Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Al-Zawahiri with a New Message: Join Taliban, not Al Qaeda [?]

According to the article Al-Zawahiri Blasts Bush, Calls For Muslim Unity in New Tape by Andrew Cochran on the Counterterrorism Blog, Al-Qaeda #2 Ayman al-Zawahiri has released a new tape in which "He claims that Bush is an alcoholic and addicted to drinking, lying, and gambling."

A translation of the statement: "Bush suffers from an addictive personality, and was an alcoholic ... As regards lying, his record is well known, and he has gone down in history as one of its most notorious liars... "

But the most interesting feature of this note is that he calls on Muslims to unite under the leader of the Taliban, not Osama Bin Laden. Taliban, not Al Qaeda?
"Zawahiri calls on Muslims to unite under Taliban leader Mullah Omar, stop trying to form secular governments and instead follow strict Islamic Sharia law."
"Zawahiri urges followers in Lebanon to not give up any land, and he does so without differentiating between Sunni or Shiite there."
"By talking out of both sides of his mouth ... he's trying to provide leadership but avoid entanglement in the Sunni-Shiite split which is now a key issue facing the Muslim world..."

This seems like a major shift in focus. The Taliban have been essentially a Pushtun movement with nationalistic intentions in Afghanistan. Like all movements their members are animated by various concerns, but the most common and general concern is to restablish Pushtun dominance in Afghanistan, as well as to re-instate a Salaf-type social order. For Zawahiri, an Egyptian, to make an appeal for a general following of Mullah Muhammad Omar, leader of the Taliban, is a major re-orientation. Has Osama passed from the scene?

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