Will Turkey succumb to Wahabbism?

Will Turkey succumb to Wahabbism?

Manipal, India — Wahabbism, the radical Islam currently advancing around the globe, originated in the 18th century as a philosophy designed to counter the moderate, syncretic Islam that was the heart of Turkey’s culture, and which the Ottoman Empire had disseminated among its principalities, including those in the Arabian Peninsula.Quick to sense the potential of the new faith in weaning away regional loyalties from the Ottomans, Britain early on became a backer of the creed, thus ensuring its rise to dominance within the Arabian Peninsula by the dawn of the 20th century. Beginning in the 1980s it spread to much of the rest of the Muslim world.

Today, because of the unstinted financial support of its principal adherents, Wahabbism has become the fastest-growing faith on the planet. It has succeeded in taking over many of the institutions, as well as the physical infrastructure, of the Sunni branch of Islam. Even within the Shiite branch, it has found in the Khomeinists an ideological twin that since 1979 has controlled the largest country in the region, Iran.

Thus far, only Turkey has remained immune to its relentless advance, steeped as that country was in the Sufi traditions that underpin its culture.

Turkey is the only country in the Muslim-majority world – since the Mongol invasions of the continent nearly nine centuries ago – to have conquered territory in Europe. The memory of this still makes a majority of Europeans flinch from accepting this entirely deserving country into the European Union.

The clear double standard of the European Union, which fast-tracked several other countries for membership but has yet to seriously consider Turkey, has sharpened a sense of discrimination in the minds of the Turkish populace. In their minds, it is not the country’s human rights or other infirmities that have led to this EU stonewalling, but the fact that Islam is the religion of the overwhelming majority of the Turkish people. In consequence, many have begun drifting away from their Sufi roots and responding to the magnetic pull of Wahabbism.

In matters of dress and ritual, a steady process of confluence between Turkey and the predominant power in the Muslim world, Saudi Arabia, began in the 1980s. Ironically, this was triggered by the 1979-1988 proxy war between the United States and the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. As a U.S. ally, Turkey joined with Saudi Arabia in facilitating the advance of the mujahideen against the Soviets and their local accomplices, although far more discreetly than Riyadh.

Contact with the Wahabbi warriors exposed many Turks to the faith that was rolling over the globe, and seems to have resulted in an admixture of Wahabbism with the Sufi syncretism of the Turks. As in other countries, the Wahabbis gained traction as rebels against local corruption and decadence, and by the end of the U.S.-Soviet Afghan war, had succeeded in penetrating into mainstream Turkish society.

Since then Wahhabism has occupied an ever-increasing space, with visible effect on the streets of Turkey, where the casual informality of Western wear is steadily being replaced with closer approximations of the austere garb of the Wahabbis.

Although the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, has been given the credit – or the blame – for the country’s retreat from Westernization, the reality is that the party has been the beneficiary rather than the cause of this shift in popular attitudes.

If the European Union continues its transparent reluctance to admit a Muslim-majority nation into the union, the odds are that by the close of this decade Turkey will be well on the way toward imposing “Sharia” law within the country, thus anchoring it firmly within the geopolitical ambit of Wahabbism.

Farther to the west, in Pakistan, the Taliban is advancing steadily into the cities, now that it controls much of the countryside in one-third of the country. In Indonesia, the gentle Turkish-style Islam that made the world’s largest Muslim country such a buttress of moderation worldwide, is being chipped away, with nearly one-fourth of the population now Wahabbi.

The country is heading the same way as Malaysia, where many laws and procedures have a Wahabbi hue, despite the fact that the majority, even of the country’s 60 percent Muslims, are moderate and therefore far removed from the faith that was founded by Abdal Wahab three centuries ago.

This apparently unstoppable advance of Wahabbism could yet be reversed, if the most important country in the Muslim world, Saudi Arabia, would begin to adopt policies to give equal rights to Shiites and treat the different variants of Sunni Islam the same. Such a shift would withdraw oxygen from the Khomeinists that rule Iran, and ensure harmony rather than dissonance between the two great civilizations of the West and Islam.

However, at present, no such change is apparent. Instead, the world is at risk of seeing the victory of Wahabbism over its historical enemy, Turkey.

(Professor M.D. Nalapat is vice-chair of the Manipal Advanced Research Group, UNESCO Peace Chair, and professor of geopolitics at Manipal University. ©Copyright M.D. Nalapat.)

Pakistan accuses India, Afghans, of Baluch meddling


By Zeeshan Haider

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) – Pakistan accused on Wednesday Afghanistan and India of supporting ethnic Baluch separatists fighting in the resource-rich southwestern province of Baluchistan.

Pakistan has in the past accused old rival India of meddling in Baluchistan but Wednesday’s comments from Interior Ministry chief Rehman Malik were the most explicit for years and come after a deterioration in ties over a militant attack in Mumbai.

“There is a conspiracy hatched against Pakistan to destablise Pakistan,” Malik told parliament in a statement to explain the government’s position on the worsening security situation in the vast province.

There was no immediate comment from India which has in the past denied such accusations.

Baluch nationalists have for decades campaigned for greater autonomy and control of the province’s abundant natural gas and mineral resources, which they say are unfairly exploited to the benefit of other parts of the country.

Separatist guerrillas have also fought a low-level insurgency for decades.

Malik said Brahamdad Bugti, a son of a Baluch rebel leader who was killed in a military operation in late 2006, was living in Kabul and he had admitted in a television interview that he was getting support from India.

Pakistan had repeatedly requested Afghan government to stop helping Baluch militants but in vain, he said.

“According to our intelligence, there are between 4,000 to 5,000 of our Baluch brothers who are based in Afghanistan, there are a few training centres,” he said.

“We also request India to stop interfering in Baluchistan … this is the time that we have to expose those hostile agencies, those hostile countries who are helping (the separatists),” he said.

Malik’s comments are likely to put further strain on relations with India. The nuclear-armed rivals have fought three wars since 1947.

India put a tentative peace process with Pakistan on ice after Pakistan-based militants launched coordinated attacks on the Indian financial capital of Mumbai in November, killing 166 people. Pakistan denied any involvement by state agencies.


An American U.N. official, John Solecki, was kidnapped in Baluchistan in February on the orders of Baluch separatist leaders in Kabul, Malik said. Solecki was freed after two months in captivity.

Pakistan is crucial to U.S. efforts to stabilise Afghanistan and any increase in tension between Pakistan and its neighbours is likely to raise concern in the United States.

Afghanistan and India enjoy close relations and Pakistan worries about being surrounded by hostile powers on both its eastern and western borders.

Both India and Afghanistan have accused Pakistan of failing to act decisively against militants attacking them, or even of supporting those groups such as the Taliban in Afghanistan and separatists fighting Indian forces in disputed Kashmir.

Days of violent protests erupted in Baluchistan this month after three Baluch politicians were found shot dead. Their supporters said they had been abducted by security agents.

Malik denied that and said the government had ordered an inquiry into the killings.

What’s the Real Story in Waziristan?

[The trail of the Islamic Jihad Union in Turkey and Germany leads back to S. Waziristan and the tribal conflicts and Army confrontations generated in fighting Uzbek terrorists in the region.  This places this Uzbek front (created by the Uzbek government in the confrontation with Rose Revolutionaries) at the center of the war in S. Waziristan and the war in Bajaur, which was allegedly instigated by terror attacks by these Uzbeks.]

What’s the Real Story in Waziristan?

Wana Fighter, circa 2004The fighting in South Waziristan is a complete mystery. At first, I was in line with Bill Roggio in thinking it was an Uzbek v. all fighting, though he has since changed his stance to a more nuanced take (basically, varying coalitions, perhaps sparked by the murder of a prominent Arab and a split within the IMU). While Roggio’s analysis is pleasing in that it plays into our deepest hopes of the Taliban collapsing on its own, his sources are problematic: he presents one unsourced story and another that relies on local government sources, who, in addition to having their own vested spin on the story, are accusing the Uzbeks of a form of colonization “just like those Jews in Palestine” and which are now being violently resisted.

Sean Roberts, on the other hand, posts a provocative take by David Hoffman:

In short, while the Pakistani press continues to produce an enormous amount of front-page coverage on the situation in Wana, it is far from clear what exactly is being reported. No hard evidence has emerged to point to the presence of actual Uzbek IMU fighters in the recent fighting. Pakistani media accounts of the fighting have been incestuous and uncorroborated, and trace back to the same small number of government sources of questionable reliability. And inside Waziristan itself, no one thus far has been able to produce any actual Uzbeks – live or dead – to tell the “IMU’s” side of the story. Given the very substantial vested in interests in having a foreign boogeyman to blame for the violence plaguing Pakistan’s lawless FATA region, it may be the case that the IMU brand has been dusted off for one more marketing campaign.

