Asia Scope

An al-Qaeda-Taliban merger?

Leading terrorism analyst Peter Bergen has an interesting piece in the New Republic today. Bergen argues that a gradual merger is going on between the Taliban and al-Qaeda, a development he says goes well beyond the former adopting some of the latter’s tactics. This section is worth quoting at length, especially with the launch at the weekend of Pakistan’s latest military offensive against the Taliban in South Waziristan:

‘Today, at the leadership level, the Taliban and al-Qaeda function more or less as a single entity. The signs of this are everywhere. For instance, IED attacks in Afghanistan have increased dramatically since 2004. What happened? As a Taliban member told Sami Yousafzai and Ron Moreau of Newsweek, “The Arabs taught us how to make an IED by mixing nitrate fertilizer and diesel fuel and how to pack plastic explosives and to connect them to detonators and remote-control devices like mobile phones. We learned how to do this blindfolded so we could safely plant IEDs in the dark.” Another explained that “Arab and Iraqi mujahedin began visiting us, transferring the latest IED technology and suicide-bomber tactics they had learned in the Iraqi resistance.” Small numbers of Al Qaeda instructors embedded with much larger Taliban units have functioned something like U.S. Special Forces do-as trainers and force multipliers.’

I’m hoping to get our Pakistan correspondent’s take on this later this week. But in the meantime, an analysis in the Christian Science Monitor yesterday says that even if this latest offensive is successful, it won’t actually cut the number of attacks in Afghanistan on the US (which announced last week it was ramping up the supply of military equipment to back the offensive).