A spat on an al-Qaida affiliated website in Egypt has revealed growing tensions between the Afghan Taliban and foreign jihadi fighters in war-torn Afghanistan. The Taliban leadership is increasingly willing to participate in negotiations with the Afghan government. Mullah Omar, the infamous one-eyed Taliban leader, tried to strike a conciliatory tone recently, insisting that "we want to have legitimate relations with all countries of the world. We are not a threat to anyone. America believes that the Taliban is a threat to the whole world. And with this propaganda, America wants to use all other countries to advance their own interests." Taliban officials also issued a statement in solidarity with Iran, defending Tehran's right to develop nuclear energy.
Pro-al-Qaida bloggers and propagandists are appalled by the Taliban's diplomatic inclinations, as well as its warm position on Iran – a sworn enemy of al-Qaida militants. The blogger "Miskeen" (the "Wretched") wrote, "This is the worst statement I have ever read.... [T]he disaster of defending the [Iranian] regime is on par with the Crusaders in Afghanistan and Iraq." Other jihadis are calling on al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden to curb the abhorrent "nationalist trend" sweeping through the Taliban.
The toD verdict: This debate – though taking place in the shadowy hallways of the world wide web – can only make good reading for those who wish to see a settled resolution to violence in Afghanistan. The government of President Hamid Karzai has long hoped to negotiate with the more moderate elements of the Taliban, which is first and foremost an Afghan – not pan-Islamist – group. It is thought that many within the Taliban are growing tired of the added turbulence brought by zealous foreign jihadis. With no military victory in sight in Afghanistan, offering targeted concessions to factions of the Taliban may open a path out from the perennial conflict gripping the country.
Washington's secret policy of deterrence
Though the Bush administration has long been clear in its contempt for feeble policies of "containment" and "deterrence" in combating terrorism, counter-terrorism officials have quietly put in place policies that aim to deter terrorist attack and radicalisation rather than confront it head-on. These include a wide gamut of strategies such as web-based efforts to sow confusion and dissent within Islamist internet communities, as well as financial support for more "moderate" Islamist clerics. Military means look insufficient in defeating the diffuse threat posed by jihadist groups, so Washington now seeks to discredit terrorists in the eyes of their target audience.
US stirring up dissent in Iran
Officials in the US State Department are considering boosting support for minority ethno-nationalist groups in Iran as a way of undermining the country's Islamic regime. Such groups include the Kurds in the northwest, the Arabs in the southwest, the Baloch in the southeast, and the Azeris in the north. The CIA already allegedly backs militant separatist movements in Iran's Baloch and Kurdish areas. Many Iranian activists are wary of the proposed strategy as it may exaggerate fissures between peoples in the Iranian polity.
Taslima Nasrin to leave India
The controversial Bangladeshi author Taslima Nasrin is preparing to leave India after her time in the country has been dogged by protests and police confinement. Exiled from Bangladesh for her writings critical of Muslim fervour and faith, Nasrin has lived a peripatetic life in Europe and India. She was driven from the Bengali-speaking city of Kolkata in November 2007 by Islamist groups and now looks likely to continue her roaming exile once more in Europe.
Reconciliation meeting begins poorly
A meeting in Iraq intended to bring feuding factions together has begun to unravel before it even fully started, with a major Sunni bloc, a Shia group and a few other smaller parties pulling out. The Sunni Arab Accordance Front also withdrew from Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's coalition government in August.
A bomb blast that targeted a Shia pilgrimage site in Karbala has left fifty-two people dead.
Bomb blast targets tourism in southern Thailand
Two car bomb attacks in the restive south of Thailand have left the region on high alert, with regular roadblocks and checkpoints now in operation. Islamist separatist insurgents attacked the CS Pattani hotel, killing two people and injuring fifteen. The south of Thailand is home to the country's minority Malay-speaking Muslims and to an ongoing separatist insurgency.