In other words, whole portions of this may be made up. I am also sympathetic to this stance—a few weeks back I was speculating that Pervez Musharraf, badly weakened by the Chief Justice scandal and the recent spate of female madrassa violence, would use this to play up hiw War on Terror credentials, which he basically has done.

But even Hoffman’s take misses the full extent of what’s going on, even though he quite properly says no one knows. That’s the problem—we don’t know, and we might not be able to know until it’s over. It seems likely there is conflict between non-Pashtuns and Pashtuns, but there also seems to be conflict between different groups of Pashtuns (tribes, maybe, though their importance isn’t nearly what it once was, especially in the Taliban), and between different groups of non-Pashtuns. That being said, no one can get close enough to find out.

I highly recommend Hoffman’s post, if only so you can develop a proper skepticism over any sort of triumphalist attitude. (As a mild side note, I made a flippant comparison to Akromiya, a group whose influence and size was blown out of proportion by the Uzbek government after Andijon. How ironic that Uzbeks once again might be involved in an official exaggeration of a truly violent event involving Islamic radicals.)

I still don’t see any grander strategic implications here. Even if it is as “red on red” as some people are crowing, that still just means the locals don’t like the foreigners—it has little to do with the Taliban, its support from Pakistan, or the epicenter of al-Qaeda activity further north. If it is actually teams of Taliban, broken up by tribe, aligned with Arabs and Uzbeks, the picture is a complete mess, with no grander implications aside from hoping that fighting distracts them from fighting in Afghanistan.

But what if there’s no fighting, or not nearly as much? Hoffman notes that the hospitals don’t seem to have the number of patients the hundreds of reported casualties would indicate. Remember how some government sources compared Waziristan to Palestine. Could the fighting be a repeat of the Battle of Jenin?

Stumble it! |
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Comment from smirnoff
Time: 4/8/2007, 12:11 am

Are these happenings somehow connected to Pakistani minister’s visit to Uzbekistan? He just made fake promises to clean up IMU.

Comment from Bill Roggio
Time: 4/8/2007, 6:03 am


You have completely misrepresented what I wrote. I have never said this was an indication the Taliban is imploding. Far from it. I NEVER said this was an Uzbek vs all fight. If you read my initial post on the subject you can see this. I’ve stated this is a internal fight with one group of Taliban that backs Uzbeks vs Taliban that backs Arab al Qaeda. Multiple open source reports back this up (Dawn, Daily Times, The News, Asia Times, The Nation, AFP, etc.) I’ve cited all the reports.

From the beginning of the fighting in Waziristan I have said this is not an Anbar like situation as EVERYONE else has portrayed it. I have repeatedly stated it is highly likely the Pakistani government is inflating casualties. I have repeatedly stated the media is misrepresented the fighting much to the Pakistani government’s pleasure.

I’ve been very clear the Pakistani government is manipulating this situation for their own gain. I am very careful not to rely on reports that only cite Pakistani military, government or intel sources. The Pakistani government cannot be trusted in this situation.

I agree The News article on comparing the situation in Waziristan to Palestine was repulsive, but the basic facts in there are what I am interested in. That article did not only use a Pakistani intl official, but Taliban, tribesmen, etc.

On the AKI/Dawn story, that was written by Syed Saleem Shahzad, who is very credible on Pakistan and specifically the FATA & Taliban. The points in that article match other reporting sourced in prior articles I wrote about the situation.

T he reports I wrote on the situation can be found in my Pakistan Tags. The readers can decide for themselves.


Comment from Joshua Foust
Time: 4/8/2007, 6:34 am


I’m not sure where the anger comes from. I haven’t insulted you, or even said you’re wrong—in fact, in one of your early posts on the subject, you mentioned the murder of a prominent Arab AQ at the hands of an Uzbek, and speculated that it could be an indication of Uzbeks losing their welcome. I thought the same. I also linked that your analysis had deepened to a far more complex picture of what’s going on, and I find that also 100% credible, but that I wasn’t sure it’s a complete picture. The purpose of the post was that we’re still not sure what’s going on, and that it’s obvious we’re not getting the whole story from Islamabad. That’s why I linked to Hoffman’s post—I found its case for deep skepticism of current reporting persuasive.

In fact, I think we’re in agreement that we’re probably being taken for a ride.

Comment from Nitin
Time: 4/8/2007, 7:15 am

Joshua, Bill,

First off, no analysis of the current fighting in Waziristan is complete without considering the history of the region. Intra-tribal wars are part of the culture, the wars being over land, women and wealth. This is the canvas on which we should analyse the current situation.

Second—while we don’t know about the war in Waziristan itself, we do know from several sources—Bill Roggio himself has written about it—that the Taliban are imposing their ‘government’ in places such as Tank, in “settled” NWFP. The objective reality, therefore, is of a Taliban on a political-military ascendent.

Who’s behind this? From what we know about the public position of the Islamist politicians of the MMA, they are sympathetic bystanders. Importantly, the MMA leadership does not even pretend to be in control of events.

That leaves Hamid Gul & Co, former (and perhaps serving) members of the establishment who have commercial and political interests in the region. Not to forget that the Jamia Hafsa business is also controlled by Khalid Khawaja, another member of the Gul & Co club.

So here’s my hypothesis: that this game is being directed by a faction of the Pakistani military establishment that has had enough of Musharraf. The fact that he could crush the Baloch rebellion so easily, but can’t do much about the Taliban one supports the argument.

These folks are not against Musharraf because of his allegedly pro-Western policies. They are against him because he’s monopolised power for too long. My guess on how it will play out? The new Musharraf will ride to power selling Washington his ability to face down the Taliban.

Comment from Bill Roggio
Time: 4/8/2007, 7:28 am


No, I’m not angry or insulted in the least. It’s just that I’ve been saying that what is being reported is not what it seems, then you’re saying I’m following the narrative given by the press. That is very frustrating.

I think Mr. Hoffman is not accurate about the Pakistani media’s presentation. The Pakistani press is providing skepticism of what is going on in the FATA. The international media on the other hand is swallowing the Pak gov’t position hook, line & sinker.

The news that Nazir is backing al Qaeda ISN’T something the Pak gov’t wants to promote. And only the Pak press is saying this. And they are not relying solely on gov’t sources. The Pak press has repeatedly reported that their sources in the FATA claim the casualties are far lower. In one post, I devoted 1 or 2 paragraphs on that. It’s a difficult situation when you have to weigh the Pak gov’t vs the Taliban for veracity of statements. And that I take the Taliban/Uzbek’s side on this (that casualties are lower) makes me ill. But there we are.

Here is what I said in my very first post on the subject, where I was very clear this wasn’t just Uzbeks vs locals:

The Pakistani government is more than content with portraying this fight as a battle between pro government forces and the ‘miscreants,’ as the government calls al Qaeda. Since the signing of the Waziristan Accord, the Pakistani military is in no position to get involved even if it wished, as it withdrew troops from the region and promised not to enter the tribal agency. The Pakistani government views this as a win-win situation, a positive step in the development of the Waziristan Accord as locals are fighting foreigners.

But this ignores the very reasons for the fighting – which is the presence of both foreigners and Pakistani and Afghan Taliban in the tribal regions. Siraj Haqqani, the son of the military commander of the Afghan Taliban, and a Taliban leader himself, is coming from Afghanistan to mediate the dispute.

From the beginning I was clear there was far more to this than could be seen, then in follow up posts on the subject, I outlined the Afghan Taliban’s involvement (the distinction is virtually useless at this point but it is useful to make it to refute the Pak gov’t’s position), Nazir’s involvement with al Qaeda (it is very real, I’ve been contacted by my own intel sources who confirmed what I have written on the subject), etc.

Again, no hard feelings on this end. I just want the readers here to understand my positions on the subject.

Comment from Joshua Foust
Time: 4/8/2007, 10:34 am


I still don’t see how I misrepresented your views (unless I dramatically misunderstood all the “red on red” talk). But that’s fine – I still think we’re in agreement that we’re not getting the whole story, that Pakistan has a vested interest in spinning it a particular way, and that there really aren’t any larger implications.

Not even, Nitin, a move against Musharraf. While I am sympathetic to the argument of tribal warfare, the Taliban at least has been fairly a-tribal in composition. Writing off what’s going on as simply the latest round of tribal friction is simplistic, as it involves multiple ethnicities, and multiple groups of foreigners.

Comment from Afghanistanica
Time: 4/8/2007, 10:49 am

Hi all,

I think all of you plus some of the sources cited are correct in the sense that the Uzbek presence is being exaggerated. A few years ago the Christian Science Monitor put the number of Uzbeks at around 200 (as opposed to the “thousands” that some unfortunate reporter claimed recently). And there have been reports of the Pakistani army fighting them a few times since then. I imagine their numbers are dwindling.

