Marc Lynch links to Jihadica, which tracks Sunni jihadist thought. Apparently, Taliban leaders have portrayed their movement in terms of Afghan nationalism and better relations with neighboring states, drawing criticisms from al-Qaeda leaders who want global jihad.
Lynch quotes Jihadica’s Vahid Brown: “Mullah Omar’s Afghan Taliban and al-Qa’ida’s senior leaders have been issuing some very mixed messages of late, and the online jihadi community is in an uproar, with some calling these developments “the beginning of the end of relations” between the two movements.”
Lynch has some musings on what this could mean, including a comparison to Iraq:
How representative are these forums in the Afghan case? I don’t know. But Brown’s post reminds me of the online furor over the Islamic State of Iraq which foreshadowed the dramatic split in the Iraqi insurgency in which key insurgency factions flipped to the U.S. side and formed the backbone of the Awakenings/ Sons of Iraq. Back then, in the fall of 2006 through early 2007 we saw growing discord on the forums between al-Qaeda in Iraq’s umbrella group the Islamic State of Iraq and key insurgency factions. Some of the discord focused on local complaints (ISI attacks on moderate imams), but a lot focused on this tension between the nationalist goals of the Iraqi insurgency factions (which mainly wanted to drive American forces out of Iraq) and the universalist goals of AQI (which mainly wanted to use Iraq as the base for global jihad).
Those tensions on the forums proved to be a crucial leading indicator of real splits on the ground which energized the “Awakenings” movement. Like I said, I have no idea whether a similar eruption of such arguments on the forums today will have the same significance. I’m generally leery of comparisons from Iraq to Afghanistan, and in particular the relationship between the forums and the factions may well be different in this context. But Brown’s post should be food for thought.
Lynch also mentions some articles that have talked about the potential merger of the Taliban and al-Qaeda. I’m hoping to read those soon.