|The atmosphere continued to improve, and by the end of 2009 it was time to get down to the real business.
Al-Qaeda opened with a demand for the release of all of its members being held in Iran in return for Attarzadeh. Tehran would not agree with this. Negotiations along this line went back and forth.
Sirajuddin Haqqani, meanwhile, had seen an opportunity.
Sirajuddin assured the Iranians that the Taliban bore no grudge against Iran or Shi'ites - their only aim was to defeat the Western coalition in Afghanistan. He wrote a detailed letter to Tehran in which he spelled out that neither his father (Jalaluddin) nor himself had ever been involved in anti-Iran activities. He said that they only worked for the resistance against anti-Islam forces, whether it be those of the Soviet Union or the US.
Iran has historic reasons to be wary of the Taliban. The Hazara, a predominately Shi'ite, Persian-speaking ethnic minority in Afghanistan, suffered extensive persecution under Taliban rule in the late 1990s. Taliban forces also killed at least eight Iranian diplomats in Afghanistan in the same period.
Sirajuddin's overtures worked. "The result of this communication was the delivery of several dozen sophisticated anti-aircraft guns, which shocked the Americans," the al-Qaeda-linked militant told Asia Times Online.
This was the prize Sirajuddin was after, the weapons to fight the curse of the militants in the tribal areas - drones, the US's unmanned aerial vehicles that rain missiles onto suspected al-Qaeda and Taliban targets. Scores of top leaders have been killed in such raids over the past year.
On January 24, near Hamzoni village in North Waziristan, a drone went down. Pakistani and US intelligence confirmed the incident but would not say whether the drone had crashed or been shot down.
The militants had no doubt, claiming that their new Iranian-supplied weapons were responsible. There were other reports of drones going down in North Waziristan. The U S temporarily suspended drone attacks, without saying why.
Militant sources say that the US Central Intelligence Agency then sprung into action and after a week-long probe traced the anti-aircraft guns to Dand-e-Darpa Khel in North Waziristan. Their positions were pinpointed, and in February a string of drone attacks destroyed them all. Mohammad Haqqani, a brother of Sirajuddin Haqqani, was killed in one of the attacks.
The militant source claims that Sirajuddin recently received a fresh batch of weapons from Iran. The weapons, though, were something of a sideshow that developed out of Attarzadeh's abduction.
By this time Iran and al-Qaeda had finally come to an agreement: Attarzadeh would be exchanged for some al-Qaeda members, as well as one of Osama bin Laden's daughters.
"Al-Qaeda and Iran agreed to swap Osama bin Laden's daughter Iman, and some other prisoners were also released," the militant said. He refused to give details of the "other" prisoners.
On March 22, Iman bin Laden, 18, was allowed to travel to Syria after spending 112 days living in the Saudi Arabian Embassy in Tehran after escaping house arrest in a family compound. She joined her mother, Najwa bin Laden, in Syria.
Dozens of bin Laden's family members have been held in Iran since fleeing from Afghanistan after the US-led invasion in 2001. They were held for entering the country illegally and for not having proper travel documents.
While the militant would not give details of which al-Qaeda members were exchanged, a former director of a European intelligence agency who now works for an American strategic think-tank told Asia Times Online that one of them was most likely the high profile al-Qaeda leader, Saiful Adil, who has been involved in a number of al-Qaeda terror plots.
"Iranians posing as a security agency initially conducted an operation in the Pakistani tribal areas and in Afghanistan to secure the release of their diplomat, but it was a long haul," the former intelligence official said.
"During the process (of negotiation), the sides developed a rapport and Iman bin Laden was released as a gesture of goodwill and then prisoners were swapped. It still needs to be verified (officially) that the Iran diplomat was released by al-Qaeda and that Saiful Adil was released by the Iranian government," the official said.
While Iran, al-Qaeda and the Haqqani network have all benefited from the Attarzadeh saga, their cooperation has alarmed others.
