When we talk about terrorism in the last four decades, we usually think of one of its specific forms: “jihad”, that is, Islamic “jihad” against “infidels.” Although “jihad” has been entrenched in our countries as a term encompassing Islamic extremism, radicalism, fundamentalism and violence, it is an inappropriate and incomplete term, which deliberately partially stigmatizes Islam as a religion, and partially accepts it superficially, but leads to the same conclusion.
“Jihad” in Arabic means “fighting.” Islamic scholars have classified jihad into at least 14 categories, most of which can be categorized under moral imperatives, the doctrine of self-improvement and self-control, or national development and spiritual and material progress.
In short, “jihad” can be the fight for everything worth fighting for. This includes waging war as a form of “jihad,” referred to in Arabic as”jihad by hand.” If we mean exactly this type of jihad, war and violence, the most appropriate term would be “the combat jihad,” or even more accurately, “the warrior jihad.”
In this article, the author Dragan Pesincic wrote: so when we say “the globalization of terrorism” we clearly mean “the globalization of combative jihad”. The war in Afghanistan and the “Afghan jihad” can be considered the cradle of “the combat jihad” movement today, the reason for its globalization.
The first actors in the “global combat jihad” were the “Afghan Arabs” who fought as “holy warriors” against the Soviets. Arab motivations for joining this movement are important to increasing understanding of the course and development of the “the combat jihad.”
Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State
Al-Qaeda was born in Afghanistan, a country where “combat jihad” leaders such as Osama bin Laden began their mysterious careers. The network founded in Afghanistan was the backbone of the movement in the 1990s and 2000s, with Afghan Arabs playing key roles in most groups. Afghanistan was intellectually vital because it was the incubator of the main ideas of the “subculture of jihad” as we know it today.
“It was a turning point in the history of Muslims. People, ideas and perspectives came together. Groups fought with their rivals, and different ideas and opinions competed. It was a kind of a hometown. Most of what we see today is the result of that period,” Abu Musab al-Suri, a great jihad strategist, Later said.
The path to extremism began with membership in political Islam organizations, mostly the MB, then followed by moving to extremist, active and extremist organizations in Arab countries, then training in an Afghan camp, before the jihadist struggle in the Afghan valleys and caves.
When the Soviets left Afghanistan, radical and extreme Islam in the form of terrorism spread to Arab countries, Africa, the Balkans, Europe and the United States. From 2011 to today, new forms of warrior jihad have taken shape dominated by ISIS’s creation , an area four times the size of Portugal and home to eight million people.
From local rebels to global warriors
At the same time, the global mobilization of Afghanistan was a bit of a mystery because nothing like it had happened before. Previous decades were marked by many conflicts in the Muslim world, from Algeria in the west to the Philippines in the east, but none of them attracted foreign fighters like Afghanistan. There were Islamist foreign fighters in the 1948 Palestine War, but they enjoyed state support and were mostly from neighboring countries. Since their emergence in the early twentieth century, Islamist movements have been preoccupied with domestic politics. At the beginning of the 1960s, Islamists who were willing to use violence more openly emerged, but focused on internal political changes. In short, until the end of the 1970s, all radical Islamic politics were local, with few exceptions.
In 1969 and 1970, Egypt, Sudan, and Algeria helped Nigeria fight rebels in Biafra. The leader of Biafra, Emeka Ojukwu, estimated that this assistance comes from Muslim countries, while Biafra is Christian.
“Now it is clear why fanatical Islamic Arab countries such as Algeria, Egypt and Sudan are stepping forward to support and assist Nigeria in the current genocidal war against us. (…) Biafra is one of the few African countries that Islam has not caught up with,” Ojukwu said.
The uprising was crushed, but despite its obvious religious features, it did not lead to the creation of large armed groups.
Then, suddenly, thousands of foreigners from all over the world rushed to join the war against the Soviets in Afghanistan. The Afghan combat jihad produced one of the largest transnational insurgencies in history. No other ideological group has succeeded in creating battle groups as large and mobile as jihad. It is estimated that about 30,000 foreigners fought on the side of the Mujahideen in Afghanistan. The Marxist revolutionaries of the 20th century had more influence because they took over large countries, but the Marxist rebels did not operate outside borders to the extent that the armed jihadists did in recent decades.
The radical left-wing terrorist groups in Europe in the 1970s and 1980s were highly mobile, but much smaller and less lethal than groups such as al-Qaeda and ISIS. Fighting jihadists are a major anomaly in largely “narrow” insurgencies.
The past decades have witnessed extensive research and study on combative jihad, but the main event: the Arab involvement in Afghanistan, has not been explained, nor has it been the subject of deeper and more serious attention. If not interpreted as an event that simply occurred, most explanations boil down to the encouragement, aid and support of certain governments, their secret services and armies, and the search for shelter from internal oppression.
The Arab mobilization in Afghanistan was often seen as a natural continuation of the ideas of the Egyptian theorist Sayyid Qutb, which dominated radical Islamic ideas during the 1960s and 1970s. However, Qutb’s followers called for a change in the Arab system, but not through other Muslim wars.
Going to Afghanistan was a very different attempt from trying to overthrow the Arab regimes. The call to fight in Afghanistan represents a shift in Islamic thinking – from overthrowing corrupt local rulers to fighting against infidel invaders abroad. This shift from the revolutionary direction to the Islamic one deserves an explanation.
