 tribal leaders were bound and blindfolded by IS, who accused them of providing support to the Taliban. They were led past IS flags and masked gunmen, and forced to kneel atop a string of improvised explosive devices. The video of their execution went viral.

Still, analysts hesitate to slap the IS label on the new militancy emerging in Nangarhar, as much for the lack of clear evidence of direct operational support from Raqqa as for the fear of creating a self-fulfilling prophecy. Yet, by the summer of 2015, a group looking, sounding, and acting a lot like IS was active in at least seven of Nangarhar’s 21 districts, according to residents and Afghan intelligence officials Foreign Policy spoke to. The situation grew so alarming that in July and August, fighters from around the country were summoned to Nangarhar to combat IS. These were not U.S.-funded and trained Afghanistan National Army soldiers sent by Kabul. They were Taliban insurgents, many dispatched from the group’s southern strongholds, rushing into a province in which they felt they had as much to lose as the government.

Foreign Policy interviewed 16 Nangarharis in the provincial capital of Jalalabad and surrounding districts, including fearful tribal elders, Taliban militants, some of the loudest young IS advocates, and a number of Salafi preachers who find themselves under increasing pressure to provide ideological and practical support to IS, which most here know by its Arabic acronym, Daesh. These interviews paint a picture of a militant organization that, whatever its operational ties to Raqqa, is employing the same mixture of terror, pragmatism, and ideology in Afghanistan that has been well-documented in Iraq and Syria. But they also describe a growing backlash amongst initially welcoming segments of the community who now see IS as a Pakistani proxy with no other goal but to destabilize Afghanistan. Rather than uniting the multitude of tribes and interests around the goal of a caliphate, IS has become entangled in regional and local feuding, much as the U.S.-led coalition has over the past decade.

Opportunism

Nangarhar has had its share of insurgency-linked security problems since 2001, but the Taliban has never been particularly strong in this part of eastern Afghanistan. Few of the new (or old) guard Taliban leaders hail from the east. While locals in this region have nominally fought for the Taliban for years, this is often borne of necessity and pragmatism.

For instance, members of insurgent groups dating back to the anti-Soviet jihad who have fought under the Afghan Taliban banner since 2001, such as Hizb-e Islami, are now tactically aligned with IS, according to residents in the province. This already-fractured insurgent landscape makes Nangarhar, more than, say, Kandahar, a place where IS could gain a foothold without much competition. Kandahar and other regions where the Taliban had more ideological support from the population will prove harder for IS to infiltrate. Since Taliban supporters in Nangarhar were never fully included in Taliban leadership positions, it makes them more prone to converting to the cause of the Islamic State.

In October, Franz-Michael Mellbin, the European Union’s special representative for Afghanistan, told the Atlantic Council that IS would “feed on [public] disenchantment with the government” of Afghanistan, a traditional counterinsurgency theory of recruitment often used to explain the Taliban’s rise. Instead, IS feeds off disenchantment within and between the various insurgent movements on both sides of the border. IS pursued this recruitment and consolidation tactic in Syria, where the Assad regime has been of secondary concern to co-opting and eliminating competing rebel factions. To pull supporters in its direction in Afghanistan, IS has thus far focused the bulk of its propaganda on labeling the Taliban as “un-Islamic.”

In Nangarhar, the IS strategy extends beyond propaganda and co-option. In addition to the 10 tribal elders it blew up in August, it has conducted a targeted assassination campaign against its competition. 21 alleged Taliban supporters have been beheaded in Kot district alone, with reports of beheadings in at least five other districts throughout the province, according to one Afghan journalist who, like the rest of those interviewed, was fearful of providing his name.

Following the confirmation of Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar’s death in late summer 2015, there was concern that IS would exploit his demise to recruit disenfranchised Taliban field commanders in the same way it preyed upon a fracturing rebel landscape in Syria from 2013 to 2014. In attracting opportunistic former Afghan Taliban members, IS has learned lessons from its strategy in Pakistan. By exploiting divisions within the Pakistani Taliban stemming from the death of that group’s leader, Hakimullah Mehsud, in a November 2013 drone strike, IS successfully recruited disgruntled fighters like the Pakistani Hafiz Saeed, a former Tehrik-e Taliban commander. Though it has been reported that Saeed was killed in an airstrike in July, a number of those interviewed claimed that he was indeed alive as of early November. Regardless of Saeed’s fate, IS uses the narrative of successfully recruiting members from other organizations to bolster its image of regional strength and domination.

