Al Qaeda’s call for global jihad to liberate Islamic lands from its enemies in its congratulatory message to the Taliban for taking over Afghanistan after humiliating the US in the 20-year war has become a cause of anxiety for the democratic world.
The last paragraph of the statement talks about its trans-national jihad by asking for liberation of Palestine, Maghreb, Levant, Somalia, Yemen, and Kashmir from the clutches of enemies of Islam. While calling for “merciful shade” of Sharia to be implemented in Afghanistan, Al Qaeda has defined the next objectives in global jihad for the Ummah or the believers.
While the relationship between Taliban’s Mullah Omar, the first Amir-ul-Momin, with first Al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden goes back to the 1980s, the latest Al Qaeda statement will test the resolve of present Taliban leadership for not allowing Afghan soil for any terrorist activity against the third country. Even though the Taliban follows Deobandi ideology, and Al Qaeda is a practitioner of the Salafi brand of Islam, the two are on the same page due to filial ties between Mullah Omar and Osama bin Laden in the past. The Taliban for the record to date has never criticised Al Qaeda.
Since the Taliban has assured India that it has no Kashmir agenda as in the past, India should be watching how this public assurance translates on ground in Afghanistan. If the present Taliban regime lives up to its word, then Mullah Akundzada should tell terrorist groups like Al Qaeda, Jaish-e-Mohammed and Lashkar-e-Tayebba to keep their Kashmir agenda out of Afghanistan. It may be pertinent to remember that when Taliban was in power in 1996-2001 in Afghanistan, it was groups like Harkat-ul Ansar, an amalgamation of Harkat-ul-Mujahideen and Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami, which used Afghan soil to launch attacks in Kashmir. One must remember that present chief of Jaish-e-Mohammed Maulana Masood Azhar used to run a terror camp in Khost in Afghanistan before he used the Harkat-ul-Ansar vehicle to launch jihad in Kashmir post-Soviet-Afghan war. Taliban on its part never showed any interest in Kashmir, yet at the same time did nothing to prevent the Pakistan based groups to train and operate from Afghan soil. Indian and the global community are watching will history repeat itself in Afghanistan under Taliban 2.0.
The other intriguing aspect of the Al Qaeda statement is the insertion of the Kashmir agenda, which always has been a Pakistani objective, not an Afghan agenda. The Kashmiris still dread the tyranny of Afghan governors who spread the wave of terror during the Afghan or Durrani period (1752-1819). The fact is that Kashmiris with vivid memories of the past Afghan terror are not the least enthusiastic about the ascent of the Taliban in Afghanistan. Af-Pak watchers believe that the Pakistani deep state, an equity partner in all jihadist groups in the region, may have a role in the insertion of the Kashmir word in the Al Qaeda statement. It is for the Taliban to distance itself from the global jihad agenda of Al Qaeda or else there is no difference between Taliban 1.0 and Taliban 2.0, despite clean chits to the Sunni Pashtun group from the Joe Biden regime.
In this context of the Al Qaeda statement, India will have to assess the new Taliban regime’s action on the Kashmiri agenda of its affiliated groups before it decides to recognize the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. With global powers switching off from Afghanistan for the moment, India must be on self -preservation mode as Pakistan based terrorist groups have gained in confidence and in land for jihad after Taliban victory.