I know as little as most when it comes to what is actually happening in Waziristan but I do know that Uzbek linguists are not being sought by any part of the US government/military now or in the last 2-3 years. I’m guessing that’s because the US knows that there is no significant Uzbek presence. But also maybe because the Uzbeks are chatting to each other over the radio in Russian (perhaps they are not the simple Ferghana kholhoz/dekhon boys that we are led to believe they are). That radio chatter in turn leads to even sillier reports of Chechens being everywhere. More confusion. Yay.

Comment from Nathan
Time: 4/8/2007, 11:42 am

The FBI says they’re interested in Uzbek linguists and Central Asia experts.

Comment from Afghanistanica
Time: 4/8/2007, 2:46 pm

Whoops. I was referring to DoD contractors, CIA and the military. I didn’t know about the FBI. I wonder if their focus is mainly on drugs and crime? I shall investigate.

What I know about private contractors is that they are not hiring for Uzbek. Although they do have at least one clueless recruiter who was asking for resumes for Uzbek linguists (and then sitting on them). And I heard that the CIA has told the kiddies at IU that Uzbek will not get them hired.

Fars tilini o’rganing! That’ll get you a job ASAP.

Comment from Joshua Foust
Time: 4/8/2007, 3:01 pm

Yeah, but I’m not even sure how knowing Uzbek will help you much in drug interdiction—if I’m not mistaken aren’t most of the drug runners are Pashtuns and Tajiks?

Comment from Bill Roggio
Time: 4/8/2007, 3:02 pm


Please don’t read any emotions into this. Again, I am not angry about this. I just want to set the record straight. I won’t belabor the point, but just want to be clear about how I think you attributed arguments to me I did not make:

“At first, I was in line with Bill Roggio in thinking it was an Uzbek v. all fighting…”

I never said that in the ‘red-on-red’ posting. The quote I cited above shows this.

“though he has since changed his stance”

My stand on this never changed, since I never made the argument in the first place.

“While Roggio’s analysis is pleasing in that it plays into our deepest hopes of the Taliban collapsing on its own…”

From day one I was clear this is not evidence of the Taliban collapsing on itself. I’ve made the (admittedly imperfect) argument that this is akin to an internal mafia war. When all is said and done, someone comes out on top and the mafia still exists. Often it emerges more powerful as there is a consolidation effect.

The larger implication here, as I’ve stated repeatedly, is the Pakistani government is making the case the Waziristan Accord is a Good Thing. That is dangerous, and American policy makers and the media are influenced by this. The Pakistani government caved in Bajaur, after 7 month of a clearly failed policy. Expect further agencies and districts in the NWFP to get their own “Taliban Accord.”

Comment from Afghanistanica
Time: 4/8/2007, 4:46 pm

I would say that it is fair to say that the vast majority of smuggling out of AF is done by Pashtuns, Tajiks and Baluchis. No one has been able to quantify it but I’m assuming that the Uzbek and Turkmen smuggling route is small and confined to a limited mafia/government involvement. I don’t know if the Hokim’s Mercedes is still being waved through the checkpoint on the Friendship Bridge without inspection or not. They would look in his trunk if they actually cared.

The IMU in Pakistan: A Phoenix Reborn, or a Tired Scarecrow?

The IMU in Pakistan: A Phoenix Reborn, or a Tired Scarecrow?

I am happy to offer my readers a piece put together by David Hoffman who reports with suspicion from Pakistan about recent fighting in Waziristan between Pashtun tribal groups and the IMU. Having spent significant time in both Uzbekistan and Afghanistan, Dr. Hoffman gives us an interesting perspective on what may really be happening in Waziristan. I have added some hyperlinks to give the article a little more internet contextuality…enjoy!

In its ten years of existence, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) has emerged as a force to reckon with – not in the military sense, but as a political “brand,” bandied about by a combination of sincere and cynical (but always self-interested) interests in the pursuit of ulterior motives. This effort has accelerated since 2001, with the rise of a veritable cottage industry promoting the image of the IMU as an immediate, virile and offensive threat to stability in Central Asia and beyond. Vested interests in exaggerating the IMU threat abound in the corridor that runs from Massachusetts Ave in Washington to the Pentagon across the Potomac river: from contractors, consultants and think tanks fixated on the tsunami of post-9/11 security sector funding, to USG officials sincerely worried about the IMU’s role in global terror networks, to the Uzbek embassy’s ham-fisted attempts to justify its abysmal human rights record.

The “IMU” as a brand has flourished over the past seven years, generating revenues for intelligence consultants, career boosts for DOD officers, and a rhetorical crutch for the Uzbek government and its apologists. But is it a spent brand? The government of Pakistan, apparently, thinks not.

For those living in Pakistan, the past few weeks have been, in equal parts, exciting and disturbing. The country has been gripped with a constitutional showdown between the President and Supreme Court Chief Justice, female madrassa vigilantes run amok the streets of the capital, and the humiliating ejection of the revered national cricket team from the World Cup. But perhaps no story has dominated the headlines as the violence that has gripped South Waziristan, fighting that pits local tribesmen against – you guessed it – the IMU. Virtually every major Pakistani newspaper has been dominated over the past week by breathless headlines, detailing the fighting between “tribal volunteers” and “Uzbek militants.” A running tab of the week’s news articles puts the dead at over 250, with more than two-thirds of those Uzbeks loyal to IMU leader Tahir Yuldashev. Wana is said to be rocked by heavy fighting, as Pashtun tribesmen push through artillery and small arms fire to root out Uzbeks from prepared firing positions and bunkers.

For analysts based in Central Asia, and in particular those with direct experience with the IMU and its predecessors, this explosion of IMU-related news may seem odd. This is because, by 2002, the IMU was already understood to be a spent force: small groups of bedraggled stragglers, foraging for food and shelter, were seen fleeing from the American aerial assault on northern Afghanistan in late 2001, after which verified sightings of the organization virtually ceased. Even at its height in 1999-2001, when the IMU flexed its muscle with several incursions from Tajikistan into Kyrgyzstan, firsthand accounts painted a picture of disorganized units with inadequate supply lines, almost no logistical coordination, and poor training, communications, and weaponry. Teenaged IMU fighters more concerned with staving off starvation than reestablishing the Caliphate provided a decidedly sober appraisal of the organization’s military abilities, and one – not surprisingly – at odds from the narrative proffered by some western think tanks and the Uzbek Foreign Ministry.

What remained of the IMU – some 300 “effectives,” plus approximately twice that number in women, children and various other “camp followers,” according to experts with on the ground experience with the IMU – was largely blasted out of existence under a hail of satellite-guided bombs in and around Kunduz and Balkh provinces in northern Afghanistan in November 2001. When the dust had settled from this opening salvo of Operation Enduring Freedom, DNA sampling was required to identify what remained of Juma Namangani, the IMU’s military commander.

What remained of the Namangani’s organization is a slightly murkier affair. Following the IMU’s liquidation as a coherent fighting force, some of its remnants found refuge with certain Waziri sub-tribes inside Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas. Pashtun tribes’ sense of honor (Pashtunwali) is a well-documented phenomenon, especially insofar as treatment and protection of guests goes. It would thus be little surprise if IMU fighters, coming off a defeat in Afghanistan, were welcomed in Waziristan, where support for the Taliban is universal, regardless of Islamabad’s official proclamations. The five years that have passed since have witnessed few confirmed sightings of Uzbeks in Wana or any of the tribal agencies, and almost none in the jihadist battlefields of Afghanistan (literally next door, within walking distance of Wana) or Iraq.

Given the pitiful state of the IMU when it was last seen in active combat in 2002, and the organization’s ensuing silence, the fighting that has erupted in and around Wana has caught observers off-guard. According to the official version currently in vogue in the Pakistani press, “thousands” (the number has run as high as 10,000, but rarely drops below 2,000) of Uzbek militants are engaged in pitched battles with local Pashtun tribal militias. Even the normally staid Dawn newspaper dedicated not one but two headlines to the mini-war in a recent issue, declaring: “The Game is Up for Uzbeks,” and “Dozens Killed as Tribesmen Attack Foreign Militants.” The stories circulating in the Pakistani media are mixed, but involve some combination of the following: heavy weaponry (frequent allusions to mortars, artillery shelling), heavy casualties (hundreds killed, and constant references to pitched battles, concrete bunkers and fortifications, etc.), and Uzbek militants depicted in the most nefarious of lights. One other common thread that has run through all of the Pakistani media accounts: all of them rely on government sources.

Unraveling the political dynamics involved in the South Waziristan fighting – the more basic questions of “Why this fighting, and why now?” – presents a rather more difficult challenge. Multiple, and not always consistent, theories are at play, including:
1. that this fighting reflects the successful implementation of the Pakistani government’s ongoing efforts to convince and compel Pashtun tribes to expel foreign militants operating in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border zone;
2. that it is a conflict between primarily foreign al Qaeda groups (and their local allies) and Taliban (and their local allies), or some combination thereof; and
3. that the fighting is the result of a social backlash against Uzbeks, consistent with rising local tensions (Pakistani sources have cited rumors of rape, extortion, assassination and other crimes supposedly committed by the Uzbeks against the local populace).