"Saudi Arabia was the first country to show its concern over the growth of this new relationship," a senior Pakistani counter-terrorism official told Asia Times Online. "The second one was Egypt. Both countries separately approached Pakistan and there have been several interactions between Saudi intelligence agencies and Pakistani intelligence agencies to trace the roots and dimension of these relations."
"The Saudis and Egyptians have their eyes on the nexus in the Pakistani tribal areas as well as on the situation in Yemen, from where there could be a direct spillover into Saudi Arabia and then onto Egypt," the official said.
Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) regrouped in January 2009 through a merger between two regional offshoots of al-Qaeda in neighboring countries Yemen and Saudi Arabia. Led by a former aide to bin Laden, AQAP has vowed to attack oil facilities, foreigners and security forces in an effort to topple the Saudi monarchy and Yemeni government, and establish an Islamic caliphate.
Iran has proxies in Yemen among the minority Shi'ite population and if the two factors - the Shi'ites and AQAP - develop ties, it would be a big blow for Saudi Arabia and other Arab states, the Pakistani official said.
"If Saiful Adil has been exchanged, Pakistan is not aware of this, it would be bad news for the Western world as it would mean a revival in al-Qaeda's international operations," the official said. He explained that Saiful Adil could possibly coordinate activit i es with Iran, as captured al-Qaeda leader Abu Zubaida did in the past with Hezbollah in Lebanon.
The deals made to have Attarzadeh released after his abduction in Peshawar may prove to be more far-reaching than ever imagined.
Syed Saleem Shahzad is Asia Times Online's Pakistan Bureau Chief. He is writing an exclusive account of al-Qaeda's strategy and ideology in an upcoming book 9/11 and beyond: The One Thousand and One Night Tales of al-Qaeda. He can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org
[Description of Source: Hong Kong Asia Times Online in English -- Online newspaper focusing on political and economic issues from an "Asian perspective," with over 50 contributors in 17 Asian countries, the United States, and Europe, and a branch office in Bangkok; successor of the Hong Kong/Bangkok-based print daily Asia Times that closed in 1997, it claims an average of 100,000 daily site visitors, with 65% of the audience based in North America, and 22% in the Asia-Pacific region; tends to be critical of the United States; URL: http://www.atimes.com]
Sirajuddin Haqqani Interviewed on Jihad in Afghanistan, Palestinian Cause
GMP20100501083002 Jihadist Websites -- OSC Summary in Arabic 27 Apr 10
[For assistance with multimedia elements, contact OSC at (800) 205-8615 or OSCinfo@rccb.osis.gov.]
On 27 April, a forum participant posted to a jihadist website several links to an open interview with Sirajuddin Haqqani, a member of the Shura Council of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan and a commander in the southeastern provinces of Afghanistan. The questions were raised by the Ansar al-Mujahidin Network website members. The 41-page book deals with various issues including the jihadist situation in Afghanistan, the impact of the operation of Abu-Dujanah al-Khurasani on the US operations, the Palestinian cause, the stance toward the Islamic groups in Palestine such as Islamic Jihad and HAMAS, the emirate's source of supply, and the role of jihadist media. The interview also discusses the emirate's stance toward the Islamic State of Iraq, the Mujahidin Youth Movement, the Al-Qa'ida Organization in the Arabian Peninsula, and Taliban's creed. The undated statement is attributed to the Ansar al-Mujahidin Network website.
A translation of the statement follows:
"In the name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate,
"The Ansar al-Mujahidin Network website,
"The Answers of the Open Interview With the Jihadist Leader:
"Sirajuddin Haqqani, May God Protect Him
[Links to the interview are provided here.]
"Do not forget us in your sincere supplications.
"Your brothers at the Ansar al-Mujahidin Network website.
[A link to the website is provided here.]
"O God, make us the best supporters for the best mujahidin."
A translation of the interview follows:
"In the name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate,
"Paris be to God. Prayers and peace be upon God's Messenger, his household, his companions, and all those who follow him.
"Almighty God honored us by communicating with the brave leader and bold Shaykh Sirajuddin Haqqani, may God protect and support him. This lion is the son of Jalaluddin Haqqani.