Yet, Pakistani militants have always had trouble operating on Afghan soil. Though they have been given sanctuary by communities along the border, this has usually come with the caveat that they not stray too far inland. The bulk of those claiming to be IS now are disgruntled field commanders who have been fighting under the Afghan Taliban banner for years. Their alignment is driven more by necessity than ideology.

By September, 2015, Afghan and Pakistani factions had arisen within IS — not surprising, given the decades of open hostility between their two nations, particularly along the border. In mid-October, Rahim Muslimdost, the former Guantánamo Bay detainee who blames Pakistan for handing him over to U.S. forces, publicly broke with Hafiz Saeed’s IS faction, essentially saying that Saeed needed to return to Pakistan where he belonged. Muslimdost charged that Pakistani intelligence had hijacked IS in Afghanistan, another ploy in a long line of moves to keep its neighbor weak. In the same breath, Muslimdost re-affirmed his support to IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. IS has not publicly weighed in on the dispute.

Some of those Foreign Policy interviewed speculated that IS had targeted Nangarhar precisely because of its position as a border province, along with the opportunity to symbolically erase the Af-Pak border — the contentious Durand Line — as they had done to great symbolic effect along the Iraq-Syria border. As of now, however, the caliphate is bogged down in the same Af-Pak nation-state border politics and proxy fighting that has plagued everyone from the Taliban, to occupying countries, to international aid agencies for years.

Ideology and Terror

Beginning in mid-June, IS began disseminating night letters: intimidating messages pinned on doors or delivered to homes under the cover of darkness. This IS tactic focuses mainly on religious leaders with large congregations based in Jalalalabad, as well as in neighboring Kunar province directly to the north. The majority of these imams and madrassa teachers are Salafi, a subset of Sunnis that ascribe to a fundamentalist view of Islam. Salafis advocate a strict adherence to Islamic doctrine and practice as it existed during the time of the Prophet Mohammed in the seventh century.

The vast majority of Salafis do not support IS or condone violence. After the Arab Spring in Egypt, for instance, Salafi political groups even participated in contemporary national politics. Although IS has recruited former Taliban fighters, the majority of these efforts have focused on the broader public. In fact, those being courted and coerced by IS in eastern Afghanistan are predominately individuals, like Salafis, that have not participated in the Taliban’s anti-government insurgency — principally because they found the Taliban’s accommodation of local traditions like shrine worship and tribal legal codes to be un-Islamic.

Much of the Islamic State’s millenarian ideology borrows heavily from Salafism, and the terror organization has sought the support of Salafi leaders around the world to provide religious cover for its violent actions. Those we spoke with in Nangarhar agreed this tactic partly explained the strength of IS in their province.

A well known Islamic scholar and professor at Nanagarhar University put it bluntly: IS “is in Nangarhar because there are more Salafis here than in other places [in Afghanistan], and these people are frustrated with the security situation and the government, but they also don’t believe in the Taliban.”

Among those well-known Salafis to have joined IS was Sheikh Jalaluddin, an Islamic judge from neighboring Kunar who had long opposed the Taliban and joined IS along with five other local fighters over the summer. He was subsequently killed in a U.S. airstrike in Nangarhar’s Achin district in mid-October, according to several religious leaders and journalists from the area.

Willing support for IS seems to be the exception and not the rule. Another prominent imam and madrassa teacher in Jalalabad recounted being approached by an IS member. He was given the choice to either send his 40 students to IS recruiters for indoctrination or be killed. The students are now with IS. Whether they are on the front lines or engaged in some form of propaganda or recruitment is unclear.

Others Foreign Policy spoke with noted that the IS campaign in Afghanistan targeted not just the Salafis. “They are really targeting the urban areas. They want the educated people to support them — the university students and professors and journalists and not just the religious leaders. This is something that the Taliban never put a lot of effort into,” one official in the Nangarhar provincial governor’s office said.

Backlash

As of late October, IS was on the defensive in a number of Nangarhari districts where it had been ascendant only months before. Public opinion began shifting in September when the IS recruitment strategy began transitioning from outreach and indoctrination to terror. The growing perception that Pakistani intelligence had infiltrated IS did not help their image either. “A few months ago we felt like [IS] was a local force that could stand up to the Taliban. Now we see that they are under the control of Pakistan and only concerned with creating instability here,” one resident of Bati Kot district said. While this affiliation remains unproven, suspicion continues to grow.

