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The Tip of the Jihadist Spear

The Obama administration points to a “symbiotic relationship” between the Pakistani Taliban and al Qaeda.

4:37 PM, Sep 8, 2010 • By THOMAS JOSCELYN
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Still, even more evidence of the relationship between the TTP and al Qaeda comes from Newsweek, which interviewed a young recruit who was convinced to wage jihad at the age of 15. In a piece titled “Inside Al Qaeda,” Hafiz Hanif explains how he was initially recruited by the TTP but was redirected to al Qaeda’s training camps and went on to participate in joint operations in Afghanistan.

“Those Arab mujahedin impressed me,” Hanif said. Newsweek continues:

[Hanif] introduced himself in fluent Arabic, mentioning his uncle, the senior Taliban official. The man in charge, a senior Al Qaeda trainer and operations specialist from Libya known as Sheik Abdullah Saeed, looked him over. “You can stay if you want,” the man said. “I was happy,” Hanif says. “I love speaking Arabic.” The [TTP] recruiter traveled on without the boy.

Newsweek goes on to explain how Hanif received “grueling” training along with dozens of other al Qaeda recruits from around the world.

Hanif’s story is hardly unique. This type of terrorist cross-pollination has occurred for decades. The lines between many jihadist groups have been substantially blurred. That’s why it was always deceptive to talk of the number of “al Qaeda” operatives in Afghanistan. How do you define “al Qaeda” – as Osama bin Laden and his immediate followers, or as the tip of a much longer jihadist spear?

Only the latter definition adequately takes into account the available evidence. And the relationship between the TTP and al Qaeda is just one of the alliances that make up the jihadist coalition. There are dozens of others.

Thomas Joscelyn is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.  

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