Clearly, the government of Pakistan has much to gain from the first hypothesis. Under siege, literally, from all sides – from tongue lashings from Washington (most recently delivered, in person, by Dick Cheney), to a constitutional standoff between with the Supreme Court, to female madrassa students run amok in downtown Islamabad – Pakistan’s beleaguered President, Pervez Musharraf, has never been more in need of a public relations victory. And indeed, the narrative being spun by the Pakistani media, of a brave push by local Pashtun lashkars to expel foreign militants from Pakistan, endeavors to deliver just that. It not only represents the seriousness with which Pakistan takes its role as a strategic American partner in the global war on terror, but it makes clear to Pakistani domestic audiences that this is an initiative being driven indigenously within the Pashtun tribal belt, without the imposition of federal forces . Coincidentally or not, this interpretation fells three birds with one stone for President Musharraf: Pakistan’s sagging reputation in Washington is given a boost, the government’s policy of co-opting local tribes and fighting by proxy is shown to be a success, and Pashtun tribesmen (whose relationship with the Pakistani state has been anything but simple in the past) are embraced by the flag of Pakistani nationalism as defending the country against foreign invaders.

It is a wonderful narrative – now only if it were true.

A closer examination of the facts on the ground cast serious doubt on the current narrative being promoted through the Pakistani media, and – by extension – the international press. The first thing to remember is that very few people know what is actually transpiring in FATA. No Pakistani journalists have ventured into South Waziristan since Din Mohammad – a local journalist – visited the area under the protection of local commander Maulvi Nazeer last month, and had four of his relatives assassinated as a result. Communications with the district – never reliable – have become exceedingly difficult as of late, as militants have cut the telephone lines into the area and destroyed the local telephone switch in Wana. Six telephone numbers remain operational in Wana, with all six running on special lines directly into the Pakistani military garrison based there.

Given the difficulty in reporting on the battle in South Waziristan, it is useful to critically examine the press reports thus far of the IMU operations there. Pakistani news outlets have, as noted, been detailing the battle based on secondhand reports from government sources. “Detailing,” that is, in every sense except providing actual details. For example, it is curious that the fighting, while richly reported in other respects (including not only casualty counts, but descriptions of which tribesmen suffered what types of wounds in encounters with the IMU), seems to lack any actual information that could identify Uzbeks in the IMU ranks. Besides the public figure of IMU leader Tahir Yoldashev, not a single Uzbek involved in the Wana fighting has been named in any Pakistani news articles. Local tribesmen opposing the IMU are described in detail, but the Uzbeks who have presumably lived in some degree of harmony in the local communities for five or more years remain a faceless group.

Moreover, two separate sources insides Waziristan have confirmed that, in fact, they have not actually seen any actual Uzbeks, live or dead, during this latest conflagration. In battles whose casualty figures speak to its intensity, scale and duration, conventional military wisdom holds that hundreds of dead should be matched by several times as many wounded. Again, curiously – local hospitals and clinics have been unable to report the presence of large numbers of Uzbeks admitted for care. And while the press has dutifully reported dozens of captured IMU fighters, these prisoners have failed thus far to materialize. One local tribal leader, when asked about IMU fighters his men had captured, could not explain their absence, and then claimed that his men had “transferred [the Uzbeks] to the local jirga (council).” Given the public relations treasure trove captured foreign fighters would represent to a Pakistani government still stinging from accusations by Washington that it needs to “do more” in the fight against terrorism, it is hard to understand the government’s failure to produce the IMU prisoners, in order to milk them for their propaganda value. Similarly, the lack of any statements by Yoldashev (or any IMU commanders for that matter) to explain their position, rally support, or appeal to comrades-in-arms raises eyebrows, given that the organization, we are told, is involved in perhaps its climactic battle for existence. Instead, even sympathetic outlets such as the Urdu Daily Jasarat and media affiliated with the Taliban, have not been able to deliver the IMU’s standpoint.

Finally, it is difficult to reconcile the evidence at hand with Pakistani press reporting of the IMU’s order of battle. Simply, the numbers just don’t add-up: barring a spectacular burst of recruiting, it would be difficult to imagine how an organization that numbered, at most, in the hundreds has, after suffering a crushing defeat and dangerous passage into remote exile in 2002, managed to blossom into an organization capable of fielding a fighting force several thousand strong in Pakistan five years later. Furthermore, mounting operations of the sort alluded to in the Pakistani press would require not only stores of heavy weapons, ammunition and supplies, but communications, logistics and a training regimen to keep the IMU battle-ready. The IMU’s absence from the nearby battlefields in southeastern Afghanistan these past few years, therefore, raises questions how, from a tactical standpoint, it could reconstitute itself into a coherent fighting force replete with heavy weapons and prepared positions, in such a short time.

In short, while the Pakistani press continues to produce an enormous amount of front-page coverage on the situation in Wana, it is far from clear what exactly is being reported. No hard evidence has emerged to point to the presence of actual Uzbek IMU fighters in the recent fighting. Pakistani media accounts of the fighting have been incestuous and uncorroborated, and trace back to the same small number of government sources of questionable reliability. And inside Waziristan itself, no one thus far has been able to produce any actual Uzbeks – live or dead – to tell the “IMU’s” side of the story. Given the very substantial vested in interests in having a foreign boogeyman to blame for the violence plaguing Pakistan’s lawless FATA region, it may be the case that the IMU brand has been dusted off for one more marketing campaign.

The Mysterious Islamic Jihad Union

The Mysterious Islamic Jihad Union

The three alleged “terrorists” arrested in Germany, aimed to blow up US military airports, civil airports, bars, discos and other targets, according to the German authorities, motivated by a fanatical hatred of the United States.

They have been identified as coming from the “Islamic Jihad Union”, an alleged offshoot of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan. This organisation was first heard of in intelligence passed by the Uzbek intelligence services to the United States during alleged “Terror attacks” in Tashkent in spring 2004. Those attacks were in fact largely fake and almost certainly the work of the Uzbek security services, from my investigations on the spot at the time. These are detailed in pages 325 to 339 of Murder in Samarkand. These “attacks” were followed by the arrest of many hundred people in Tashkent, largely those with a little money and a Western lifestyle. From the torture chambers, hundreds confessed to membership of the Islamic Jihad Union. The United States, still an ally of Uzbekistan at that time, was keen to accept the narrative and moved succesfully to place the Islamic Jihad Union on the United Nations list of terrorist organisations.

In fact there was no evidence of the existence of this organisation other than that given by the Uzbek Security Services. There are, for example, no communications intercepts between senior terrorists referring to themselves as the Islamic Jihad Union.

Germany houses the biggest concentration of exiled Uzbek dissidents in the West, and in May of 2004 the Uzbek security services were already passing on alleged intelligence about attacks by the Islamic Jihad Union on US targets in Germany. Peculiarly, newspaper stories about these IJU plots in Germany have been surfacing regularly for the last two years, ahead of the recent arrests.

Germany is of course now Uzbekistan’s major ally in the West. Germany has an airbase in Uzbekistan and still has very close security service coopertation with Uzbekistan. Germany has been pushing hard within the EU for the lifting of sanctions imposed on Uzbekistan following the massacre bu the Uzbek armed forces of at least 700 demonstrators at Andijan in May 2005. Germany’s close relationship with Uzbekistan is based on the interests of Gazprom and its $8 billion Nordstream Russian/German joint venture for a Baltic pipeline to bring Russian and Uzbek gas to Germany. This was orchestrated by Gerhard Schroeder, now Chairman of Nordstream, and Alisher Usmanov, chairman of Gazprom Investholdings.

Germany therefore remains very open to the Uzbek security service agenda. It is in the light of these interests that the story being given about the latest arrests should be considered. There are some peculiar points about it: why are the German authorities connecting a Turk and two ethnic Germans, who allegedly trained in Pakistan, to an obscure and possibly non-existent Uzbek group?

I should make plain that regrettably it is a fact that there are those who commit violence, motivated by a fanatic version of their faith. Sadly the appalling aggression of US and allied war policy has made such reaction much more frequent. These men may or may not have been planning to commit explosions. But if they were, the question is who was really pulling their strings, and why?

A Turkish al-Qaeda: The Islamic Jihad Union and the Internationalization of Uzbek Jihadism

A Turkish al-Qaeda: The Islamic Jihad Union and the Internationalization of Uzbek Jihadism

by Guido Steinberg

Strategic Insights is a bi-monthly electronic journal produced by the Center for Contemporary Conflict at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California. The views expressed here are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the views of NPS, the Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government.

For a PDF version of this article, click here.