Thomas Heghammer believes that jihadism has become global because Islamists have been excluded from domestic politics in previous decades. Disabled back home, they have turned into an arena where they face less pressure and cross-border activism for pan-Islamic causes. This is partly true, because there were indeed specific Islamist movements that allowed the interior to turn into a global insurgency.
Khomeini’s revolutionary ideology was an example for the whole region. According to it, every form of current rule must be overthrown and replaced by the rule of the mullahs (jurists). In Iran, the mullahs have always maintained their independence from the state. This doctrine turned them into a revolutionary class focused on conquest and the exercise of power.
Khomeini also emphasized the anti-Western and anti-American nature of fundamentalism. Sayyid Qutb’s idea of a “crusade” was particularly well received in Egypt and the Levant, where the Crusades’ legacy could have been revived from the depths of the collective Islamic memory, but it was far from the people of Iran, a country untouched by the Crusades.
Thus Khomeini drew an astonishing metaphor to explain the same point: America, the historical heir to the infidels, was the “Great Satan.” This represented the ultimate conflict between Islam and the West, not only in history, but also in recent events. Sunni skepticism about the implementation of the Islamic state’s rules in Iran has arisen, but over the coming decades, fundamentalists will make a great effort to try to replicate Khomeini’s success and bring about a second Islamic revolution.
Attempts to bring about a second revolution showed that fundamentalists of all stripes would use revolutionary violence if they could bring them to power.
Frustrated with the painstaking process of winning the support of the masses, infused with the ideas of Mawdudi and Qutb, and inspired by Khomeini’s success, they moved forward. Sunni fundamentalists of all stripes began plotting. The Christian community occupied the Grand Mosque in Mecca in 1979. A group that adopted the teachings of Sayyid Qutb assassinated Egyptian President Anwar Sadat in 1981. The MB declared a revolution against the Syrian regime in 1982.
The geobiological struggle to control the Eurasian space
A terrorist “malignant tumor” began to infect all Islamists, as US President Joseph Biden now calls global terrorism in his interpretations of the withdrawal from Afghanistan, through the symbiosis of American Cold War goals in the fight with the Soviet Union and the exploitation of Islamic religious sentiments to achieve those goals. In the twentieth century, in the 1980s and 1990s, the globalization of jihad and the decades-old extremism of Islam began in Afghanistan, with American support and Arab extremists’ participation. Afghanistan was the response in which Arab political radicalism turned into warrior sacrifice and martyrdom, the dream of every fanatic willing to sacrifice his life for the sanctity of some victory in the future.
After the Soviet Union invaded and occupied Afghanistan in December 1979, US President Jimmy Carter actually in January 1980 sent his National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski to consult with Pakistani leaders who were already supporting the Afghan insurgents.
On his way from Islamabad, Brzezinski reached the slopes of Cyber Pass, where he was famously photographed with an AK-47 Kalashnikov. From that moment on, the US President’s National Security Adviser became a symbol of that phase of US involvement in the Afghan epic.
For Brzezinski, the geopolitical continuity of Afghanistan’s importance was clear. In his memo to Carter immediately after the invasion, which was only recently made public. “If the Soviets succeed in Afghanistan (text omitted) then Moscow’s old dream of direct access to the Indian Ocean will come true,” he warned
Brzezinski defined the entire Cold War as “a geopolitical struggle for control of the Eurasian expanse.”
Conservative geopolitics that were well understood by both sides emerged behind the ideological vocabulary. This was clearly reminiscent of Lord Curzon’s territorial imagination who explained the chain of geographical links for the defense of India’s hinterland in the Mediterranean.
In their view, “all indications are that the Soviets decided to stay, include Afghanistan in the Soviet military structure and consider creating permanent bases for future business.” Soviet forces were 200 miles from the Persian Gulf (400 miles round trip) and took control of the oil fields there. Bases in Afghanistan could provide reliable cover for the Soviet Pacific Fleet and future forces in the Gulf. In addition, they created a clear base for “political manipulation in the Middle East”.
Because of the potentially enormous significance of the Soviet Union’s exit to the warm seas, and thus to the world stage through Afghanistan, the US involvement in Afghanistan did not begin after, but rather before, Soviet action. Speaking to the Nouvel Observater in January 1998, Zbigniew Brzezinski asserted that he had far-reaching goals in his ideas about sabotaging the Soviet presence in Afghanistan. As Robert Gates, former director of the CIA stated in his memoirs, the CIA began assisting the mujahideen in Afghanistan six months before the Soviet invasion.
When asked whether this was true and whether he was involved as a national security adviser, Brzezinski replied: “According to the official history of the CIA, aid to the Mujahideen began in 1980, after the Soviet army entered Afghanistan.”
“But the reality yet to be discovered was different: President Carter had already signed the First Direct to help the Soviet Regime’s opponents in Kabul on July 3, 1979. On the same day, I wrote to the President that this assistance was a provocation to Soviet military intervention,” he added.
Brzezinski states that they “did not really want” to provoke Soviet military intervention, but were aware of the “increasing possibility of their intervention”. He maintains that Soviet claims at the time that they were interfering in Afghanistan because they were fighting US covert operations were “mostly true”, but were not believed at the time.
When asked by a reporter if he regretted it, Brzezinski replied: “What should I regret? This secret operation was completely conceived. As a result, Russia fell into the trap of the United States.
