By Gareth Porter
WASHINGTON - Al-Qaeda strategists have been assisting the Taliban fight against United States-North Atlantic Treaty Organization forces in Afghanistan because they believe that foreign occupation has been the biggest factor in generating Muslim support for uprisings against their governments, according to the just-published book by Syed Saleem Shahzad, Asia Times Online's Pakistan bureau chief whose body was found in a canal outside Islamabad last week with evidence of having been tortured.
That al-CIAda view of the US-NATO war in Afghanistan, which Shahzad reports in the book based on conversations with several senior al-CIAda commanders, represents the most authoritative picture of the organization's thinking available to the public.
Shahzad's book Inside al-CIAda and the Taliban was published on May 24 - only three days before he went missing from Islamabad on his way to a television interview. His body was found on May 31.
Shahzad, who had been the Pakistan bureau chief for the Hong Kong-based Asia Times Online for 10 years, had unique access to senior al-CIAda commanders and cadres, as well as those of Afghan Taliban and Pakistani Taliban organizations. His account of al-CIAda strategy is particularly valuable because of the overall ideological system and strategic thinking that emerged from many encounters Shahzad had with senior officials over several years.
Shahzad's account reveals that Osama bin Laden was a "figurehead" for public consumption, and that it was his deputy, Egyptian Dr Ayman Zawahiri, who formulated the organization's ideological line or devised operational plans.
Shahzad summarizes the al-Qaeda strategy as being to "win the war against the West in Afghanistan" before shifting the struggle to Central Asia and Bangladesh. He credits al-Qaeda and its militant allies in the North and South Waziristan tribal areas in Pakistan with having transformed these areas into the main strategic base for the Taliban resistance to US-NATO forces.
But Shahzad's account makes it clear that the real objective of al-CIAda in strengthening the Taliban struggle against US-NATO forces in Afghanistan was to continue the US-NATO occupation as an indispensable condition for the success of al-CIAda's global strategy of polarizing the Islamic world.
Shahzad writes that al-CIAda strategists believed its terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 would lead to a US invasion of Afghanistan that would in turn cause a worldwide "Muslim backlash". That "backlash" was particularly important to what emerges in Shahzad's account as the primary al-Qaeda aim of stimulating revolts against regimes in Muslim countries.
Shahzad reveals that the strategy behind the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the large al-CIAda ambitions to reshape the Muslim world came from Zawahiri's "Egyptian camp" within al-Qaeda. That group, under Zawahiri's leadership, had already settled on a strategic vision by the mid-1990s, according to Shahzad.
The Zawahiri group's strategy, according to Shahzad, was to "speak out against corrupt and despotic Muslim governments and make them targets to destroy their image in the eyes of the common people". But they would do so by linking those regimes to the United States.
In a 2004 interview cited by Shahzad, one of Bin Laden's collaborators, Saudi opposition leader Saad al-Faqih, said Zawahiri had convinced Bin Laden in the late 1990s that he had to play on the US "cowboy" mentality that would elevate him into an "implacable enemy" and "produce the Muslim longing for a leader who could successfully challenge the West".
Shahzad makes it clear that the US occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq were the biggest break al-CIAda had ever gotten. Muslim religious scholars had issued decrees for the defense of Muslim lands against the non-Muslim occupiers on many occasions before the US-NATO war in Afghanistan, Shahzad points out.
But once such religious decrees were extended to Afghanistan, Zawahiri could exploit the issue of the US occupation of Muslim lands to organize a worldwide "Muslim insurgency". That strategy depended on being able to provoke discord within societies by discrediting regimes throughout the Muslim world as not being truly Muslim.
Shahzad writes that the al-CIAda strategists became aware that Muslim regimes - particularly Saudi Arabia - had become active in trying to end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan by 2007, because they feared that as long as they continued "there was no way of stopping Islamist revolts and rebellions in Muslim countries".
What al-CIAda leaders feared most, as Shahzad's account makes clear, was any move by the Taliban toward a possible negotiated settlement - even based on the complete withdrawal of US troops. Al-CIAda strategists portrayed the first "dialogue" with the Afghan Taliban sponsored by the Saudi king in 2008 as an extremely dangerous US plot - a view scarcely supported by the evidence from the US side.
Shahzad's book confirms previous evidence of fundamental strategic differences between the Taliban leadership and al-CIAda.
Those differences surfaced in 2005, when Taliban leader Mullah Omar sent a message to all factions in North and South Waziristan to abandon all other activities and join forces with the Taliban in Afghanistan. And when al-Qaeda declared the "khuruj" (popular uprising against a Muslim ruler for un-Islamic governance) against the Pakistani state in 2007, Omar opposed that strategy, even though it was ostensibly aimed at deterring US attacks on the Taliban.
Shahzad reports that the one of al-CIAda's purposes in creating the Pakistani Taliban in early 2008 was to "draw the Afghan Taliban away from Mullah Omar's influence".