In early March 2008, an organization called the Islamic Jihad Union (IJU) announced on a Turkish website, that Cüneyt Çiftçi, a Turk born and living in Germany had carried out a suicide attack on American and Afghan troops in the Afghan province of Paktika. The website showed pictures of Çiftçi while training for and preparing the attack. This announcement marked the first peak of an intensive public relations campaign that the IJU began in September 2007. In April 2008, Çiftçi’s video was followed by one of a German convert training in an IJU camp in Pakistan, Eric Breininger, who called for Muslims living in Germany to join the “Jihad” against the West. In a bid to gain access to new recruits and funds the organization tries to present itself on the Internet as a transnational organization with supporters in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Central Asia and Europe. Its main recruitment target, however, seem to be young Turks and Germans. This became evident after three of its members were arrested in the Sauerland town of Oberschledorn in the German state of North-Rhine Westphalia in September 2007. They were suspected of planning bomb attacks on American and possibly Uzbek targets in Germany. The planned attack in Germany sought to support the struggle of Taliban and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan by attempting to swing the German debate on extending the parliamentary mandates for the deployment of the German Army in Afghanistan (OEF and ISAF). The IJU leadership apparently calculated that high-profile attacks just before the Bundestag votes in October and November 2007 could prevent an extension and force the withdrawal of German troops. The Taliban and al-Qaeda have long regarded Germany as the weakest link in the chain of major troop providers and wanted to exploit growing criticism of the campaign in Afghanistan in the German public sphere.

The “Sauerland cell” as they were subsequently called, was part of a larger group of about 30 young Jihadists, most of them ethnic Turks living in Germany and several converts, who had radicalized for several years and partly gone to Pakistan to receive terrorist training. Several completed their courses in an IJU camp in North Waziristan. Most important about this development was that for the first time, ethnic Turks in Germany had radicalized in significant numbers. Since al-Qaeda was and—to a lesser extent—still is a predominantly Arab phenomenon, it had not been able to recruit Turks into its networks on a large scale. This seems to have changed, because the IJU—an organization closely affiliated with al-Qaeda and the Taliban—has increasingly recruited ethnic Turks and tries to increase its attractiveness among Turks in Germany and in Turkey itself by using a Turkish language website hosted in Turkey. The reason for the success of the IJU, an Uzbek militant organization that splintered off from the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) in 2002, in appealing to Turkish Jihadists is quite simple: Turks and Uzbeks are related Turkic peoples and speak similar languages. An Uzbek organization that operates transnationally and takes an internationalist line like the IJU is therefore ideally suited for recruiting Turks—either from Turkey itself or from the European diaspora—for al-Qaeda’s global Jihad.

The fact that al-Qaeda has recently been able to broaden its recruitment base to include greater numbers of non-Arab Muslims, including Pakistanis, Kurds, and Turks, many of them living in the European diaspora, is in itself threatening. The recruitment of an increasing number of Turks would strengthen the trend which has been apparent since 2003 that al-Qaeda is rapidly transforming itself into a truly global organization. Furthermore, if the recruitment of Turks should prove to be part of a larger trend towards their radicalization, Germany—besides Turkey—with its more than two million Turks will be primarily affected. In that case, the terrorist threat in Germany is likely to grow substantially, for German targets and for American installations on German soil.

A Jihadist Public Relations Campaign

When news of the “Sauerland plot” broke in September 2007, only a few specialists in Germany had ever heard of the IJU. There was a strong tendency to doubt any information presented by the Uzbek government and its allies about Jihadist terrorism in Central Asia. A former British ambassador in Tashkent, Craig Murray, a fierce critic of the Karimov regime, supported this trend by claiming in several interviews with German media that bomb attacks in Uzbekistan in 2004 which where blamed on the IJU (which then still called itself Islamic Jihad Group) were rather staged by Uzbek authorities.[1] A domestic intelligence official from the South-Western state of Baden-Württemberg added to this doubts by declaring in a newspaper interview that he doubted that such an organization even existed—after the Federal Ministry of Interior and the Chief Federal Prosecutor had named the IJU as the organization behind the plotters.[2]

However, it was the IJU’s public relations campaign after September 2007 which highlighted that the group indeed existed and had developed into an organization with an increasingly internationalist orientation after 2004. In June 2007 already it had published an interview with its alleged leader, Ebu Yahya Muhammed Fatih, on Turkish Jihadist websites, in which he outlined the goals and ideology of the IJU.[3] Ebu Yahya’s interview only gained the attention it merited after the arrest of the Sauerland cell. From September, the IJU started posting an increasing amount of propaganda messages and videos on the Turkish website http://www.sehadetvakti.com (“Time for Martyrdom”), which has been online since November 2006. In early September, a “press release” signed by the “political leadership of the IJU” appeared on this website, commenting on the arrest of the Sauerland cell some days earlier.[4] It stated that the three “brothers” had planned attacks on the U.S. airbase in Ramstein/Germany and on the American and Uzbek consulates. Their goal had been to protest against U.S. and Uzbek policy and to prompt Germany to give up its base in Termez/Uzbekistan. Most interestingly, many of the texts posted on www.sehadetvakti.com (including the interview) are written in faulty Turkish, suggesting that the authors might be Uzbeks or perhaps Turks who have spent most of their lives in Germany.[5] The IJU is trying hard to develop a corporate identity under its Turkish name “İslami Cihad İttehadi.” The videos frequently feature black banners with its Arabic name “Ittihad al-Jihad al-Islami” or its (abbreviated) English translation “Islamic Jihad.” The videos have allegedly been produced by the organization’s media wing “Badr at-Tawhid” (literally “the full moon of monotheism”) and mostly contain a short lead text in Arabic:

  • One of the earlier documents dated December 27, 2007 is titled “An IJU Operation: The End of the apostates.”[6] The video allegedly shows destroyed vehicles and killed security personnel after an IJU attack on a Pakistani military convoy in the Swat valley northwest of Islamabad.
  • In a second video posted December 30, 2007 and entitled “IJU: Travellers to Martyrdom,” photos and video sequences of IJU-“martyrs” are shown—some speaking Pashtu.[7] Added is video footage of some two dozen recruits in makeshift IJU-training camps in the Pakistani tribal areas.
  • The third posting was dated January 3, 2008 and is called “Mortar attack on a base of the British occupying troops.” The accompanying text describes an attack on a British base in the Afghan province of Paktika. The video shows a small group of fighters firing mortar shells from a position in the mountains on a military base in a valley.

From March 2008, more content linked to German and Turkish recruits was posted on the website. In a “press statement” that was released on March 7, the authors of the website announced the “martyrdom” of Cüneyt Çiftçi.[8] In April, Çiftçi’s video testament and Eric Breininger’s call for Jihad followed.

The texts and videos provided conclusive evidence that the IJU indeed exists and give some rare insights into an organization virtually unknown until recently. They added to scattered information about the IJU’s terrorist plots, its worldview, goals, strategies and its activities in Pakistan as well as its social base and structure. Although the IJU is originally an Uzbek organization which still aims at toppling the regime of President Islam Karimov, it has adopted an internationalist agenda and has moved closer to the Taliban, or rather the Haqqani network, and al-Qaeda. From its headquarters in North Waziristan the IJU has joined the Haqqani network and its escalating fight against coalition forces in Afghanistan. The IJU’s public campaign seems to be a reaction to growing pressure from the U.S. and the Pakistani governments. In October 2007 the Pakistani army launched an offensive against Uzbek fighters in Mir Ali in North Waziristan, most likely in order to destroy the IJU’s headquarter which is situated there. Furthermore, the elimination of Abu Laith al-Libi, the liaison officer between the al-Qaeda leadership and the IJU, in January 2008 on Pakistani territory (and similar attacks in early 2008) shows that the United States is prepared to risk conflict with the government in Islamabad in order to prevent the Jihadists from still becoming stronger in the tribal areas.

The IJU: A Splinter Group of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan

The IJU was established in 2002, after some internationalist minded activists left its mother organization, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU). The IMU, in turn, had been founded in 1998 in Kabul. Predecessors of the organization had already existed since 1990. Its leaders were two Uzbeks from the Fergana Valley, Juma Namangani (1968/1969-2001) and Tahir Yoldashev (born 1968). While the famous Namangani organized the IMU’s military activities, Yoldashev, who had received a religious education, became its major ideologue. After Namangani was killed by an American air strike in Afghanistan in November 2001, Yoldashev took the overall leadership.