On the day Russia officially crossed the border, I wrote to President Carter: “We now have the opportunity to confront the USSR.” Moscow had to fight the war for ten years, which it could not afford. This weakened morale, and ultimately the collapse of the Soviet empire.”
Only there is no Soviet Union
Brzezinski rejects the accusation that the United States supported Islamic terrorists and gave weapons and ideology to the future’s fundamentalists, and asks the question: “What is most important to world history?” The Taliban or the Soviet empire’s collapse? A little more radical Muslims or the liberation of Eastern Europe and the end of the Cold War?”
Brzezinski rejects the claim that Islamic fundamentalism is a threat to the world, and that the West is in a global conflict with Islam, because, as he says, “the world of Islam does not exist.” If Islam is viewed rationally, without demagogy and sentiment, Brzezinski says, it is “one of the world’s religions with half a billion believers”. What is the common denominator between fundamentalism in Saudi Arabia, moderate Morocco, Pakistani militarism, and secularism in Central Asia? “Nothing more than Christian countries,” Brzezinski asks and answers.
When I reminded him of these words in one of our conversations, Brzezinski asserted that the end of the Cold War and the withdrawal of the Soviet Union from Eastern Europe were historically superior to any change in Islam.
American aircraft group, Joanne Herring, Congressman, drunken Charlie Wilson, “the godfather of the Arab Afghans” Abdullah Azzam, the leader of the Mujahideen Army Jalaluddin Haqqani or Osama bin Laden, were the heroes of the sensational Afghan novel that led to the spread of combative jihad. all over the world. The American “Great Game” against the Soviet Union had since then created the Taliban movement today, which had retreated before the attacks of American forces after the twenty-year occupation of Afghanistan
While the US administration’s summit was planning its “big game”, the support of the “Mujahideen” came from a totally unexpected side. The then-American star Joanne King Herring ignited the first spark for the American intervention in Afghanistan. Today she is 93 years old, and since the fall of the Afghan government on August 15 after twenty years of American occupation, her phones have not stopped ringing. Messages and calls come from all over the world.
Joanne Herring was associated with the Afghan War in audiences’ minds when Julia Roberts played Herring in Charlie Wilson’s War in 2007. It is a biographical comedy-drama about three men who helped spark the semi-secret war in Afghanistan. Together with former Democratic Congressman Charlie Wilson and CIA agent Ghost Afrakotos, Joanne facilitated Operation Cyclone and the program created to support and organize the Afghan mujahideen during the Soviet-Afghan War. Their efforts changed the course of the history of Afghanistan, the Soviet Union, and the global Islamic movement.
After she married her second husband, oilman Robert Herring, the couple traveled abroad to arrange oil and gas deals. During the long trips, her husband talked to her about the situation in Afghanistan and presented her with facts, figures and convincing arguments.
By the late 1970s, Joanne Herring held three honorary positions: she was the honorary consul of Pakistan and Morocco, and she also helped Pakistani peasants modernize their handicrafts – from carpets and fabrics to copper and silverware – so beloved by Western consumers. Along the way, she invited influential friends in the fashion industry to design dresses using Pakistani materials.
Joanne was also a mayor of Houston, political activist, businesswoman, and television presenter – a Texas oil producer and John Birch association. This association is an organization of political activists that describes itself as an anti-communist organization with strong Christian religious dialects. Others describe it as a far-right and conservative organisation. Founded by businessman Robert Welch in 1958, his close friend and financier was Donald Trump‘s father.
Her friendship with politicians, such as James Baker, future Secretary of State, increased her political influence. She is perhaps best known for her political relationship with Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq, the former president of Pakistan, their long-standing friendship that lasted from the early 1970s to the 1980s. The president once hosted a dinner in her honor in Islamabad.
She was known for her daring and provocative outfits at Texas and New York parties and social events. In an interview, Joanne admitted with a laugh that she wore sexy clothes “because it was the only way guys would listen to me”.
It all started with an erotic relationship between Herring and Congressman Charlie Wilson after a party in 1980. The relationship grew into something much more, so Wilson mentioned in his autobiography that they planned a wedding.
Charlie Wilson and his angels
Charlie Wilson (Charles Nesbitt “Charlie” Wilson, 1933-2010) was a Democratic Congressman from Texas who was elected to twelve terms from 1973 to 1997. He was a “hawk” in foreign policy and became known as one of the prominent congressmen who influenced Decisive on Carter, Reagan and Operation “Hurricane”, through which the Mujahideen in Afghanistan were supplied with weapons and all other kinds of assistance to fight the Soviet army. He was first elected to the Texas Parliament when he was just 27 years old. Throughout his career he had strong ties to Israel, mostly due to the primary influence of the Israeli-Arab conflict early in his political career in 1973. While involved in aiding the Mujahideen in Pakistan, he worked closely with Israeli intelligence and the military. Wilson directly influenced the level of American assistance, especially CIA budgets, for which he was awarded the CIA’s Medal of Honor.
In his private life, he was a playboy and never made a secret of it. He was nicknamed “Sweet Live Charlie” because of this. He filled his office with young girls who were dubbed “Charlie’s Angels” by other members of Congress.