"Shaykh Sirajuddin Haqqani is a member of the Shura Council of the beloved Islamic Emirate [of Afghanistan] and a unique commander in the southeastern provinces of Afghanistan.
"The forum members were given the chance to ask whatever comes to their minds. Thankfully, Shaykh Haqqani, may God reward him with the best reward, answered the questions.
"We supplicate to God to make the Muslims, in general, benefit from this interesting interview, to protect the shaykh and his family from any harm, and to render our beloved, precious Emirate victorious soon.
"The administration of the Ansar al-Mujahidin Network website
"Introduction by Shaykh Sirajuddin Haqqani, May God Protect Him
"In the name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate,
"Praise be to God, who ordained jihad in His book [the Koran] and through His Messenger. I bear witness that there is no god but God, the One. God has no partner in His divinity, deity, names, and characteristics. I bear witness that Muhammad is God's servant and His messenger. He truly fought in the cause of God. May God's prayers and peace be upon him, his household, and his companions, who believed him, supported him, glorified him, and followed the light revealed with him. Almighty God says: 'O Messenger. Rouse the Believers to the fight,' [Partial Koranic verse, Al-Anfal, 8:65].
"My respectable Muslim brothers every where, may God's peace, mercy, and blessings be upon you,
"First: I thank the Ansar al-Mujahidin Network website for giving me the chance to communicate with the suffering Muslims. I supplicate to God to grant success and resolution to the Ansar al-Mujahidin Network website and to all the jihadist Internet network websites that exerted efforts to break the media siege imposed by the enemies of the religion. These websites delivered the news of jihad and mujahidin, who are fighting the Crusaders, to the Muslims all over the world.
"Second: I extend my deepest condolences to all the mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, children, youth, old men, and women, who made sacrifices by losing their children, brothers, sisters, fathers, spouses, relatives, and beloved ones over the past eight years and even before to defend Islam in many different places in the world. They died in the center of the caliphate in Iraq, the center of knowledge and civilization; in Somalia, the land of sacrifice and bravery; in Afghanistan, the graveyard of the arrogant tyrants; in Kavkaz, the land of lions and honorable history; and in Algeria, the land of manhood and pride. I extend my sympathy to those who are suffering from oppression and torture in prisons night and day, and those who were harmed by the Crusaders for performing any kind of resistance, particularly the parents, who sacrificed the apple of their eyes in the martyrdom-seeking operations all over the world.
"Third: I send my salutation and greetings to all the leaders of the righteous Islamic and jihadist movements, which are honestly and sincerely fighting the Crusaders' policy, regime, economy, and media. I supplicate to God to help them in all conditions, grant them persistence, and keep them steadfast.
"Fourth: I supplicate to God to grant success and firmness to all the jihadist networks and websites on the World Wide Web, because they are resisting the international infidelity, apostasy, hypocrisy, and corruption.
"Fifth: I say to myself and to the mujahidin, who are fighting the Crusaders:
"Refine your creed,
"Adjust your jihad according to the standards of the clear Islamic Shari'ah,
"Unite and unify yourselves and avoid disagreement,
"Purge your ranks from the corruptors and malicious ones,
"Raise your mujahidin on the fundamentals accepted by Islam, creed, intellect, body, and administration,
"Piety and competence shall be your standards in choosing your officials and you should avoid individual interpretations,
"Be patient in dealing with disasters, do not hasten victory and seek help with patience,
"Keep your secrets and try to fulfill your needs in silence,
"Be righteous and firm,
"Renew and innovate in your tactics,
"Pay attention to the security measures,
"Protect the security of your members and groups and let your slogan be: 'If a mule tripped in Iraq, Umar [a righteous Muslim Caliph] will be questioned' [REFERENCE to feeling responsible about all Muslims]
"You shall be characterized with piety, honesty, sincerity, patience, reliance on God, integrity, and good manners,
"Your end will be either victory or martyrdom,
"And you should know that the acceptance of the martyrdom is related to intention and that the levels of martyrdom are not obtained except with good deed.