The IMU aimed exclusively at toppling the regime of Uzbek President Islam Karimov. However, the fact that most members of the organization were from the Fergana valley meant that it had a transnational component as well. Mainly inhabited by ethnic Uzbeks, the valley was divided in the 1920s between the three Soviet republics Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. The division brought about a complex mixture of territories and ethnic groups, the main reason why Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan have also become targets of the IMU. The IMU is thus actually more of a Fergana valley liberation movement, fighting the three ruling regimes there, rather than a purely Uzbek organization. This became most obvious in 1999 and 2000, when the IMU reached the peak of its activities. In February 1999, the IMU is alleged to have perpetrated a string of attacks in Tashkent. Six car bombs detonated during an attempt to assassinate President Karimov. Thirteen people died, more than a hundred were wounded. In the following two summers, IMU fighters entered the Fergana valley from Tajikistan and tried to destabilize Uzbekistan. Their raids deepened already existing conflicts between the governments of Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan which held one another responsible for the escalation of violence. Although the IMU had moved to Afghanistan in 1998 (after Namangani had participated in the civil war in Tajikistan until 1997), it still had a base in Tavildara/Tajikistan and could count on sympathies among Tajik politicians protecting it from Karimov’s wrath.

In Afghanistan, the IMU set up its headquarters in Mazar-e Sharif and Kunduz in the north of the country. From 1998 to 2001, it commanded roughly 2000 fighters, many of whom fought with the Taliban against the Northern Alliance.[9] Most of its personnel were Uzbeks, but there were Kyrgyzs, Tajiks, Chechens and even some Uighurs from the Chinese province of Xinjiang among them. The Taliban seem to have sent Chechen and Uighur volunteers up north to join the IMU. Hence they were able to deny the presence of these groups whenever Russian and Chinese officials protested the residence of their militant opposition on Taliban territory. Thus, the IMU in its Afghan years developed into an increasingly transnational, Central Asian rather than an exclusively Uzbek organization, without, however, adjusting its leadership structure and without redefining its goals and strategy. The IMU’s leaders repeatedly declared that they aimed exclusively at the downfall of the Uzbek government and not of the other Central Asian states. However, the organization’s activities in Tajikistan and especially Kyrgyzstan suggested otherwise. Within the IMU, there were serious debates about a possible internationalization, in which the more conservative nationalist forces seem to have gained the upper hand. As a consequence, in 2001, the IMU leadership denied reports that the organization had changed its name to Islamic Party of Turkestan and that it now aimed at an Islamic Revolution in the whole of Central Asia.[10] Nevertheless, increasing contacts to other Central Asians, the Taliban, Pakistanis and Arab fighters in Afghanistan added to an increasing trend towards internationalization among Uzbeks, too.

During the invasion of Afghanistan, starting October 2001, the IMU suffered massive losses. Under the leadership of Tahir Yoldashev, its remaining members retreated from Northern and Central Afghanistan to Wana in South Waziristan on the Pakistani side of the Afghan-Pakistani border zone. Yoldashev responded to the trend towards internationalization by devoting more of his speeches to conflicts outside Central and Southern Asia, declaring in online statements that the IMU supported the struggle against the West in Chechnya, Iraq and Palestine. But this seems to have been mainly propaganda, for elsewhere in his messages, Yoldashev repeatedly emphasized that the IMU’s primary aim was to overthrow the regimes in the Central Asian states of Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan and that it had not renounced its original goals in Central Asia.[11] The foundation of the IJU was a consequence of the IMU’s refusal to cater to the needs of the young internationalists in its ranks.

The Emergence of the Islamic Jihad Union

The IJU was most likely founded in Pakistan in 2002 by a small group of former members of the IMU, possibly in North Waziristan, where the organization is still based today. Its leader is Najmiddin Jalolov, an Uzbek who had been sentenced to death by an Uzbek court in 2000 but was never apprehended. However, most of the information about Jalolov seems to be based on Uzbek government sources, which can not be considered reliable.[12] His deputy is Mansur Sohail (aka Abu Huzaifa), himself an ethnic Uzbek.[13] Not much is known about the rest of the organization. It can be safely assumed that it is small, most likely consisting of no more than one hundred to two hundred members. Most of them are from Uzbekistan, but they also include Tajiks, Kyrgyzs and Kazakhs, and it also cooperates closely with Chechen and Uighur militants.

The IJU is commonly thought to be identical with the Islamic Jihad Group (IJG), an organization which claimed responsibility for the first suicide bomb attacks in Central Asia ever. In late March and early April 2004, some of its members carried out suicide attacks and firing raids mainly targeting Uzbek police in Bukhara and Tashkent. Forty-seven people died, most of them terrorists. In July 2004 members of the IJG staged suicide attacks on the Israeli and U.S. embassies and on the office of the attorney general in the Uzbek capital Tashkent. These were the first attacks on Western targets in Central Asia, hinting at the internationalist character of the group responsible. Moreover, the strikes coincided with the trials against members of the IJG who had organized the attacks in March and April. In both cases, claims of responsibility by a “Jama’at al-Jihad al-Islami” or Islamic Jihad Group were posted on Arabic Jihadist websites.[14]

The events had a second international dimension. In November 2004, Kazakh authorities confirmed earlier reports of contacts between the perpetrators of the attacks in Bukhara and Tashkent and Kazakhstan. They reportedly discovered a terrorist grouping called the „Mujahedin of Central Asia Group,” which seems to have been identical with the IJG or one of its cells. According to the reports, it had been founded in 2002 and consisted of fifty Uzbek and twenty Kazakh citizens. The group in Kazakhstan was lead by a Kyrgyz, its branch in Uzbekistan by an Uzbek, both former members of the IMU. Some of the perpetrators of the bombings in Tashkent in spring 2004 had been trained in the southern Kazakh city of Shimkent close to the Uzbek border. The attacks had been planned, however, by the group’s overall leadership in Pakistan.[15]

In 2005, the IJG changed its name to IJU. In the following years, all its plots were thwarted by the respective authorities. In November 2006, a cell of Pakistani IJU members were reported to have been arrested because they were preparing rocket attacks on government targets in Islamabad. The IJU leadership in North Waziristan is said to have trained those who were to carry out the attacks, supplied them with weapons and issued them with orders. Their motive had allegedly been the Pakistani government’s support for the United States.[16] The Sauerland plot in September 2007 followed a similar mode of action. The attackers—non-Central-Asians again—were trained in IJU camps in North Waziristan, where the IJU leadership and its allies planned the attacks. They were then sent to their home country to organize and implement the scheme. The Central Asian IJU members, however, took part in the guerrilla campaign in Afghanistan on the side of the Taliban rather than plots against Western targets.

Although the plan was thwarted, the recruitment of the Sauerland cell was the IJU’s biggest success to date. While the core cell that was arrested in September 2007 consisted of two German converts and one ethnic Turk, these were radicalized in a broader environment, consisting of around 30 persons currently under investigation by German authorities. These are in their majority German Turks who were in different ways connected to the Salafist scene in Ulm and Neu-Ulm in South-Western Germany. For the first time, German Turks were radicalized in larger numbers and joined a Jihadist organization. From 2001, the Multikulturhaus in Neu-Ulm had become a rallying point for young Salafists, among them Turks, Arabs, and German converts alike. As a result of their radicalization, between ten and twenty of them went to train in IJU camps in Pakistan from 2006. Although in their majority known to the security services, it came as a surprise to German authorities when the United States intercepted e-mail communications between the IJU and its followers in Germany.[17] German intelligence and police services have in general been unable to trace these developments among young Muslims in Germany, a fact provoking questions about the effectiveness of German counter-terrorism measures.

Islamic Jihad Union, the Haqqani Network, and al-Qaeda

Part of the reason why the IJU was virtually unknown in 2007 was that it is difficult to distinguish it from the IMU. In most cases, reports about Uzbeks or Central Asians in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) in Pakistan do not differentiate between the two organizations. Only after more information was disclosed in 2007 and the IJU started its public relations campaign on the internet it became easier to make the distinction.

Most importantly, the IJU developed into an increasingly internationalist organization and thus tried to gain a profile independent of the IMU and its Islamo-nationalism. In his interview of May 2007, Ebu Yahya Muhammed Fatih explained that the IJU still intended to overthrow the Karimov regime in Uzbekistan but that this was only one of the organization’s goals and that its main area of operations in 2007 was Afghanistan.[18] He said the IJU was trying to coordinate its activities with other Central Asians and fighters from the Caucasus. In addition the IJU—according to Ebu Yahya—was striving to spread the “Jihad” throughout the world in order to liberate Muslims from the tyranny of the infidels. This struggle would only end when Islam ruled the entire world. Although the vision of a war that will only end when all Muslims live in Islamic states indicates differences with the IMU, it is rather the practical realization of these ideological principles—namely the plots in Tashkent, Islamabad and Germany—that makes the more internationalist nature of the IJU most apparent.