Throughout his career, he drank a lot, which left him suffering from depression and insomnia. Drinking became especially difficult while in Afghanistan. At one point, he was taken to a hospital in Germany where he was diagnosed with several heart problems and ordered to stop drinking. After the consultation, he stopped drinking strong liquor, but continued to drink wine and beer. He was always accompanied by a woman, except when he was on the congressional platform. He admitted that he was a member of the Kennedy Center committee only to have a place for love meetings.
Since his second trip to Pakistan, he has always had a female escort. At one time, someone made him entertain his hosts with an oriental dance. Bringing women to Pakistan was a source of tension between him and the CIA in 1987 when the agency refused to pay his girlfriend’s travel expenses. In response, Wilson cut the agency’s budget for next year.
Wilson seduced several women in his career, who claimed that he was romantic. He said he loved life “like one big party”, and lived by the rule that he “could take his work seriously without taking himself too seriously”. After leaving Congress, he continued to be a member of the Pakistani lobby. When he died, he was buried with full military honors. After his death, his widow Barbara invited a small number of close friends into the house. In the living room, next to a statue of an American eagle, stood the words of the emir of Afghanistan from 1880 to 1901, Abdul Rahman Khan: “My soul will remain in Afghanistan, even when my soul goes to God. My last words to you, my son and heir: Do not trust the Russians.”
delusions of grandeur
Joanne Herring is credited with meeting Wilson and Zia-ul-Haq met, and this acquaintance financed Pakistan’s anti-communist policies. She was “the most trusted US advisor in the Zia-ul-Haq administration”. Zia appointed her as his honorary consul at the Consulate General of Pakistan in Houston and awarded her Pakistan’s highest civilian honor, Tamgha-e-Quaid-e-Azam. The credit for her appointment goes to General Shahizabadi Yaqoub Ali Khan, Pakistan’s ambassador to Washington.
Hussain Haqqani, a former ambassador and advisor to three Pakistani prime ministers, described her in his book “Fantastic Illusions” as “best known for the luster than political wisdom” and for “knowing little about the country”.
“What Charlie and I did, did not involve any American soldiers. All we did to help the Afghans was teach them to help themselves.” Joanne said. Commenting on the current US withdrawal from Afghanistan, she stated that they “gave the tools to the Afghans” who did the rest themselves.
As a member of the Budget Committee, over the next fifteen years, Wilson provided hundreds of millions of secret CIA funding to arm the mujahideen in Afghanistan.
Sheikh of the Arab Mujahideen
As mentioned earlier, Brzezinski and the US administration wanted a conflict between the Soviets and the Mujahideen in Afghanistan, but this still does not explain how the change occurred in the international mobilization of radical Islamists and extremists. This transformation and the first globalization of jihad was made possible by Abdullah Azzam, a Palestinian university professor who during the 1980s from his base in Peshawar, Pakistan, recruited Arabs to fight in Afghanistan.
That is why they call him “the spiritual father of the Arab Afghans”, “the sheikh of the Arab mujahideen”, and “the hero of the Arab jihad in Afghanistan”. Two years before his death, he wrote the book “Joining the Caravan”, which became a primer for anyone who wanted to join the “caravan”, that is, “combat jihad”. Azzam was a university professor and mujahid of great importance in the development of modern Islamic extremism, and especially in the creation of Al-Qaeda.
He was born in 1941 in the West Bank, Jordan. He joined the Palestinian Muslim Brotherhood before he reached adulthood and took part in actions against Israel. Azzam received his doctorate in jurisprudence from Al-Azhar University in Egypt in 1973, where he befriended the leaders of Islamic extremism at the time: Al Qutb, Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman and Ayman al-Zawahiri. Because of a letter to Gamal Abdel Nasser criticizing the execution of Sayyid Qutb, he was under surveillance by the Egyptian police. He became a lecturer at Amman University, but had to leave due to his extremist views, so he continued his academic career as a lecturer at Abdulaziz University in Saudi Arabia, where he influenced an entire generation of Saudis, including Osama bin Laden.
Since his ideology was shaped by Sayyid Qutb’s anti-Americanism and anti-Westernism and pan-Islamist nationalism, Azzam saw the cause of the Muslim world’s problems in the negative role of “infidels” (non-Muslims). It was part of a plot to prevent the “ummah” (the Muslim community) from realizing the potential of a transnational Islamic state.
His fierce anti-communism and anti-westernism crystallized in the two books he published: Red Cancer, in which he detailed the evils of communism and its manifestations in the Arab world, and Arab nationalism. He considers ideologies, communism and nationalism imported from the West and a Jewish ploy to weaken Islam.
The war against the Jews
Azzam claims that “the Bolshevik Revolution was Jewish in ideology, planning, financing, and execution.” “The philosopher and thinker Marx, grandson of Jewish Rabbi Mordechai Marx, and so was Lenin, who changed Marx’s words into reality and revolution.”
He continues, “As for the financing of [the revolution] it is Jewish. Brooklyn in eastern New York was the backbone of the conspiracy. Trotsky was from there. This area is still the center of Jewish plots to destroy humanity.” Since “all the communist revolutions in the world are Jewish revolutions” in short, it is not surprising that “the Jews plan to organize and form the Communist Party in the Arab world. They are its leaders and planners.” In several places, the book refers to Yugoslavia, as a country that committed a massacre of Muslims and poisoned Islamic countries with communism and nationalism.