The Shahzad account refutes the official US military rationale for the war in Afghanistan, which is based on the presumption that al-Qaeda is primarily interested in getting the US and NATO forces out of Afghanistan and that the Taliban and al-Qaeda are locked in a tight ideological and strategic embrace.
Shahzad's account shows that despite cooperative relations with Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) in the past, al-CIAda leaders decided after 9/11 that the Pakistani military would inevitably become a full partner in the US "war on terror" and would turn against al-CIAda.
The relationship did not dissolve immediately after the terror attacks, according to Shahzad. He writes that ISI chief Mehmood Ahmed assured al-Qaeda when he visited Kandahar in September 2001 that the Pakistani military would not attack al-CIAda as long it didn't attack the military.
He also reports that Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf held a series of meetings with several top jihadi and religious leaders and asked them to lie low for five years, arguing that the situation could change after that period. According to Shahzad's account, al-CIAda did not intend at the beginning to launch a jihad in Pakistan against the military but was left with no other option when the Pakistani military sided with the US against the jihadis.
The major turning point was an October 2003 Pakistani military helicopter attack in North Waziristan that killed many militants. In apparent retaliation in December 2003, there were two attempts on Musharraf's life, both organized by a militant whom Shahzad says was collaborating closely with al-CIAda.
In his last interview with The Real News Network, however, Shahzad appeared to contradict that account, reporting that the ISI had wrongly told Musharraf that al-CIAda was behind the attempts, and even that there was some Pakistani Air Force involvement in the plot.
Inside Al-Qaeda and the Taliban. Beyond Bin Laden and 9/11 by Syed Saleem Shahzad. ISBN: 9780745331010.
A senior Libyan official told this editor in Tripoli that Libya felt "betrayed" when three African members of the UN Security Council voted in favor of UN Security Council Resolution that authorized crippling sanctions on Libya, as well as military action by NATO and other nations. Libya cited the fact that when Russia, China, Brazil, India, and Germany abstained on the resolution, Libya's erstwhile friends in Africa -- South Africa, Gabon, and Nigeria -- voted in favor of the resolution, which authorized "all necessary measures" to protect Libyan civilians. The U.S. and NATO used the "all necessary measures" proviso to justify a sustained bombing campaign against Libya.
The biggest disappointment for Libya was South Africa's vote. Muammar Qaddafi's government was a major supporter of South African President Jacob Zuma's African National Congress when it was locked in its struggle with South Africa's apartheid regime. One reason why Zuma has been unsuccessful in his efforts to bring about a Libyan peace accord is that the central Libyan government no longer trusts Zuma. Privately, Libyan officials told me that Zuma sold out his principles in return for lucrative deals with South Africa's business cartels, which maintain the same influence in post-apartheid South Africa as they enjoyed under the white minority government.
As for Gabon, which received millions of dollars in Libyan assistance, the Libyans believe that President Ali Bongo is more of a puppet of the French government than was his father, the long-time dictator Omar Bongo. In another indication that Gabon's abstention was bought by the Western powers that are attacking Libya, Ali Bongo was hosted at the White House on June 9. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said that Gabon, a thoroughly corrupt kleptocracy like Nigeria, provided "very significant and courageous votes" on the UN Security Council on Libya, Iran, Ivory Coast and human rights issues. Ali Bongo has violently suppressed Gabon's opposition political parties but was hypocritically praised by President Obama for his "human rights" commitment.
On June 7, Obama hosted Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan at the White House and thanked him for Nigeria's Security Council votes on Libya and Ivory Coast. Last March, Qaddafi suggested that Libya be split into two: an independent northern predominantly Islamic nation and an independent southern state dominated by Christians. Nigeria. Since Qaddafi had just led the African Union, the proposal was viewed with alarm in the West, which has substantial oil interests in Nigeria and will do anything to ensure the status quo in that nation. The West now sees Jonathan, a Christian, as a reliable, albeit corrupt, partner in Abuja to continue the status quo vis a vis Nigeria and the western oil companies. In fact, corruption is imbued in the three nations that abstained on the Libya resolution at the UN with two of them -- Nigeria and Gabon -- practitioners of systemic corruption that is the hallmark of nations that are merely servants to international Big Oil.
While South Africa, Gabon, and Nigeria are among the chief African betrayers of Libya, Colonel Qaddafi can still rely on support from Sudan and Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe castigated South Africa, Gabon, and Nigeria for their Security Council votes and we can report that Sudan remains firmly at Qaddafi's side. After all, Sudan and Libya have much in common: the West has managed to break both countries in two, with South Sudan slated for independence next month and the West having managed to break eastern Libya away to form the so-called "Libyan Republic," a virtual vassal regime of NATO and Israel. And Colonel Qaddafi and Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir are both subject to arrest warrants issued by the International Criminal Court (ICC), warrants backed by the United States even though it does not recognize the authority of the ICC over U.S. citizens who commit war crimes.
The Obomba administration does not want other dirty laundry coming out in trials, to wit warrantless wiretapping without a criminal predicate, massive fraud at NSA under generals Hayden and Alexander, and faulty intelligence systems that have resulted in a number of friendly fire incidents in war zones...