Furthermore, the IJU has entered into an alliance with the Taliban and al-Qaeda. It has established its headquarters in Mir Ali, a city in North Waziristan in the Pakistani tribal areas. In order to maintain a presence there, it had to enter into an alliance with the Haqqani network, the most important local Taliban grouping. The Haqqani network is named after its leader, Jalaladdin Haqqani, a famous Mujahedin commander during the 1980s and a close ally of Usama Bin Laden. The Haqqani network constitutes an almost separate wing within the Taliban movement although nominally it operates under the authority of Mullah Umar. From its headquarters in Miranshah, the capital of North Waziristan, it is the main executor of Taliban operations in the central part of Eastern Afghanistan, namely in the provinces of Khost, Paktia and Paktika. Although the elder Haqqani is still alive, his eldest son Sirajaddin seems to have assumed command over the Haqqani forces. Sirajaddin Haqqani has proved an even more ruthless and brutal commander than his father. Under his leadership, the Haqqani network has increasingly adopted al-Qaeda-in-Iraq-style tactics like suicide bombings and attacks with IEDs in 2007. Furthermore, his followers increasingly operate in Kabul and its surroundings. For instance, coalition forces have held Haqqani responsible for the attack on the Kabul Serena Hotel in January 2008.[19]

The IJU seems to have blended in with Haqqani’s campaign in Afghanistan, as Haqqani has increasingly brought Pakistanis, Central Asians and Arabs into Afghanistan. It cooperates closely with al-Qaeda as well. The Libyan Abu Laith al-Libi, one of Bin Laden’s most important field commanders, was the liaison figure between the al-Qaeda leadership and the IJU. Libi cultivated particularly close ties with the Taliban and was also a kind of Central Asia representative for the al-Qaeda leadership. He was part of a new generation of operational chiefs who played a key role in al-Qaeda’s resurgence since 2005.[20] Libi seems to have led the intensification of the IJU’s activities since the end of 2006. It is highly likely that Abu Laith al-Libi was the mastermind of the Sauerland plot as well. In January 2008, he was killed with a missile strike from an American drone in Mir Ali. The IJU confirmed that during the air attack on Libi, whom it referred to as “our Shaikh,” a number of its members were also killed.[21] Prominent members of the Haqqani network were targeted by similar attacks in early 2008.

Apart from its operations in Afghanistan, the IJU has also attacked Pakistani targets in late 2007 and early 2008. Although it is difficult to establish the authenticity of some of the video footage on sehadetvakti.com, the IJU’s anti-Pakistani impetus seems to become increasingly obvious. Most importantly, in a message posted on the website in March 2008, the IJU pledged revenge for the storm on the Red Mosque in Islamabad in July 2007 and announced attacks on American and Pakistani targets.[22]

The Rift between the Islamic Jihad Union and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan

The IMU and its leader Tahir Yoldashev, on their part, only partly adapted their ideology and strategy to the emergence of the IJU. However, the IMU was not totally unaffected by the trend towards internationalization that the IJU spearheaded by breaking away from its IMU mother organization. As early as 1998, it moved closer to more globally oriented groups like al-Qaeda. This was in part due to its growing number of non-Uzbek recruits and its cooperation with Chechens and Uighurs. In addition, by operating together with the Taliban, its Pakistani sympathizers and al-Qaeda’s Arab fighters, the IMU strengthened the feeling of solidarity between the different nationalities. Had the organization focused its efforts entirely on Uzbekistan it would have risked losing the support of non-Uzbeks. This was especially true after 2001, when the IMU lost its base in Afghanistan and was forced to operate from Waziristan.

However, due to their focus on Uzbekistan, IMU fighters only occasionally participated in the campaigns of the Taliban and its Pakistani and Arab followers in Afghanistan. This made it vulnerable to criticism by local supporters of the Taliban campaign in Waziristan, a reproach that Yoldashev sought to counter by rhetorically supporting an internationalist agenda. Until March 2007, the IMU headquarters and training facilities were located in South Waziristan, in its capital Wana and several small villages west of the city.[23] There are no reliable estimates of the IMU’s numerical strength; they range from several hundred to several thousand. In Waziristan, however, there seem to be some 1000 Uzbek fighters.[24] After violent clashes with Pashtun tribesmen in March and April 2007 many Uzbeks had to leave their strongholds around Wana. These events gave some hints as to the exact nature of the ideological differences between IJU and IMU.

Reports about conflicts between the IMU and their hosts started appearing as early as 2006. According to local sources, the Uzbeks had not respected local traditions and customs, appropriated local land, and behaved liked an occupying power, at times even killing some tribesmen. People whom the IMU so much as suspected of collaborating with the Pakistani authorities were carelessly executed. They allegedly even killed an important Saudi al-Qaeda finance official. More importantly, however, seem to have been conflicts between local Pashtun tribesmen. The Uzbeks in Wana had been hosted and protected by Maulvi Omar, a leader of the Ahmadzai Wazir settling in Wana and its surroundings.[25] Omar is considered a close ally of Baitullah Mehsud, an important Pakistani supporter of the Taliban and an ally of Yoldashev and his IMU. Nevertheless, Omar lost his position in a power struggle against Maulvi Nazir, another prominent member of the Ahmedzai Wazir, who thereby gained the leading position among the local supporters of the Taliban. Nazir seems to have had some support by the Afghan Taliban. This was the local context in which the conflict with the Uzbeks and their local supporters developed.

When tribesmen tried to evict the Uzbeks from their positions near Wana, fighting erupted in March 2007. The IMU lost between fifty and one hundred men and at least parts of the organization had to withdraw to the neighbouring territory of the Mehsud in South Waziristan and to North Waziristan.

Ideological and strategical motives, although not prevalent, still seem to have played a significant role in these conflicts as well. In most reports two groups of Uzbek fighters are mentioned: “good Uzbeks” and “bad Uzbeks.” The “good Uzbeks” seem to be those who wholeheartedly support the Taliban and their campaign in Afghanistan, namely the IJU and possibly other factions. Tahir Yoldashev and his IMU are rather characterized as the “bad Uzbeks”[26] The most important criticism leveled against them seems to have been that the IMU preferred fighting against apostate Muslim regimes rather than Western unbelievers. They were ready to fight the Pakistani state (and, of course, the Karimov regime in Uzbekistan), but didn’t join the Taliban in their fight against the United States and their allies in Afghanistan.[27] This explains why the Taliban supported the IMU’s local adversaries in spring 2007. However, this analysis should not be misconstrued to overemphasize the ideological and strategical differences either between the Uzbek organizations or between the IMU and the Taliban. The conflict between local tribal entities was more important than the ideological fault line.

Nevertheless, the events clearly showed the IMU’s lack of enthusiasm for the campaign in Afghanistan—the main difference with the IJU. Its anti-Pakistani stance—surprising if one bears in mind its focus on Uzbekistan and Central Asia—might be explained with the pragmatic exigencies of pleasing its Pakistani host. Their most important ally in Waziristan is Baitullah Mehsud, an increasingly prominent figure among Pakistani supporters of the Taliban who in December 2007 was named leader of the Pakistani Taliban movement (Tehrik-i Taliban Pakistan). Since 2006/2007, Mehsud has stepped up his campaign against the Pakistani state and has been held responsible for attacks outside the Pashtun tribal areas in central Pakistan. For instance, the Pakistani and U.S. governments have sought him as the mastermind behind the assassination of Benazir Bhutto in December 2007. If the IMU wants to retain Mehsud’s support, they have to join his fight against the Pakistani government. Furthermore, the Pakistani army has launched several attacks on the IMU’s bases in Waziristan in recent years, the first major one in spring 2004. This has made Mehsud a natural ally, especially after the Pakistani army increased pressure on him in January 2007. Uzbeks seem to have taken part in fights between Pakistani forces and Mehsud tribal units.[28] Tahir Yoldashev confirmed his support for Mehsud’s anti-Pakistani stance in a video message in January 2008, calling for an intensification of the “Holy War” against the Pakistani security forces, the conquest of Islamabad and the introduction of the “sharia” in Pakistan.[29]

Nevertheless, the effect of ideological differences seems to be limited. Both the IMU and the IJU are first and foremost Uzbek organizations, who share some important goals but differ on emphasis. Perhaps they cooperate intensively on a more informal and personal level than any clear-cut differentiation between the two organizations might suggest.

An Uzbek-Turkish al-Qaeda?

The future of the IJU is uncertain. In spite of several setbacks in 2007, the IMU remains by far the larger Uzbek organization. It remains to be seen whether the IJU’s close alliance with the Taliban and al-Qaeda will provide it with the necessary number of recruits and adequate finances to build a larger organization. Its most important achievement to date has been the successful recruitment of Turks and Europeans of Turkish origin. For some time already, Turkish Jihadists have sympathized strongly with the cause of the Chechens and Central Asians, as is obvious from numerous Turkish-language Jihadist websites. Al-Qaeda, on the other hand, continues to be an organization dominated by Arabs, which to date has failed to recruit Turks in large numbers. It therefore regards a partnership with the IJU as an opportunity to rectify this deficit.

