Inside Al-Qaeda and the Taliban: Beyond bin Laden and 9/11

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Pluto Press, 2011 M05 15 - 272 pages
President Obama may have delivered on his campaign promise to kill Osama bin Laden, but as an Al-Qaeda strategist, bin Laden has been dead for years. This book introduces and examines the new generation of Al-Qaeda leaders who have been behind the most recent attacks. Investigative journalist Syed Saleem Shahzad dedicated his life to revealing the strategies and inner workings of Al-Qaeda and the Taliban. He had access to top-level commanders in both movements, as well as within the ISI, Pakistan’s intelligence service. Shahzad’s work was praised by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for "bringing to light the troubles extremism poses to Pakistan's stability." Inside Al-Qaeda and the Taliban explains the wider aims of both organizations and provides an essential analysis of major terrorist incidents, including the 2008 Mumbai attacks.  In May 2011, Shahzad was abducted and killed in Pakistan, days after writing an article suggesting that insiders in the Pakistani navy had colluded with Al-Qaeda in an attack on a naval air station. This book is a testament to his fearless reporting and analytical rigor. It will provide readers worldwide with invaluable insights into the new phase of the ongoing struggle against terrorism which threatens to tear apart the fragile fabric of so many countries.

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(adapted from my Asianweek article): By comparison, I found “Islam under siege” by Akbar S. Ahmed to be dishonest when he takes such an “even-handed” approach that “terrorist” is always in quotes, and he’s always quick to point out how Islam is “under siege” by the ignorant and cruel west, and could not even fathom one valid reason why the US picked invading Afghanistan to put Bin Laden’s base of terror out of business: "It appeared as if someone almost at random had to be selected and sacrificed to avenge September 11. Afghanistan was the most convenient choice at hand. "
I am much more impressed with Inside Al-Queda and the Taliban by Syed Aaleem Shahzad. This author says he traveled to Iraq, Lebanon, North Waziristan and Afghanistan to visit Al Queda leaders to interview and meet many of the players in Al Queda. Normally that sort of travel would be enough to land you on a no-fly list, but on the other hand, he tells it like it is, not playing taquiya where you tell the Westerners how moderate they are, yet it’s not hard to figure out which side they ultimately are on if it's between the West and the Arabs and other muslims.
He sees the Al Queda story is not that one Bin Laden or even Ramsi Yousef but a rich tapestry of many characters, like Queeen Sheherazade’s “A Thousand and One Nights” (not any many American high school reading lists, but probably not as bad as some of the crap being assigned these days). He sees that Al-Queda, rather than buried under the rubble of the Tora Bora mountains actually emerged to spread its wings from North Africa to Central Asia and emerger as a real global resistance movement against Western hegemony.
He sees the world of Al Queda as “unmeasured energy emerging purely on the strength and conviction and human ingenuity against the sophisitcated might of advanced technology to provoke the United States the world’s sole surviving superpower to fight in a region where people lived in the stone age – an age where high tech meant nothing and untutored wisdom for survival was all that was to be had.” Now, as Maxwell Smart might say, if only if it were for nice instead of evil. The plan was to “trap the world’s most powerful states in the impossible terrain of Afghanistan — lead them to exhaust their energies there before the expansion of the theater of war against the West from Central Asia to Bangladesh”
He says that the Taliban was brought under Al-Queda’s direct command. “Al Queda’s first objective was to win the war against the West in Afghanistan” then move on to fighting extend from Central Asia and Bangladesh to exhaust the superpower’s resources “before bringing it on to the field in the Middle East for final battles to revive the Muslim political order undr the Cliphate which would then lead to the liberation of the all Muslim territories.” Well so much for the anti-war movement, Code Pink, Adam Kokesh et al, if we think they represent the real feelings of the Religion of Peace.
Shazad believes the defeat of Western coalition appears imminent, and the West is looking for way out. But he ominousoly warns that if Ron Paul gets his way, “it will not end Al-Qaeda’s War against the West”, it will only be the end of one round. He says that 9/11′s purpose (and also NatGeo’s Inside 9/11) was to provoke a war in South Asia. The “26/11″ Mumbai assauts in 2008 was a sign that Al Qaeda was expanding its conflict east into India and Bangladesh, as revealed by American David Headley, creating a true world war, not just war against Israel and only its western allies
I am saddened to hear that the author was kidnapped, tortured and killed shortly before the book was released after suggesting the Pakistan government may have cooperated in the attack on the naval airbase, leaving his wife and 3 children.

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This is the most revealing book on the subject among many others written so far. This book put the events since 9/11 and the Al-Qaeda strategy thereafter in the right perspective. Why and how Al-Qaeda changed its war fighting strategies? Why it adopted a savage approach to target innocent and unarmed Muslims? What it plans to do in future? What are the inspirational sources and how it uses these? This book reveals it all in great detail. Saleem Shahzad had the luxury of having contacts with the senior Al-Qaeda figures thus he had an insight to what happens within its rank and file. Without reading this book the current conflict would remain an unsolved riddle for many. If anyone want to look deep inside this conflict this book is a must read.  

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About the author (2011)

Syed Saleem Shahzad (1970-2011) was an investigative reporter who worked as Pakistan Bureau Chief at Asia Times Online. His persistence, courage, and reputation allowed him unparalleled access to leaders and fighters in Islamic movements, enabling him to secure interviews with figures such as Al-Qaeda commander, Ilyas Kashmiri. He had been both a hostage and a guest of the Taliban, which gave him a unique insight into the organization's internal structures. He was abducted and killed in Pakistan in May 2011. He left a wife and three children aged 7, 12, and 14.

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