"Sixth: Know that jihad prevents corruption and turmoil. Almighty God says: 'And fight them on until there is no more tumult or oppression, and there prevail justice and faith in Allah altogether and everywhere;' [Partial Koranic verse, Al-Anfal, 8:39]. If there are some people among the mujahidin performing illegal deeds, while jihad prevents illegal deeds, these people shall be advised and corrected or extracted from the mujahidin's ranks, because they are opposing the meaning of jihad.
"Seventh: It is said that some of the mujahidin do not deal with the calamities of jihad with patience. They do not perform jihad, resort to nationalism or geography, they are affected by the temptations offered by the enemy, or they lean toward prestige or position. They should understand very well that jihad aims at raising the word of God by words and actions. If this aim was abandoned, their fight is useless and God will afflict them with humiliation and shame.
"Eighth: The current jihad will bear its fruit. It was not proven in any time or place that jihad did not have results or did not any fruit as long as its people are firm, with the grace of Almighty God. The British, French, and Italian empires have collapsed with the blessing of jihad and Muslims were liberated from their evil. The collapse of the Soviet Union is one of the blessings of jihad and people were relieved after its collapse. Praise be to God, we believe that with the blessings of the current jihad, the believers will be safe from the evil of the Crusaders in the future. Many of those who do not perform jihad are safe from the harm of the Crusaders with the blessings of jihad.
"Ninth: The public should not listen to the foreign media. They should look at the work of the Islamic Emirate. In case we do not make statements on some issues, this does not mean that we do not care about them. The Islamic Emirate went through a practical test in the arena before the entire world.
"Tenth: We assure all the Muslims that the Islamic Emirate is united and coherent. I am a soldier in the Emirate and our Amir is the Amir of the Believers Mullah Muhammad Omar Mujahid, may God protect him, and all that is being published in the Western media is baseless.
"Eleventh: We assure the Muslims all over the world that we will never betray the blood of the martyrs. With the help of Almighty God, we will never accept concessions in any of the Shari'ah rulings even if it is trivial. All that Karzai is saying about negotiations are baseless media lies. By doing so, Karzai wants to lessen the people's dependence on the Islamic Emirate and to create hypocrisy, disunity, and division among the mujahidin. As long as we are responsible for the jihad in the cause of God, this will never happen. The arrest of the jihadist leaders that is being published in the media outlets is not true, and they should know that even if it were true, it would not affect the current jihad.
"Twelfth: The Muslims all over the world should help their mujahidin brothers by all the means available and in all the fields. The wealthy people help with money. The experienced people help with their experience and experiments in the fields of explosives, electronics, communications, fighting against the spying cells, and destroying the enemy's capabilities.
"The people of poetry and literature should confront the rumors and lies of the Crusader enemy and should shoulder their responsibility in this field as is the case of the West, which united against the Muslims in all fields. The youth should prepare themselves for sacrifice and should organize themselves in the jihadist movements.
"The scholars should tell the truth out loud and issue Shari'ah-based fatwas on the support of the mujahidin. They should leave partial differences behind them and work on closing the Muslims' ranks, unifying their word, and awakening them.
"The Islamic news networks should quickly deliver the news of the Islamic Emirate and the jihadist movements to the Muslims. They should abandon hateful competition or race to perform good things, and to compete in righteousness and piety. If they heard misleading or doubtful news about the Islamic Emirate or the jihadist movements, these networks should refer to the officials of the Islamic Emirate and the commanders of the jihadist movements through messages or the Internet to check the authenticity of the news before publishing or disseminating such news.
"Finally, I would like to answer your questions, some of which were repeated or identical. Therefore, I provided one answer to the identical questions. Some of the questions are not related to me.
"Question Posed by Mersal:
"May God's peace, prayers and blessings be upon you,
"First, I would like to tell you that you, the lions of Afghanistan, have honored the ummah by their operations against the United States and its allies.
