Asharq Al-Awsat has obtained a rare manuscript entitled, ”The Story of the Afghan-Arabs: From the Entry to Afghanistan to the Final Exodus with Taliban”, written by a man who lived in close proximity to the most important moments of the drama. The writer reveals a number of secrets and explains many ambiguities in the activities of the Taliban and Al-Qaeda. In thorough detail, he recounts the struggles of the "hawks and the doves" within the organization, on issues such as weapons of mass destruction and the desperate efforts made by Osama bin Laden to obtain a "dirty bomb" from the Russian arsenal, through his correspondence with Khatab, the leader of the ”Arab Mujahideen” in the Caucasus.
Asharq Al-Awsat has obtained the manuscript through a mediator, but only after difficult and protracted negotiations.
The author, who is considered by fundamentalists in London to be the leading ideologue of Al-Qaeda, and one of the first batch of "Arab Afghans" who lived and worked in Qandahar, exposes the widely conflicting perceptions of Bin Laden”s inner circle with regards to weapons of mass destruction and the most suitable methods to be adopted in the confrontation with America.
Asharq Al-Awsat is certain that the author had documented his experiences as they unfolded in front of him, from the vantage point of his membership to the Shura (Consultative) Council which constituted Bin Laden”s inner circle and his close relationship with Mullah Omer, the deposed ruler of the Taliban. In deference to a request from those close to the author, Asharq Al-Awsat would not disclose his name, under the present circumstances.
The man, related by marriage to many prominent leaders of Al-Qaeda, gives his account of the "Arab Afghans" from their entry to Afghanistan to their final exodus with the Taliban. He talks of the "crazy attraction" that Bin Laden used to feel for the media in general and in particular, the international media, as well as his disdain for the advice of Mullah Omer and his flexible tactics with the hawks of the organization under the leadership of his senior aide and right hand man, Abu Hafs Almasri.
The author recounts the crushing blows taken by Al-Qaeda, the most important of which was the death of Mohamed Atef, otherwise known as Abu Hafs Almasri.
The manuscript covers the encounters between Bin Laden and his close associates and by way of repetition, it reiterates a statement made by Bin Laden in which he claims that "America would not be able to sustain more than two or three of his painful blows", referring to the attack on the US Coal, the bombing of the two American embassies in East Africa and the 9/11, 2001 attacks.
The author acknowledges, however, that after 9/11 matters "took an unexpected turn compared to what bin Laden thought would happen. Instead of buckling under his three painful blows, America retaliated and destroyed both the Taliban and Al-Qaeda.
Bin Laden”s misguided motives in seeking weapons of mass destruction were also mentioned in the manuscript. The author stated that "Bin Laden used to think that America was weaker than what many of the hawks around him thought. He mentioned that in many meetings attended by a wider circle of followers, by citing the Beirut incident of 1983 when an attack against the Marines prompted the Americans to flee the country and a similar attack in Somalia that caused the Americans to leave in a «shameful disarray and indecorous haste.»
The author dicusses the final stages of the life of Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan saying, "It was a tragic example of an Islamic movement under a catastrophic leadership. Despite their knowledge that their leader was taking them to the abyss, everyone was succumbing to his will and taking his orders with suicidal submission."
The author also discusses the period of Afghani Jihad under Abdalla Azzam and Bin Laden and the most important trends and activities of each of them, the crucial battles fought by the Arabs during that period and those of which deeply influenced their military and organizational perspectives. There is also a hint that the level of individual training of Al-Qaeda members had developed so much that it now included hijacking of airplanes and assassinations during a time when there was actually no urgent need for such operations.
Details were also given of the assassination of Abdalla Azzam, the spiritual mentor of the "Arab Afghans" and a bold bid was made to clear up the ambiguities and to fill in the gaps of missing information surrounding the killing. In the aftermath of the assassination of Azzam a period of extensive chaos, internal disputes and strife had emerged, pitting Arab fighters against one other in the last days before their overall eviction from Afghanistan.
The author further states that Abu Hafs Almasri the defense chief of Al-Qaeda and the leader of the hawks within the organization, had tried to resign from his post on numerous occasions in protest against Bin Laden”s way of containing and neutralizing the demands of the people. He said that Bin Laden”s methods are similar to those of the Arab rulers in invalidating the zeal of youthful fighters, gradually tempering their Jihadist aspirations, ultimately divesting them of their content and using them in service of his own needs.
Abu Hafs Almasri is confirmed by the author to be one of the three founding leaders of Al-Qaeda along with Bin Laden and the Egyptian Abu Obeida Albanshiri, who died in the Victoria Lake area in 1996 while on a mission crafted by himself and Abu Hafs oblivious to Bin Laden. Albanshiri was hunting for required material for the construction of an atomic bomb after he resigned all his positions in Al-Qaeda.
One of the most distinguished parts of the book is entitled ”The Flood of Blood from Mazar Sharif and Jebel Siraj, to Nairobi and Dar Assalam”, in which the author records the differences between Bin Laden and Mullah Omer, the disappointment sustained by the latter and the final rift between the two men. He shows how Mullah Omer was the target of an assassination attempt by the means of a car bomb and the suspicions of the involvement of the security forces in Qandahar in an attempt that carried the imprints of the Pakistani security. In one chapter the writer talks of ”Steps in the Direction of War” and in another about ”Oil and Opium” where the author discusses in detail the opium agriculture in Afghanistan, and the role of the Taliban in trade.
He recounts the "Qandaharian" openness of Mullah Omer when he said "I will not surrender a Muslim to an Infidel", with reference to the American demand of the Bin Laden”s hand over to America after the attacks on the two American Embassies in Nairobi and Dar Assalam. He says that that sentence defined, in no uncertain terms, the relationship between Taliban and the US. Once it had been expressed, war became a certainty, and America, which came to be locked eyeball to eyeball with Afghanistan, was not expected to blink. The downfall of the Taliban was sealed even if that demanded direct American intervention. Some Arab extremists warned the Taliban at the time that their refusal to extradite Bin Laden was equivalent to a declaration of war against America, the timing of which remained a decision to be made by the Americans.
The author adds that "The fundamentalists finally discovered from their experience in Afghanistan something of which they remained oblivious for centuries, that absolute individual authority is a hopelessly defective form of leadership and an obsolete way of organization that would end in nothing but defeat."