This shift in opinion has forced some strange alliances. Taliban commanders have been seen at anti-IS coordination meetings between the government and local leaders. In September, Afghan government forces in Kot district fought side by side with locals and the Taliban. In other districts, the Taliban have signed security agreements with individual tribes in an attempt to create anti-IS zones, but further fracturing communal relations along tribal lines.

The Ghani government has reacted by taking off the gloves, appointing former anti-Soviet commanders to governorships in several Nangarhar districts. These officials, locals report, have expanded power to lead offensive military operations. One of these new governors is Mohammad Ghalib. A career mujahedeen, Ghalib fought both the Soviets and the Taliban for decades. He was rewarded with command over his tribal territory in Nangarhar after the Taliban fled in 2001. In 2003, he was picked up by U.S. Special Forces on allegations of storing improvised explosive devices for the Taliban, and detained at Guantánamo Bay until 2007. This man is now one of those leading the fight against IS forces in eastern Afghanistan, territory still nominally under the control of Ghalib’s fellow Gitmo detainee Rahim Muslimdost.

The Ghani government continues to point the finger across the border at Pakistan first and foremost, advancing the idea that IS is composed of and controlled by foreign fighters. Though this strategy may have short-term gains — for all its divisions, Afghans cling strongly to a sense of nationalism, and banding together to fight outsiders is a time-honored tradition — it threatens to exacerbate the cross-border political issues that will continue to undermine security in the long term.

Then again: at least the broke and beleaguered Afghan government is advancing a strategy against IS, something that cannot be said for the rest of the world’s powers combined.

~~~

https://fracturedatlas.wordpress.com/2015/11/26/1360

~~~

Weapons of Islam

slice one of sufi tale by greenviggen

~~~

We who are in Islam must remember that Allah is our only helper every second, every minute, every hour, every time of prayer.  Allah is our Ruler, the Ruler of Grace, the One who is Love, the Compassionate One, the One who calls us back to Him, the One who questions us, and the One who judges us.  His grace exists in all lives, concealed in a tiny piece of flesh within the innermost heart.  Just as the flesh of the tongue knows taste, just as the flesh of the nose perceives smell and the flesh of the ear hears sound and the flesh of the eye perceives light ~ like that, there is a tiny piece of flesh in the heart which worships Allah, looks at Him, hears Him, and prays to Him.

This is the throne of the true believer.  This is where Allah dwells.  This is His throne within the innermost heart, from which He rules and dispenses justice…

~~~

a-slice-of-sufi

~~~

My brothers, you must quench the thirst of all lives.  You must try to heal the sufferings of the world.  This is the mercy and compassion of all the universes, the wealth that has been given to mankind, and we who have faith must strive to offer it to all.  We should not carry a sword in our hands; we should hold patience in our hearts.  We should not arm ourselves with guns; we should be armed with contentment.  We should not put our trust in battles; we should have trust in God.  We should not cling to the world; we should cling to the praise of God.  These are the true weapons of Islam…

~~~

a-slice-of-sufi-2

~~~

The Prophet had no warlike qualities.  He had only the qualities of patience, contentment, trust in God, and praise of God.  If those qualities are reestablished in each heart, if they flourish and grow there, then Islam will become a vast, protective canopy for the world.

If everyone in the community of Islam understood this and tried to establish peace, tolerance, and patience, that alone would bring peace to the world.  The weapons of peace and tranquility will grant us victory no matter what enmity, what hostility, threatens us.  We must realize this, my brothers in Islam.  If we do, we will triumph in all three worlds, in the primal beginning, this world, and the hereafter.

In the name of Allah and His Messenger, I beg you to forgive me if anything I have said is wrong.  Please forgive me if I have made any mistakes.  I am only telling you what came to my heart.  I am only telling you what I understand in my innermost heart…

~~~

a_sufi_tale_by_greenviggen-d2yv8hv1-e1390417374259

~~~

from the book

Islam & World Peace ~ Explanations Of A Sufi

by Muhammad Raheem Bawa Muhaiyaddeen

1987

~~~

art

A Sufi Tale

by GreenViggen

~~~

library-lizard-horned-toad-horned-lizard-bronze-sculpture-art-prescott-arizona-book-cat-public-monument-reading-e1389296539124

presented

by

The Great Horned Toad

~~~

No More Mullah

~~~

~~~

The death of Mullah Mohammad Omar, the leader of the Afghan Taliban, could mark a significant blow not only to the militant group’s long-standing insurgency, but to its future as a united and potent force.

