Inside Al-Qaeda

and the Taliban:

Beyond 9/11

by Syed Saleem Shahzad
Pluto Press
reviewed by: David Dienstag
September 14, 2011
book cover

Syed Saleem Shahzad Mr. Shahzad Was Murdered

for Writing This Book

As a veteran of the first Afghan war against the Soviets, this book confirms my deepest suspicions about Al Qaeda's intentions in South Asia and America's response to those strategies. It is a recent and profoundly important report that the author gave his life for. Sadly, it will probably be ignored by American diplomatic, intelligence and military leaders.

The critical underlying concepts that the book emphasizes are: 1. that the war in Afghanistan is about global Jihad to rid all Muslim countries of "infidels", especially Palestine, and 2. that Al Qaeda is using Afghanistan as a trap for America to squander its resources and become weaker and more isolated globally. The process of weakening America will enable another generation of Jihadis to fight America over Israel in an "end times" battle for the Levant. So far as this writer can tell, the strategy has been working.

The book is an unintended indictment of US military and diplomatic officials who insisted on the "surge" and extensive operations in the flatlands of Helmand province while most of Al Qaeda and the Taliban leadership stayed in the mountains through which the Durand line passes. In going for what was the easier fight, General Petraeus has had only limited success at securing real estate when he is, in fact, fighting a revolutionary idea.

The book wastes little time on American strategic intentions. Instead, it chronicles the victories, defeats, strategies and ideological development of Al Qaeda and the Taliban that the late author likens to a "1001 nights" tale. And what a tale it is! From the dreamy, heady days after the Soviet defeat to only a few months ago, the author traces many threads other than Bin Laden, who, as it turns out, was not that important to Al Qaeda thinking.

Significant elements of the tale are the present fight to develop a caliphate that stretches from Afghanistan through Central Asia, across Pakistan to all of India. Another element is how the ISI's concept of "strategic depth" backfired and dropped all of Pakistani ISI's military assets, including many of its own military officers and men in the lap of Al Qaeda leadership. The reinvigorated organization is now a truly dangerous international movement.

Only days ago, Ambassador Ryan Crocker promised that America will not "abandon" Afghanistan. As he spoke, Taliban militants infiltrated Kabul and attacked the US Embassy. It was a move that most observers noted could not have taken place without inside help from Karzai's security forces. The suicide attack bore the signature of Al Qaeda which the book reports as having assumed command of the Afghan Taliban. It also has a striking similarity to the '68 Tet attack on the US embassy in Saigon as it was not effective militarily but did highlight the absurdity of the US position in Afghanistan.

While the book is well informed by Al Qaeda and Taliban insiders, I was struck by the numbers of fighters that were claimed by these sources. They are enormous. I believe and hope that they are exaggerated as one might expect, given the sources. In my experience, lopping a zero or two off a given troop strength tends to get to a more real troop size. But the book is absolutely excellent at mapping the goals, methods and strategies of Al Qaeda and the Taliban which are slowly morphing into one organization, led by impressive revolutionaries.

Whatever inaccuracies the book may contain, I seriously doubt that it's far off the mark. Somebody murdered the author for writing it. I don't wonder who.

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