Some time after the publication of “The Red Cancer”, a year or two later, Azzam wrote a similar, but shorter text entitled “Arab Nationalism”. He links both Arab nationalism and Turkish nationalism to foreign influences once again controlled by Jews. “Both nationalities arose in foreign countries; Arab nationalism arose in American minds and the American university, while Turkish nationalism arose in Masonic and Jewish circles under the supervision of Spanish, Polish and Italian Jews.”
“All the Arab nationalist leaders were non-Muslims… of Christian origin,” He adds.
These attitudes did not prevent him from staying in the United States several times, where he was first in 1977-1978. He met with student Osama bin Laden, and delivered more than 50 lectures during 1981 in which he promoted the fight against Jewish communist evil that threatens Islam.
After being expelled from his teaching position at the University of Jordan in 1980, he spent a short time at the then center of Islamic nationalism in western Saudi Arabia, where he decided to join the military struggle, but was not sure where. In the end, he limited the choice to two options: Yemen or Afghanistan, because both countries were fighting against communism, which he hated. He wanted to go to the battlefield to begin “practicing his call, jihad.”
When he arrived in Peshawar in September 1981, the scenes of the Afghan border made a deep impression on him: “When I stood on the tops of Afghanistan, I couldn’t believe it! I was Palestinian and suffered repeated defeats in the Arab world. This is where I saw the victories and saw myself on top. I couldn’t believe it. “
He is now convinced that the Afghan jihad was the “beginning of a renaissance” and a “potential historical turning point for the entire world”.
Azzam’s first reports from Afghanistan were not related to the political situation, nor the need for foreign fighters. It was about “divine miracles” that he claimed often happen on the battlefield. During the 1980s, Azzam wrote extensively about the paranormal dimension of jihad in a way that no modern Islamic writer had ever done before. He recorded on the battlefield: 350 Mujahideen triumphed over 5,000 Russians and 40 aircraft, with the Russians losing 3,364 soldiers, and the Mujahideen only 40. There, the Mujahideen destroyed the Russian fighters with stones or only prayer, the armies of ghosts helped the many fighters, and the animals gave advance warning of the bombing. There were also accounts of mysterious things that happened in the bodies of the fallen fighters: their blood smelled of musk, their bodies never decomposed, and rays of light radiated from their graves. His book of miracles has become a classic in jihadist literature and an indispensable guide for anyone preparing for the “Path of the Martyr”.
The subject captured people’s imaginations and the records of Azzam’s miracles laid the foundation for the culture of Sunni jihadist martyrdom that exists today. Azzam’s writings on the paranormal included two distinct but closely related themes: miracles that occur in the course of battles and miracles caused by martyrdom. At the time, not all Afghan leaders were willing to accept unknown and untrained fighters from abroad.
Jalaluddin Haqqani led the Mujahideen Army from 1980 to 1992. He is credited with recruiting foreign fighters. Two of the most famous jihadists are well-known Arabs – Abdullah Azzam and Osama bin Laden – who began their careers as volunteers with Haqqani, where they were trained to fight against the Soviets. Al-Qaeda and the Haqqani network developed in parallel and remained intertwined throughout their history, and remain so today. The big difference between the two organizations is that al-Qaeda’s goals are global, so it uses global means, while Haqqani is only concerned with Afghanistan and the Pashtun tribal region. Jalaluddin Haqqani was more concerned with the impact of Islamic law in Afghanistan than with global jihad.
Jalaluddin Haqqani established the first contacts with Arab structures that were ready to provide financial, psychological, political, and intelligence assistance to the Afghan mujahideen. Unlike other Afghan leaders, Jalal ad-Din’s early contacts with the Gulf States were not limited to seeking financial aid, as he was willing to accept Arabs seeking to participate in the battlefield. The Haqqani-dominated Loya Paktia was the most common destination for Arabs who crossed Peshawar in the 1980s.
Jalaluddin Haqqani was a major ally of America and Pakistan in the anti-Soviet resistance. Charlie Wilson was so taken with Jalaluddin Haqqani that he called him “divine incarnation”. Haqqani, has long been a channel for Saudi volunteers, and the CIA has had no trouble with such associations in years.
Osama bin Laden was one of those volunteers who can often be found in the same area where Haqqani was hosting Wilson. As the CIA’s favorite commander, Haqqani received bags of money every month from al-Qaeda in Islamabad. The Haqqani network is today the backbone of the Taliban movement that succeeded the US authorities in Afghanistan.
The first duty after faith
Jalaluddin Haqqani and Azzam were very close – Azzam even wrote his will in Haqqani’s house. The turning point in Azzam’s activism and the actual transformation of jihad into a global phenomenon came in 1984. Azzam’s fame lies in his revolutionary innovation in the doctrine of jihad.
“Defending Muslim lands, is the first commitment after faith. Supporting the Afghan jihad is an individual duty of all healthy Muslims around the world, and therefore they do not depend on parental or government permission to come and provide assistance,” he said in a 1984 fatwa. The fatwa was supported among the radical Islamists by Abdulaziz bin Baz, the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia.
Since 1980, Haqqani has stated in the Al – Ittihad newspaper that helping the Afghan struggle is the duty of every Muslim, but he meant financial and moral assistance, not jihad. Azzam, may have found an idea and a line of thought in this. The difference was that Haqqani had the practical means and methods to facilitate the direct participation of Arab fighters in the “jihad.”
