I asked a senior Arab security officer about the most dangerous group in his view, ISIS or al-Qaeda, and he replied without hesitating, “al-Qaeda without a doubt.”
The reason why is because of al-Qaeda's deeper association with the big project, i.e. the Muslim Brotherhood (MB). Osama bin Laden himself was a product of the MB, as explained by the American writer Lawrence Wright in his renowned book "The Looming Tower: Al Qaeda and the Road to 9/11." Most of al-Qaeda's top leaders are primarily MB products, as proven by bin Laden and his deputy al-Zawahiri's welcome of the MB's hijacking of the 2011 Arab Spring.
In one reading, al-Qaeda is the MB's military arm, regardless of their mutual criticism, but one of the most important commonalities between al-Qaeda and the MB is the unity of shared concepts on the form of Islam, Muslims, and the world. Moreover, al-Qaeda's relationship with Shiite-Khomeini political Islam groups is mutually beneficial and based on joint action, and that's exactly the nature of the relationship between MB groups and the Iranian Khomeini regime, and its affiliated groups in Lebanon, Iraq, and Yemen.
ISIS, despite its barbaric brutality, does not have all these advantages of relations and alliances, and it has hijacked the MB's long-term project: The Caliphate. We remember how Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the famous MB scholar and jurist, rebuked ISIS after claiming the caliphate without referring to the people of authority, by which he meant, of course, the MB.
In Afghanistan today, the Taliban, in its current version, is not different from the MB's groups in terms of its activity, rhetoric, and spirit, having developed over the past years, albeit badly developed naturally. And there is no difference between it and the Palestinian Hamas and even Lebanon's Hezbollah, in their political savviness and quality of alliances.
Today, the United States wants to portray the problem in Afghanistan as ISIS-Khorasan, to the extent that General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, when asked recently whether the United States would cooperate with the Taliban against ISIS in Khorasan, General Milley said it was a possibility!
Meanwhile, there is no talk of al-Qaeda who is an ally of the Taliban today. Al-Qaeda was the first to congratulate the "Students" as Osama bin Laden described them, over their arrival in power. What is worse is that history repeats itself today, as al-Qaeda fights with Taliban in the Panjshir Valley, against Ahmad Massoud junior's group, and his allies, according to an explicit statement of the Taliban resistance movement.
Yesterday, al-Qaeda assassinated Ahmad Shah Massoud, a key opponent of the Taliban and al-Qaeda, during the infamous September of 2001.
Iran has also provided shelter and training services to the Taliban, in the past and now, it has done the same with al-Qaeda leaders, and it continues to do so, which is well-known and does not require further elaboration.
There is nothing new, however, Kandahar and Helmand's mullahs and their followers have become better trained and politically and militarily qualified. Here's hoping for the safety of Afghanistan and of all.
This article was originally published and translated from the pan-Arab daily Al-Sharq al-Awsat.