Whether the IJU can continue to play a role strongly depends on future developments in the Pakistani tribal areas. Frequent attacks by U.S. drones on the IJU, al-Qaeda, and the Haqqani network show that the United States understands the nature of the threat emanating from Waziristan. The IJU is an extremely small organization, which could, after some major setbacks like the loss of Libi and several presumably important members in January, rapidly disappear from the scene again. Its biggest advantage is that it enjoys the support of the Taliban and al-Qaeda, and it currently seems to be in a position to continue operating and training in North Waziristan.

Whether the IJU can establish a new terrorist network dominated by Uzbeks and Turks and maintain it in the longer term remains to be seen. But the events of 2007 have given a clear warning. An Uzbek organization that operates transnationally and adopts an internationalist strategy like the IJU is ideally suited for recruiting Turks—either from Turkey itself or from the European diaspora—for al-Qaeda’s global Jihad. Al-Qaeda has proved able to recruit a larger number of Turks, it is becoming an increasingly multinational organization and therefore, the terrorist threat not only in Turkey and Germany, home to a diaspora of more than two million Turkish inhabitants, is likely to stay on a high level or even escalate further.

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1. For example, in an interview with “ARD Monitor.”

2. Die Tageszeitung, October 4, 2007.

3. The interview was posted in Turkish: “İslami Cihad İ ttehadi Emiri Ebu Yahya Muhammed Fatih ile Röportaj.” An English translation is available at: http://sehadetvakti.com/haber_detay.php?haber_id=1203.

4. İslami Cihad İttehadi Basın Açıklaması, September 11, 2007.

5. In fact, even the Turkish translation for Islamic Jihad Union used by the group, “İslami Cihad İttehadi,” is old-fashioned at best. The modern Turkish name is “İslami Cihad Birli i” and if one uses Ottoman vocabulary, the correct spelling would be “İttihadi.”

6. İslami Cihad İttehadi Operasyonları: Mürtedlerin sonu.

7. İslami Cihad İttehadi: Şehadet Yolcuları.

8. İslami Cihad İttehadi Basın Açıklaması.

9. Ahmed Rashid, Jihad: The Rise of Militant Islam in Central Asia (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2002), 174.

10. Rashid, Jihad, 176 and 180f.

11. See, for instance, his audio message on the occasion of the fifth anniversary of 9/11. “Islamist leader threatens Central Asian presidents,” BBC Monitoring Former Soviet Union, September 17, 2006.

12. One example for reliance on Uzbek sources is: Jim Nichol, “Central Asia: Regional Developments and Implications for U.S. Interests,” CRS Report for Congress, Updated November 21, 2007, 11.

13. Dawn (Internet Edition), November 4, 2006, quoted after “Pakistani Al-Qa’idah link to failed Islamabad rocket attacks,” BBC Monitoring South Asia vom 4. November 2006.

14. It seems to have been first posted on the prominent “Islamic Minbar” website in Switzerland, which has been closed in the meantime. .

15. Daniel Kimmage, “Kazakh Breakthrough on Uzbek Terror Case,” RFE/RL, November 15, 2004; “Suspect in Uzbek terror trial says group leader was follower of Taliban fugitive Mullah Omar,” The Americas Intelligence Wire, July 27, 2004.

16. Dawn (Internet Edition), November 4, 2006, quoted after “Pakistani Al-Qa’idah link to failed Islamabad rocket attacks,” BBC Monitoring South Asia, November 4, 2006. The Pakistanis were said to have belonged to Pakistani militant organizations.

17. Der Spiegel 37 (2007), 20ff.

18. It has not been established whether Ebu Yahya and Jalolov are identical. “Fatih” is the Turkish and Arabic word for “conqueror” and the famous sobriquet for the Ottoman Sultan Mehmet (= Muhammad) Fatih (1432-1481), the conqueror of Constantinople. “Muhammad Fatih” was obviously chosen to evoke this association and attract young Turks.

19. Imtiaz Ali, “The Haqqani Network and Cross-Border Terrorism in Afghanistan,” Terrorism Monitor, March 24, 2008.

20. For more details on al-Qaeda’s resurgence, cp. Steinberg, Guido, The Return of al-Qaeda. Current Developments in International Terrorism and Their Consequences for Europe (Berlin: Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik (SWP – Comments, No. 22, December 2007).

21. İslami Cihad İttehadi Basın Açıklaması.

22. Lal Mescidinin İ ntikamı Alınacaktır.

23. Zahid Hussain, Frontline Pakistan. The Struggle with militant Islam (New York: Columbia University Press, 2007), 144.

24. Bill Roggio, “The Taliban’s internecine war in Waziristan,” in The Long War Journal, April 6, 2007; “‘Jihad’ declared against Uzbeks,” Dawn (Karachi), April 3, 2007; John C.K. Daly, Uzbek Fighters in Pakistan Reportedly Return to Afghanistan, Jamestown Terrorism Focus 4, No. 7 (March 27, 2007): S. 4f.

Wall St. Journal Magically Transforms Kurds Into “al Qaida”

Turkey Arrests 37 in al Qaeda Crackdown

ISTANBUL — Turkish anti-terror police arrested 37 people Tuesday in the latest crackdown on extremist militants suspected of planning attacks on Turkish soil.

In coordinated raids just after dawn, security forces detained 20 people at suspected al Qaeda cell houses in central and southern Turkey, Turkey’s official news agency Anatolia reported.

Fourteen of the suspects were arrested in Gaziantep, a city close to Turkey’s Syrian border that police believe to be a logistical hub for militants traveling to and from Iraq.

According to the Turkish media, one of the men arrested had commanded the local al Qaeda cell since January, when the former leader died in a shootout with police that also killed another militant and a policeman.

In a related operation in Kahramanmaras, a region bordering Gaziantep, police arrested 17 alleged members of an unnamed group with suspected links to al Qaeda and continued to look for three others, Anatolia reported.

The Gaziantep police declined to comment on operations, which come two weeks after police in a western Turkish city arrested seven other al Qaeda suspects.

A secular Muslim country and NATO member with 800 soldiers in Afghanistan, Turkey has cracked down hard on al Qaeda-linked groups since November 2003, when 63 people died in four truck bomb attacks in Istanbul that targeted two synagogues, the British consulate and a British bank. Seven men were jailed for life in 2007 for the bombings, including a Syrian national who masterminded the attacks.

Police have accelerated operations since July 2008, when three policemen and three assailants died in a gunbattle outside Istanbul’s U.S. consulate. Last December, a Turkish court jailed 22 al Qaeda members believed to have been planning an attack on Western consulates. In January, one suspected militant died and another was injured after undercover police intervened to prevent them from robbing an Istanbul post office.

The second of its kind in a month, the robbery appears to represent a change of strategy on the part of Turkish al Qaeda operatives, who are not known to have attempted such high-profile heists before.

Peace in Kurdistan Campaign statement
19 April 2009

Turkey’s new wave of repression must be resisted

News of a wave of arrests of Democratic Society Party (DTP) members
across the Turkey is deeply dismaying and can only bode ill for the
future of the country.

On 17 April it was reported that Turkish police had carried out raids in
places from Izmir in the west to Batman in the south-east and the
capital Ankara. Some 43 people were reportedly arrested for alleged
links with the PKK.

This was the second wave of arrests in the space of a week. Earlier more
than 70 people were arrested, including senior members of the DTP. The
names published by the DTP lists a total of 90 arrested DTP members
(available from PIK). Firat news agency reported that 245 people had
been arrested over a four-day period.
Such actions are an affront to democracy and can only be viewed as a
cynical attempt to crush the hopes of all the Kurds who only a few days
earlier had courageously braved the harassment and intimidation from
police and military to cast their votes in overwhelming numbers for the

The strong support for the party had confounded all the pollsters and
pundits who had been predicted that the ruling AKP would sweep the board
in the main Kurdish cities.
During the local elections held on 29 March, the party almost doubled
its number of municipalities (from 56 to 98). In ten provinces of the
East and South-East, the DTP obtained the highest popular support,
clearly demonstrating that it is now a formidable political force.

The DTP sees the arrests as an attempt by the AKP government to weaken
it following its impressive gains which had shaken the AKP and
humiliated Prime Minister Erdogan who had wanted to “take

The response of the Turkish state amounts to a repudiation of the
democratic process and a crude attempt to silence the voices of the
Kurdish people who had spoken so resoundingly. It seems that of the
Kurds go for the peaceful electoral option they are rejected and
repressed. This is a backward step and represents a grave miscalculation
by the shaken authorities in Ankara.

It is the duty of all those who truly want to see peace and stability
prevail in the country to support the responsible calls for a just
democratic solution to the Kurdish question. The DTP has a key role to
play and cannot be allowed to be simply repressed. The hopes of the
Kurds cannot be crushed so easily.

We support the call by The European United Left/Nordic Green Left Group
in the European Parliament for the immediate release of all those who
have been arrested.

For information contact: Peace in Kurdistan Campaign
Estella24@tiscali. co.uk tel 020 7586 5892