Azzam explained that he wrote a fatwa that was originally much longer and presented it to Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin Baz, who suggested that I “shorten it myself and write an introduction to publish it.” The Bin Laden Mosque in Jeddah and the Grand Mosque in Riyadh declared jihad an individual duty as of that day, as described by Azzam in the introduction to the fatwa published in 1985.
Jihad service office
Azzam’s Fatwa and MAK played a crucial role in creating the “global jihad” movement. MAK or Services Office, i.e. Arab Mujahideen Services Office, was an organization founded in 1984 by Abdullah Azzam, Wael Hamza Giljdan, Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri, and can simply be translated as “Service Office”.
The mission of the organization was to raise funds and recruit foreign mujahideen. The idea of creating MAK started in the Badr Project which was encouraging cooperation between the Afghan Mujahideen factions by training their members together, to be Azzam the “spiritual leader” of the camp. Since he knew that more Arab jihadists were ready to fight and were on the Pakistani side, he decided to involve them in training along with the Afghan Mujahideen. Thus, the Badr Project worked to integrate Arab fighters among the Afghan mujahideen. At the same time, he created a network from which the Service Office emerged.
The main obstacle at first was funding. Azzam had no money of his own, and current donor flows were directed to the Afghan mujahideen. Fortunately for him, a “jihadi venture capitalist” appeared in Peshawar that spring, his name was Osama bin Laden. The 27-year-old son of one of the most successful construction magnates in Saudi Arabia has access to great resources. In addition to savings, bin Laden received an annual family stipend of about $200,000. This was in addition to the money he could get from his rich family and friends in the kingdom. He was a man who could easily put money on the table for a cause he believed in.
Bin Laden was not a newcomer to the Afghan jihad. Since 1979, he has traveled regularly to Pakistan to donate money to the Afghan mujahideen through the Pakistani branch of the Muslim Brotherhood. It was only financial support because, as Osama bin Laden himself testifies, the Muslim countries did not have an official position on Afghanistan. Bin Laden said that there was a general caution in Saudi Arabia “because we were not aware of jihad or armed support, so we went secretly and came back secretly.” This continued until 1984. Until then, bin Laden did not appear in Peshawar because the Saudi authorities and his mother were against him. Only when the murdered Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi published a series of articles about him in Al-Majali and Arab News in May 1988 did Osama bin Laden become a mandatory poster character for the “Afghan Arabs.”
Azam persuaded bin Laden to visit Peshawar in early 1984 and this was a turning point in bin Laden’s involvement in the Afghan jihad. Bin Laden suggested establishing an office that would accept Arab volunteers and bear the full expenses of 50-60 Arab families chosen by Azzam. In September 1984, Azzam began actual work on establishing the service office with many Arab citizens who participated in the Badr Project. Abdullah Azzam was undoubtedly the most successful promoter of the Afghan jihad among the general Muslims of the world and his efforts brought large numbers of Mujahideen to Peshawar during the second half of the 1980s.
During the anti-Soviet war in Afghanistan, the Service office played little role, training a small group of 100 mujahideen for war, but with $1 million raised from Islamic sources. The office maintained very close relations with the Pakistani intelligence service (ISI), through which the Saudi intelligence service channeled funds to the Mujahideen. MAK paid for plane tickets for new recruits who traveled to Afghanistan for training. The office also worked closely with Gulbuddin Hekmatyar’s Islamic Party group, which was working in a group known as Peshawar 7.
But Azzam differed from the leaders of the other groups in thinking about how best to put these volunteers at the service of the Afghan struggle. Sayyaf and Hekmatyar, although pleased with the financial support that Azam and his organization had attracted, were unwilling to involve untrained and redundant foreigners in the actual battles of Afghanistan. As the MAK’s guesthouses in Peshawar and training camps in Pakistan’s tribal areas were crowded with newly arrived Arab fighters, the number of men frustrated with MAK’s limited ability to facilitate access to the battlefield is increasing
This frustration eventually led to a rift between Azzam and his wealthy patron Osama bin Laden, who set up camps in Paktia that would turn into al-Qaeda. These camps are located along the Haqqani supply lines and close to the site of the epic Haqqani battles against Soviet forces. Thus, in Paktia under Haqqani’s control and not in Peshawar, the international mobilization that Azzam had signaled took place and turned into a global jihadist movement.
MAK was the pioneer of Al-Qaeda and was instrumental in creating the support and recruitment network used by Al-Qaeda in the 1990s. It was a military humanitarian organization. When Azzam was asked in the late 1980s how the Service office contributed to the jihad, he offered 13 reasons, the first of which was that he had turned the cause of Islamic jihad in Afghanistan into a “global Islamic problem.” The work to collect data on what is actually happening in Afghanistan has also not been neglected. To achieve this, he sent missions or “convoys”, as he called them, composed of several Arab mujahideen accompanied by Afghans who acted as guides to different parts of the interior of the country.
Azzam was assassinated in 1989 with 20 kilograms of TNT in one car, ending the first phase of the globalization of jihad, but it did not stop. Azzam got an heir who is one of the recruits from his combat camps.
The architect of the modern “global jihad” can be considered Mustafa Setmariam Nasar, known as Abu Musab al-Suri, the antithesis of the stereotyped programmed suicide terrorist. He is often described as a critic with a knack for sarcasm with which he entertains his readers. He had white skin and red hair, so he could easily pass an Irish pub owner. He was temperamental and did not hesitate to criticize the jihadist leaders. Thus he criticized bin Laden’s reliance on media attention, and criticized Imam Qatada, the Falstinian residing in London, for justifying the bloodshed in Algeria and his ideological understanding of Islam.
