Long War Journal, by Bill Roggio and Thomas Joscelyn, August 14, 2015:
The Taliban’s new leader, Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour, has accepted the oath of allegiance (bayat) from al Qaeda emir Ayman Zawahiri, as well as the pledges to him from “Jihadi organizations spread throughout the globe.” Mansour’s statement was released just one day after al Qaeda released an audio message from Zawahiri in which he gave bayat to Mansour.
Mansour’s statement accepting Zawahiri’s pledge was released today on Voice of Jihad, the Taliban’s official website. In the statement, the Taliban emir thanked “all those respected brothers who have sympathized with us in this critical juncture of the Islamic Ummah, have sent messages of condolence about the passing away of Amir ul Mumineen [Mullah Omar] or have pledged allegiance with us as the new Amir (leader) of the Islamic Emirate and servant of the Muslims.”
Mansour places Zawahiri’s oath of fealty above all others.
“Among these respected brothers, I first and foremost accept the pledge of allegiance of the esteemed Dr. Ayman ad-Dhawahiri [al Zawahiri], the leader of international Jihadi organization (Qaedatul Jihad) and thank him for sending a message of condolence along with his pledge and pledge of all Mujahideen under him,” Mansour said.
“Similarly those Mujahideen protecting the Jihadi frontlines, Madaris (religious seminaries), teachers of universities and centers for learning, national figures and all Islamic and Jihadi personalities as well as Jihadi organizations spread throughout the globe who have sent messages of condolence or pledge allegiance with us as leader of Jihad, I reciprocally thank them and implore Allah Almighty to grant me and all our brothers success to properly serve Islam and Muslims,” he continued.
Mansour’s acceptance of Zawahiri’s oath should come as no surprise. The new Taliban emir issued a pro-al Qaeda statement in June, before Mullah Omar’s death was announced. In the statement, he described al Qaeda’s leaders as the “heroes of the current jihadist era” and bin Laden as the “leader of mujahideen.” Mansour’s statement contained parallels to al Qaeda’s messaging and he took al Qaeda’s side in its dispute with the rival Islamic State.
Mansour’s leadership team also indicates his close ties to al Qaeda. As The Long War Journal reported on July 31, Mansour appointed Siraj Haqqani, the operational leader of the al Qaeda-linked Haqqani Network, as one of his top two deputies. Files recovered in Osama bin Laden’s compound and other evidence show that Siraj has worked closely with al Qaeda for years. [See LWJ report, The Taliban’s new leadership is allied with al Qaeda.]
The public acceptance of Zawahiri’s pledge demonstrates that Mansour has no intention of breaking with al Qaeda.
Indeed, the statement from the new Taliban emir is a dramatic gesture. Since last year, al Qaeda has repeatedly broadcast its enduring allegiance to Mansour’s predecessor, Mullah Omar. In July 2014, al Qaeda released a video from mid-2001 of Osama bin Laden explaining his loyalty to Omar. But the Taliban’s public-facing propaganda has been far less explicit about the relationship. For instance, after al Qaeda reaffirmed its allegiance to Omar on July 20, 2014, the Taliban did not publish a statement attributed to Omar acknowledging the pledge.
Therefore, while the Taliban and al Qaeda have long been closely allied, Mansour’s official statement is a bold proclamation of the relationship between the groups.