Academic journal article South Asian Studies

The Characteristic Traits of Terrorism and Interpretation of Jihad by Al-Qaeda and the Taliban in the Pak-Afghan Society

Academic journal article South Asian Studies

The Characteristic Traits of Terrorism and Interpretation of Jihad by Al-Qaeda and the Taliban in the Pak-Afghan Society

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

Counterinsurgency description is attaining impetus, as Pakhtun territory in Afghanistan and Pakistan remains engulfed in conflict. The War on Terror announced in the US just after 9/11 is fought in the region with full force and might. However, the use of excessive military force has yet not mustered positive results. Operation Geronimo (killing of Osama Bin Ladin) could not gain any sympathies for the allies; rather Pakhtuns are angry over the violation of their territorial integrity. Focusing upon them (Al Qaeda and the Taliban), it will become clear how the two perceive terrorism and Jihad with their varying attitudes towards one another vis-a-vis Pakhtun society. Terrorism does not have static characteristics; tactics employed and targets adopted have evolved over time. The Taliban and Al Qaeda's interpretation of jihad, and the conviction and tactics of their undertakings command similar influence over the Pakhtun society in particular and the international community in general.

KEY WORDS: Terrorism, Jihad, Al-Qaeda, Taliban, Pakistan, Afghanistan

Introduction

"Western thought, heavily influenced by the medieval Christian crusades has always portrayed jihad as an Islamic war against unbelievers. But essentially jihad is the inner struggle of a Muslim to become a better human being, improve himself and help his community" (Rashid, 2001:87). However it is also a "mistake to see jihad as merely a tactic aimed at achieving a specific worldly goal...fundamentally, acts of jihad are conceived of as demonstrations of faith performed for God by an individual" (Burke, 2004:33). Both the Al Qaeda and the Taliban for that matter believe themselves to be acting in the best Islamic interests, and by the dictates of God. As it is said, "one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter"(Wilkinson, 2006: 193). However, I further contend, as the Quran prescribes, "Fight in the way of Allah against those who fight against you, but begin not hostilities. Lo! Allah loveth not aggressors" (Qur'an 2:190), we understand that any terrorist actions without provocation are unwarranted.

There is a complex and interwoven relationship between the Pakistani Taliban, the Afghani Taliban and Al Qaeda. I will begin by discussing acts of terrorism in Afghanistan by the Taliban and the role Al Qaeda have played before turning to the situation in Pakistan to compare their differing agendas, long term goals and the interaction between the two states. Focusing on the Pakistani and Afghani Taliban it will become clear how the two have developed varying agendas and have differing attitudes towards one another in the Pakhtun belt. Terrorism does not have static characteristics; tactics employed and targets adopted have evolved over time.

Thus in this essay I attempt to establish the Taliban and the Al Qaeda's interpretation of jihad, and the conviction and tactics of their undertakings, and whether these two movements command similar influence over the international community.

Despite widespread use, the term 'terrorism' is still heavily disputable, as reported acts of terror spread across the globe the sphere of interpretation has widened; Pillar (2003) describes it as being 'sometimes applied to just about any disliked action associated with someone else's policy agenda'. Narrowing this down, terrorism is usually exercised as a coercive mechanism and part of a strategy where actions create a threat of worse to come if political demands are not met (Booth and Dunne 2002). The United States army manual provides a rather broad definition; 'the calculated use of violence or threat of violence to attain goals that are political, religious, or ideological in nature, through intimidation, coercion or instilling fear' (TRADOC pamphlet in Booth and Dunne 2002). As expected this is fairly encompassing of almost any act of violence with apparent pre-meditations. A further definition from the U.S. Government in Pillar (2003) provides terrorism with four main characteristics which act as a useful base from which to proceed, terrorism being 'premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against non-combatant targets sub national groups or clandestine agents, usually intended to influence an audience'. …

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