One might think it represented the softer, more humane side of al-Qaeda terrorism, but that was not the case. His cruelty towards the enemies of Islam knows no bounds, as he has directly called for terrorist attacks that would result in heavy casualties in the West, including the use of mass destruction weapons. Abu Musab is the intellectual creator of works called “lone wolf” attacks with a large number of casualties, as we have seen in European capitals in recent years.
After his journey from his hometown of Aleppo, Syria, through emigration to Europe, time spent in Peshawar, then Spain and London, then back to Afghanistan with the Taliban and then hiding in Pakistan, the history of Afghan Arabs and Al Qaeda can be seen in a new light.
In the 1980s, al-Suri settled in Spain and obtained Spanish citizenship by marrying a Spanish woman who had converted to Islam. Like many Islamist fighters of the time, al-Suri participated in the Afghan jihad and established a relationship with Osama bin Laden.
The Syrian experience
In 1987, Nasar left Spain with a small group of Syrian friends and traveled to Peshawar, where he met Abdullah Azzam, the father of the Arab-Afghan movement. Abu Musab worked as a training officer in camps for Arab volunteer fighters and also fought on the front lines against the Soviet Union and the communist government in Kabul after the Soviet withdrawal in 1988.
Al-Suri met Osama bin Laden in Peshawar and worked with him sometime around 1992, when he returned to Spain. Al-Suri became famous in Peshawar by his pseudonym Omar Abdul Hakim after he published in May 1991 a 900-page treatise entitled “The Islamic Jihad Revolution in Syria”, also known as the “Syrian Experience”. The letter was a scathing attack on the Muslim Brotherhood for its cooperation with the secular regimes in Syria and Iraq, and it was an important part of the ideological foundations of al-Qaeda and the jihadist movement in the 1990s.
Bin Laden’s illness with fame and spotlight
Al-Suri returned to Afghanistan in 1996, where he met bin Laden again. That summer, he helped arrange an interview between British journalist Robert Fisk and the al-Qaeda leader. He also accompanied CNN reporters Peter Arnett and Peter Bergen from London to Afghanistan to meet bin Laden and record his first television interview. Peter Bergen, who communicated with Al-Suri in French, said he was “intelligent, sharp, enlightened, and extremely dangerous” and that he was “impressed” by his intelligence. At the time, he did not express his hard-line radical views.
When he returned to Afghanistan at the invitation of the Taliban, which was in power at the time, he was not known as a member of Al-Qaeda, but he developed a close relationship with Mullah Omar. Then he wrote: “The strangest thing I’ve heard so far is that Abu Abdullah (Bin Laden) does not listen to the Taliban leader (Mullah Omar) who asked him to stop giving interviews. I think our brother (Bin Laden) got sick with screens, flashes, crowds and applause.”
Loyal to the loyal prince
Libyan jihadist Noman bin Othman confirmed the existence of differences between the two, noting that before September 11, Al-Suri and bin Laden hated each other. Al-Suri did not like bin Laden’s leadership, calling him a “dictator” and a “pharaoh”.
Only after 9/11 and the American attack on Afghanistan did Al-Suri give his full support to bin Laden: “When I met Sheikh Osama for the last time in November 2001 during the battles to defend the emirate, we swore allegiance to amir al-mu’minin (Taliban leader Mullah Omar), I promised Sheikh Osama that I would persevere in Jihad and war against the enemy.”
Al-Suri was a self-taught intellectual, closely acquainted with Western classical music. His love for his Spanish wife, unlike the most militant Islamists, was alien to his acquaintances. He was certainly not an ordinary Islamic.
His strategic view of the world differed greatly from that of al-Qaeda. He shared his contempt for bin Laden, the Islamic state’s “grandfather”, the Jordanian Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. By all accounts, al-Suri had a great influence on al-Zarqawi, although he denied it.
A call to Islamic resistance
Al-Suri expressed his views after the US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 in a 1,600-page book entitled “A Global Call to Islamic Resistance”. He outlined his vision of “Al Qaeda 2.0” based on the lessons of history and a careful reading of Western geopolitics and military strategy. The Islamic State only had to follow the work of this al-Qaeda strategic planner.
He was different from other theorists and supporters of jihad because he believed that the use of violence should be based on a well-thought-out, rational, and long-term strategy. He set his goal of liberating the Muslim world from indirect and direct occupation while overthrowing non-Islamic governments.
His working method was to assess past terrorist attacks in order to learn from the mistakes that were made. Al-Suri has used secular academic rigor, incorporating Western literature into guerrilla warfare, international security, and great power relations, creating a fascinating doctrine of decentralized jihadist warfare in the post-9/11 environment. He argued that obsessive fanaticism, martyrdom and hatred made jihadist terrorists blind in the West, with no rational strategy. He was not a sentimental religious leader, he was a soldier whose preoccupation was guerrilla warfare. He despised the Salafis for their faith and the limitations of their minds.
From the start, he espoused ideas that were later applied by al-Qaeda leaders. In the spring of 1991, he wrote his first paper on the need for “global Islamic resistance,” calling for a global struggle against the West based on diffuse, non-hierarchical, and decentralized networks. In this way, he moved away from the traditional jihadist focus on the “nearest enemy,” the Arab regimes.
