Tag Archives: Soviet occupation of Afghanistan

What Questions Remain About 9/11?

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 5 September 2018

In less than a week, it will be the seventeenth anniversary of al-Qaeda’s “Plane’s Operation”, the assault on the United States. It is a vertiginous enough reflection that many of us have been alive more years since 11 September 2001 than before it, and positively alarming that many of those who will soon move into the government, media, and other leading societal institutions will have been born after an event that still shapes so much of the international scene. As Anthony Summers and Robbyn Swan put it in The Eleventh Day: The Ultimate Account of 9/11 (2011), we are left with “the brief name ‘9/11’,” the context and meaning stripped away all this time later. The book is a useful overview of an event that should always be to some degree fresh in mind, though it is not without its problems in its analytical sections. Continue reading

When Iran Saved Al-Qaeda

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 24 January 2018

The new book by the investigative journalists Adrian Levy and Catherine Scott-Clark, The Exile: The Flight of Osama bin Laden, charts the career of al-Qaeda’s founder, Osama bin Laden, up to the day he became a household name—11 September 2001—through his downfall in 2011, to the end of 2016, when al-Qaeda was more powerful than ever. It is a thoroughly absorbing account, bringing to light vast tranches of new facts, including many intricate details of how al-Qaeda operated on a human, day-to-day level, and of those states and para-states that shielded the terror network, collaborated with it, and enabled it—and still do.

The gathering of the Bin Laden network in Sudan and then in the Taliban-held areas of Afghanistan in the 1990s is a familiar story, but the splits and debates among the Arab jihadists around Bin Laden, including the opposition of significant numbers of them to the 9/11 massacre, is perhaps less well known. The authors trace out how Bin Laden manipulated his own quasi-institutions to get his way. First, Bin Laden took on the plan of a man, Khalid Shaykh Muhammad (KSM), who was not even a member of al-Qaeda, and then, ahead of the crucial vote, packed the shura (consultation) council with ultra-zealous Egyptians by engineering a merger between al-Qaeda and Islamic Jihad, led by Ayman al-Zawahiri. Continue reading

There Have Been Real Achievements In Afghanistan, But Leaving Puts Them At Risk

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on November 22, 2014

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Since President Obama’s 2009 announcement of a ‘surge’ in Afghanistan that simultaneously announced the date of withdrawal, the western focus in Afghanistan has shifted to the exits.

The steady drizzle of bad news since then has reinforced this sense that it’s over, we’ve had enough and we’re leaving.

American and British troops quit Helmand in late October, basically ceding it to Taliban control. On Tuesday John Sopko, the head of the American auditor mechanism (SIGAR) said that efforts to promote economic growth in Afghanistan have ‘accomplished nothing.’ Continue reading

Film Review: This Is What Winning Looks Like (2013) by Ben Anderson

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on May 22, 2014

Journalist Ben Anderson

Ben Anderson did his filming between 2007 and the present in Afghanistan. He presents a picture of a country in free-fall, of a West in denial, and of a war that the Allies have given up on. Continue reading