The Afghan government’s confirmation that Mullah Omar died in April 2013 in Pakistan comes amid deepening divisions within the Taliban and the growing influence of rival militant groups like the Islamic State (IS) in Afghanistan. Without its reclusive, one-eyed leader, the Taliban will find it difficult to prevent potential recruits from joining IS and other militant groups.

Power Struggle

Even before news broke of Mullah Omar’s death, there was mounting speculation of a power struggle within the Taliban, which has had only one leader since its formation in the early 1990s.

The leadership struggel centers on two competing commanders: Taliban deputy leader Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansur and Mullah Omar’s eldest son, Mullah Mohammad Yuqub. 

According to reports, the 26-year-old Yuqub is said to be ready to take over the reins. Yuqub is said to have the backing of field commanders and the Taliban’s rank-and-file. Standing in his way is the powerful Mansur, who is said to have considerable clout among the political wing of the militant group.

“There is already a nasty power struggle within the Taliban,” says Graeme Smith, a senior analyst at the International Crisis Group in Kabul. “That power struggle will get more vicious after Omar’s death.”

Recruitment

In recent months, a growing number of disaffected Taliban field commanders have called on the leadership to provide proof that Mullah Omar is still alive.

Years without any video or audio recordings had led to growing speculation that the shadowy militant leader might be seriously ill, if not dead. The Taliban, in an apparent attempt to dispel speculation that he had died, in April published a biography of Mullah Omar on its official website to commemorate Mullah Omar’s apparent 19th year as supreme leader. The bio described Mullah Omar as being actively involved in “jihadi activities.”

But the absence of proof that Omar was indeed alive apparently led several senior Taliban commanders to defect to the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), an extremist group that is based in northern Afghanistan and earlier this year pledged allegiance to the IS group, as well as to IS itself.

Splinter groups have also grown in number and have become emboldened in recent years. In fact, Fidai Mahaz, one of the extremist Taliban splinter groups, announced a week before Kabul’s July 29 announcement that Mullah Omar was dead and had been replaced by his deputy.

“We’ve seen a number of defections to the IMU in the north, former TTP [Pakistani Taliban] flying IS flags in the east, and defections of some factions in the south,” Smith says. “Different Taliban groups are breaking away from the central Taliban organization. His death is going to fuel the factionalism that we are already seeing.”

Smith predicts that for this reason the Taliban is unlikely to confirm Mullah Omar’s death, and will try to maintain the myth of his existence.

Change The Battlefield

Mullah Omar’s death could have an adverse effect on the Taliban’s military campaign. The loss of field commanders and rank-and-file fighters to splinter groups and rival militant groups could deprive the Taliban of troop numbers and leadership on the battlefield.

“Mullah Omar’s death loosens the command and control over the insurgency,” Smith says. “It’s likely to make field commanders feel more independent. The political behavior of the mid-ranking Taliban military commanders becomes much more important because they’re no longer just following orders but thinking for themselves.”

Despite Mullah Omar’s death more than two years ago, the Taliban has waged a fierce offensive against government forces in the country’s north, making impressive military advances.

Abdul Waheed Wafa, the director of the Afghanistan Center at Kabul University, says that if Mullah Omar is dead, then the Taliban must receive “huge credit” for weathering the potential pitfalls of his death on the group’s military campaign.

“Three years ago, the Taliban were under more pressure but today it’s a different story,” he says. “His death will weaken the Taliban movement but it is up to the Afghan government to make use of the divisions in the group.”

Peace Talks

Mullah Omar’s death comes just days before a second round of peace talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government is scheduled in Pakistan.

But his death could delay or even jeopardize the talks aimed at ending the 14-year insurgency. Some observers have suggested that it would weaken the Taliban’s bargaining position and give the upper hand to Kabul.

But others suggest it would remove a figurehead for the group to rally around and take collective responsibility for the negotiations.

“It will make the peace process complicated,” says the Afghanistan Center’s Wafa. “It will be difficult for this process to find a central party to negotiate with.”

There are deep divisions within the group over a potential political settlement with Kabul.

The split within the Taliban between those for and against talks has been worsened by the emergence of a leadership tussle within the group. Mullah Omar’s son is believed to be against the talks while rival Mansur is credited with bringing the Taliban to the negotiating table in Pakistan last month.

In his last purported message, made on July 15, Mullah Omar recognized the peace talks as “legitimate,” saying that the goal of the process was an “end to occupation” by foreign forces.

~~~

http://gandhara.rferl.org/content/afghanistan-taliban-after-mullah-omar/27159691.html

~~~