Decentralization of jihad
Al-Suri saw several weaknesses in jihadist activity: the first was the weak nature of the traditional, centralized “secret hierarchy” terrorist organization. In such organizations, if one member is arrested, all the other members will fall. According to Al-Suri, what is required is “a system, not an organization.” The essential element of this “resistance system” would be individuals who would not commit to anything “except believing in ideas, being absolutely certain of their intentions, joining the message and educating themselves and those around them.”
The relationship between the system and the individual, according to Al-Suri, will consist of a common goal, a common name, and a common jihadist ideological program. This was exactly the attitude of the attackers from San Bernardino or the attackers from Orlando towards the Islamic State. It turns out that social media facilitated the practical application of Al-Suri’s theory.
Find the base
Many believe that the roots and shape of the Islamic State in 2014 are found in the “Arab Spring”. This is a tempting result, but it is incorrect. Even before anyone could think of an “Arab Spring,” al-Suri detailed not only what a future “jihadist war” would look like, but also where it would be fought, given the favorable conditions. He believed that the focus of the “call to resistance” would be on physical consolidation and territorial control, another lesson he had learned from ” Taliban‘s case”.
He did not consider the greatest loss from the September 11, 2001 attacks to be the destruction of the existing base, but rather the expulsion of the Taliban from Afghanistan, which meant that the group, with the loss of control over the country and territory, no longer had a “united physical shelter”, representing its base.
Al-Suri excluded most of West Asia, Central Asia, and Africa as a suitable region for the establishment of such a base that would be the focal point of the Islamic State. He singled out – and it is important to remember that he did so before the US invasion of Iraq in 2003 – the Levant and Iraq, which had characteristics suitable for an “open front jihad”. Al-Suri also predicted that the United States and its allies would attack Syria, which would give al-Qaeda’s vanguard there a significant advantage in an asymmetric conflict.
The final lesson that Al-Suri drew was the need to structure the “resistance mission” in a decentralized manner that would link individual terrorist jihad to the strategic goal of an open front and regional jihad.
It is proposed to create an organization with three concentric circles. The inner circle (centered around the emir or caliph) will be the leader’s circle. This department is necessarily organizationally central and actually located in the same place (in the case of the Islamic State it was Raqqa in Syria). The second circle is in the circle of “decentralized units” made up of the jihadists who are directly trained and then spread around the world. Finally, there is the outer circle made up of individuals. Although individuals and units from the two inner circles are allowed to communicate with each other, this is not the case for communication with the outer circle, where individuals and units operate independently, but in conjunction with larger “organizational priorities”.
It can be tempting to view the Islamic State, blinded by its seemingly nihilistic violence, as a group without any comprehensive strategy and vision. Part of this denial is psychological: If you accept that the group does indeed have a grand strategy, it may appear that you are giving the Islamic State a lot of credit. The point, however, is that the work of post-9/11 jihad theorists reveals a remarkably sophisticated understanding of the means and ends of global jihad—the Islamic State (such as “Al Qaeda 2.0”) has a strategy for its present and its future.
Lawrence Wright, a senior expert on al-Qaeda movements and trends, noted in The New Yorker in 2006 that al-Suri makes clear that the next phase of jihad will be characterized by terrorism by individuals or small independent groups. These groups (he calls them “leaderless resistance”) will exhaust the enemy and pave the way for the much more ambitious goal of waging war on the front lines.
In early 2014, Dr. Sami al-Uraydi, a prominent Sharia official in the Syrian jihadist group Jabhat al-Nusra, admitted that his group had been influenced by the teachings of Abu Musab al-Suri. Strategies to win hearts and minds among local Muslim communities that derive from Abu Musab’s guidance include: serving the people, avoiding being viewed as extremists, maintaining strong relationships with other communities and armed groups, and focusing on fighting against the government.
After the consolidation of the occupation of the big city and urban centers in Raqqa, Mosul and Palmyra. At that moment, when the Islamic State was at its peak, the question arose, did the terrorist organization transcend its nature and really become a “state”? This means that they handle all the functions of the state, from violence and tax collection to pension payment and kindergarten care. Indeed, at one point, the Islamic State bragged about how it organized life in the “caliphate” and how its subjects were living very happy lives like any other, only safer, more fulfilling, and more meaningful.
The second generation of jihadists
“Al-Suri is part of the second generation of the jihadist movement, those who were worried about the failure of the mobilization after 9/11,” says Gilles Kepel, a French political scientist. The US occupation of Iraq, according to al- Suri, created a “new historical era” that single-handedly saved the jihadist movement only when many of its critics believed it was over.
Al-Suri called the hierarchical structure of al-Qaeda (the organizations) “Bin Laden’s Tora Bora mentality.” Instead, he proposed a doctrine called “the system of a non-organised organization” (the organization system). His vision of al-Qaeda was much broader than that of bin Laden. He saw al-Qaeda as just a starting point in the global Islamic uprising. “Al-Qaeda is not an organization, it is not a group, and we do not want it to be. It is a call, a reference and a methodology. In the end, its leadership will be eliminated,” Al-Suri said.
In 2005, Pakistani security forces arrested Al-Suri, and extradited him to Syria, where he was wanted. According to the latest information, he is still in a Syrian prison.