Is al-Qaeda Drifting Away From the Quetta-Shura Taliban?
I don’t know if this is wishful thinking or solid intelligence work. But Josh Partlow at The Washington Post has a spectacular story today from Kabul about possible fissures between al-Qaeda in Pakistan and elements of the Afghan Taliban coalition. Partlow’s sources indicate that the relationships are undergoing a transition:
[O]fficials and observers here differ over whether the inversion of the groups’ traditional power dynamic has led to better or worse relations. Indeed, it may be bringing al-Qaeda closer to certain Taliban factions — most notably, forces loyal to former Taliban cabinet minister Jalaluddin Haqqani — and driving it apart from others, including leader Mohammad Omar’s Pakistan-based group. The shifting alliances, analysts say, could have significant bearing on where the U.S. military chooses to focus its firepower.
That appears to track with the Obama administration’s desired goal of splitting the Taliban coalition and encouraging reconciliation with the Afghan government. Which in turn means either the intelligence is reflecting fanciful administration thinking or the administration has a solid intelligence grounding for its approach.
I also like this cheeky tweak at the counterinsurgency community:
This year, Omar’s military committee published a rule book for followers, calling on them to protect the population and avoid civilian casualties — much like U.S. counterinsurgency principles. He has railed against the corruption of President Hamid Karzai’s government, an issue that resonates with Afghans. He has also solicited support from other Muslim countries. But al-Qaeda’s agenda of global holy war and taste for mass-casualty attacks, no matter how many Muslim civilians are killed, complicate that goal.
To say the least!