What is state failure? See my conceptualisation of state failure on the right flank below.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Bin Laden's bay'a that wasn't

I do not mean to be offensive here, but I really needed to stop reading the conclusion of Vahid Brown's article about how Abu Walid al-Masri's story of Osama bin Laden's avoidance of a bay'a to mullah Omar should be interpreted. In disbelief. That Brown seriously put down what he did.
"The ambiguity of Bin Ladin’s bay`a challenges the notion that al-Qa`ida is, or ever was, subservient to the aims and methods of the Afghan Taliban."
There are problems later on as well, with Brown's conception of Pakistan, but this already is sufficient to pause and contemplate. The notion after 9/11 certainly wasn't that al-Qaida, an organisation that was willing to blow stuff up around the globe, was hijacked by the Taliban with the latters' narrow focus on defeating the remaining Northern Alliance.
Of the latter goal of the Taliban, Abu Walid al-Masri had this to say, by the way, and this is quoted by Brown himself: the Taliban could not effectively oppose Osama bin Laden's plans as long as they "remained unable to control the remaining territory held by the northern resistance." * (correction: see comments below)
Anyway, what follows from all this? That all or nothing of Afghanistan shall be ruled by the Taliban, from a U.S. national security perspective? Or from a "counterterrorism community" perspective?


Vahid said...

I'm sorry you found the conclusion so unbelievably bad. One correction: You write that "the Taliban could not effectively oppose Osama bin Laden's plans as long as they 'remained unable to control the remaining territory held by the northern resistance.'"
This is not at all what Abu'l-Walid says. Rather, he writes that the Taliban *had* to oppose Bin Ladin because of this situation, inasmuch as their non-control of the whole country left them vulnerable to Pakistan's pressure on them to rein in Bin Ladin. Here's the quote:
"Second was the [Taliban] prohibition on any military strike against the United States [by UBL], as Pakistan had threatened to intervene directly against the Taliban in the event of such a strike. The Taliban could not bear up under such an intervention so long as it remained unable to control the remaining territory held by the northern resistance."

Péter MARTON said...

You're absolutely right, that was an unbelievably bad conclusion from my part. I skipped a passage there.

Me or my mind interpreted the last part of that sentence as confirmation of what I would have thought in the Taliban's place. Because they clearly couldn't have fought the Northern Alliance (at least not with the same success) without the 055 unit. And without some financing that tolerating them made accessible.

In general, it would be great to contrast Abu Walid al-Masri's account with already existing narratives of the al-Qaida/Taliban relationship.

Otherwise I enjoyed your article up to the conclusions, it was really that first part of the conclusions that triggered my reaction above.

Vahid said...

Thanks Peter,

I disagree on the Taliban's reliance on AQ in their fight against the NA. There was no 055 Brigade - this is a totally unsubstantiated myth. Multiple insider primary sources from both the Taliban and the foreign jihadi side confirm that Bin Ladin had no interest in sending his followers to the Taliban's front lines. The large numbers of Arab muj volunteers there were independent of Bin Ladin and were not members of al-Qa'ida.

Péter MARTON said...

That depends, I guess, on how you define "independent from bin Laden." Bin Laden was a key node in a network of the networks. He was a relatively wealthy sheikh. You are talking about a combat environment in which a relatively modest Stinger buyback program earlier on was an injection of critical resources to some. Kicking out bin Laden and many of his friends and comrades would have resulted in the loss of a lot of support. In all sorts of ways.

Péter MARTON said...

Whether or not there was a 55th Arab Brigade, what is happening here is partly a debate between cyncial political economy logic and a loyal interpretive reading of the discourse of SOME of the people involved.

Otherwise, what do you think of al-Masri's past years in Iran?

And his former Australian wife's assertion that he converted to become Shi'a there?