Leah Farrall in The Australian, about counterterrorism in Afghanistan. I stopped, looking up in amazement, at this point:
"Afghanistan's value to al-Qa'ida is as a location for jihad, not a sanctuary.(...)A withdrawal of coalition forces from Afghanistan would undoubtedly hand al-Qa'ida and the Taliban a propaganda victory. However, a victory would deny al-Qa'ida its most potent source of power, influence, funding and recruits -- the armed jihad.Without a jihad to fight, al-Qa'ida would be left with only its franchises..."
Would al-Qaida be left without a jihad to fight, should the U.S. pull out from Afghanistan? So it would be a Taliban victory in Afghanistan over everyone else, by default, should the U.S. pull out? And thus there would remain no fighting to be done?
Wouldn't the Taliban need some allies in any remaining fighting? Some support - financial and material? If yes, wouldn't they get part of that through Islamist networks reaching to the Gulf states? And if those networks would be important to draw on, wouldn't that leave some room for al-Qaida? Wouldn't it be in the Taliban's interest to have us think they are now moving "away" from al-Qaida (while never actually really getting away from them)? And what's that statement saying al-Qaida wouldn't be interested in a sanctuary in Afghanistan? They wouldn't be interested in a landlocked sanctuary where it would be a lot more difficult to strike them? And recruits wouldn't find the prospect of going to Afghanistan for training better than the prospect of going to the currently rather murky world of the Pakistani borderland? (By the way, that borderland could be calmer as well, should there remain no U.S. presence on the other side of the border...)
Anyway, let's imagine a scenario in which the US supports the Taliban, so Pakistan's leadership captures or kills some more (say, a quite decent percentage) of the core foreign jihadists in the borderland through effective cooperation with the U.S. military and U.S. intelligence, devoting its HUMINT and other assets to the task... But would the U.S. really be ready to support the Taliban all of a sudden, to make other sources of support unnecessary to them? If not, would Pakistan be comfortable with hunting down those potentially to the aid of the Taliban, in the latter's struggle with potentially Russian/Indian/Iranian-financed strongmen of the non-Pashtun areas? I am asking this especially since right now I couldn't imagine Pakistan's leadership comfortably justifying support to the Taliban even to their public... which means covert sources of funding would remain important if anyone in Pakistan wanted to support them.
Finally, in establishing whether "the Taliban is moving away from al-Qaida," aren't scholars showing signs of a scholarly bias of focusing a lot on texts (of radical Islamist publications and internet chatter)? Such a bias would be a bit ill-advised in assessing people who believe in deeds much more than in rhetoric (while many of those people are illiterate of course). And I am yet to see an analysis of whether the Haqqanis are "moving away" from the transnational jihadist networks.
Put simply, would helping al-Qaida really weaken it?