"Second, we would like you to confirm whether the pieces of news being reported by the media on the arrest of the leaders of Taliban-Pakistan are true or not. In addition, we would like you to assure us about the situation of jihad in Afghanistan. May God reward you immensely on behalf of all Muslims and us.
"May God's peace, prayers and blessings be upon you,
"A 1: Although these pieces of news were reported in the Western Media, they are not true. It is probable that some of the Emirate [Taliban] mujahidin were arrested, but the Emirate-affiliated media did not mention anything about the arrest of the leaders. It is probable that such pieces of news aim to cover the defeat of the US-led coalition forces in the operation carried out by fifteen thousand troops in Marjah, Helmand Province. This trick is only what a beaten man can do.
"A 2: By God's grace, the period between 1430 and 1431 [ 2009-2010] was replete with victories and trophies. In this period, the mujahidin were in the best status for attacks. Day after day, the mujahidin hold their grip on new areas, and inflict heavy losses on the enemy. By God's grace, the situations of jihad are under the control of the mujahidin.
"As you heard from the western media, the Department of Defense announced that the number of troops killed has doubled in the first three months of 2010 compared to the same period last year, and that the number of the wounded troops have tripled in the same period. In addition, the Unites States suffered heavy financial losses.
"Question by ARCO:
"May God's peace, prayers, and blessings be upon you.
"May God greet you, our jihadist shaykh, Sirajuddin Haqqani. I supplicate to God to preserve you and grant you victory over the enemies of the religion.
"Our jihadist shaykh, how are the mujahidin and the immigrants in Northern Waziristan?
"What is the impact of the operation of the jihadist hero, Abu-Dujanah al-Khurasani, on the US operations, particularly the strikes carried out by the unmanned aerial vehicles?
"What is your opinion of the global jihad? What is your opinion of the Arab rulers? Are you going to establish political relations with the Arab rulers and cooperate with them following the liberation of Afghanistan? Are you planning to continue your jihad and liberate Jerusalem?
"And May God's peace, prayers and blessings be upon you.
"A 1: By God's grace, all the mujahidin are in good condition. While you sometimes hear some news on the martyrdom of some mujahidin by an unmanned aerial vehicle, you should also know that the mujahidin do weaken their enemies and make them suffer heavy casualties and financial losses. In addition, you should know that the way of war is not paved with flowers. Hardships and sacrifices are what brings victory. By God's grace, the mujahidin have achieved victory. The selection of some mujahidin for the honor of martyrdom is one of God's practices among His creatures.
"A 2: The great hero Abu-Dujanah al-Khurasani, who performed jihad in the cause of God, has carried out a blessed martyrdom-seeking operation that killed senior CIA officials. The deceased officials were the elite of the CIA officers. The CIA group that was killed in the operation has been charged, for many years, with following the mujahidin, especially the mujahidin leaders. In some cases, the group has carried out some activities in neighboring countries like Iraq. The killing of this group broke the enemy's back and helped to minimize the accurate operations against the mujahidin by 60%.
"The results of this blessed operation are as follows:
"Elite personnel of the smartest CIA officers were killed.
"The recruitment of spies has been impaired.
"The spies became mistrusted. This led to hindering the process of recruiting new spies and communicating with the current spies in the region.
"A 3: According to the Shari'ah, wherever the jihad is, it is an individual duty. We believe it to be as such and it helps the Muslims therein to establish the Shari'ah, to exalt God's word, and to bring down the tyranny and oppression. This is our current concern. As for the individuals and governments, we do not recognize the righteousness through men and their titles. Instead, we recognize men through their righteousness. We further judge any person in accordance with the Islamic Shari'ah, which we deem to be the governing law of the Islamic Emirate. We vow to liberate Jerusalem, the first direction of prayer for the Muslims. The Crusaders assaults against Afghanistan aim primarily to establish the Greater Israel. The current Crusade plan, which is designed by the Greater Israel, aims to remove the obstacles that hinder the establishment of the Greater Israel. We believe that defeating the United States in Afghanistan will help to hinder this Crusade against the Muslim world. In addition, we believe that their defeat will pave our way for liberating Jerusalem, God willing.