What has been Taliban and Al Qaeda upto all these years?

Is Al Qaeda and Taliban dead? Are they different and separate? And how is the Jehadi world shaping up? Here is a good article from Asia Times:

In that role, he has been superseded by Taliban leader Mullah Omar, according to investigations and interviews conducted by Asia Times Online in both Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Indeed, in the four years since the attacks on the United States of September 11, 2001, al-Qaeda, after years of financial blockades and arrests, has emerged more as a loose (and ideologically divergent) grouping of mujahideen waging open jihad – especially in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“It would be absolutely wrong to say that al-Qaeda has evaporated into the air,” a man from the Pakistani tribal areas of Waziristan told Asia Times Online. “The organization is very much active on the ground, but the sharp edges of circumstance have modified it into a new shape and it is now part of mainstream jihadi activity. The ultimate goal of the [jihadi] organization is to launch jihad from Khorasan [Afghanistan] to Jerusalem.”

Calling himself Nasir (“supporter”), the man claimed to have intimate knowledge of Taliban and al-Qaeda activities in the region, where the Taliban have gained a strong foothold for their insurgency in Afghanistan and where al-Qaeda operatives are known to have taken shelter since being driven out of Afghanistan in 2001.

“It is true that Osama’s activity has not been heard of for a long time, but Dr [Ayman] al-Zawahiri [al-Qaeda deputy leader] is active and moves all over and is now the main engine behind a lot of activity, even outside Afghanistan,” Nasir asserted.

Another man, whom Asia Times Online had met in the northern mountains between Afghanistan and Pakistan, and who just called himself a mujahid, said, “The al-Qaeda command structure, as it was known at the time of September 11, which carried out specific missions to target US interests, has largely been abandoned, but it has quickly been replaced.

“Nowadays, Arabs go straight into Afghanistan and join various Taliban commanders. At the same time, the Pakistani Taliban have formed bases in North and South Waziristan. All of them pledge their allegiance to Mullah Omar,” the mujahid said.

“All global operations have been shunned for now. Sheikh [bin Laden] is inactive. Actually, Sheikh does not have any money left,” a colleague of the mujahid said. Introducing himself as Abdullah (“Servant of Allah”), he was from the Afghan province of Nuristan and said he was part of the Taliban-led resistance. He also described himself as a “host”, a term generally used for those who provide shelter to Arab-Afghans – those Arabs who have joined the insurgency and spent time in Afghanistan.

“He [bin Laden] kept changing his location; he spent a lot of money on his people and associates, and of course for his survival. The channels of money kept choking one by one and finally dried up,” said Abdullah with a forlorn look on his face.

“This was a strange situation in which everybody [Arab-Afghan] was striving for survival, and once Osama’s shelter [money] was off, they were scattered,” Abdullah explained.

The most significant result of this was a sharp turn by al-Qaeda toward mainstream jihadist activity, mainly against allied forces in Afghanistan and Iraq. The switch, though, carries with it inherent dangers, both for al-Qaeda and for some Muslim countries.

and the tension within the Al Qaeda Organism:

The first two forces are moving further away from the core of al-Qaeda, largely over the issue of takfiri (a belief that sects that are not Wahhabi-based are infidel and apostate).

Bin Laden has opposed this concept, arguing that al-Qaeda should not attack other Muslims, but takfiris see anyone beyond their beliefs as fair game, hence Zawahiri’s advice to Zarqawi’s men that they stop attacking Shi’ites in Iraq and concentrate on driving out the US-led forces, the “true” infidel.

In Pakistan and Afghanistan, powerful figures such as Qari Tahir Yaldevish of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and Sheikh Essa (an Egyptian) are very well respected among the al-Qaeda leadership, but they have been at the head of a successful drive to expand the influence of takfiris in Waziristan.

They have found comrades in the likes of Moulvi Sadiq Noor and Abdul Khaliq, who are committed to waging pitched battle against Pakistani military forces in what they call a “real” jihad as the troops represent the Pakistani administration, which they say has become a facilitator of the Americans.

From the wounded body of al-Qaeda, underground networks have largely been abandoned and replaced by open jihad. This jihad, though, has a deadly twist, especially for Pakistan: although Muslim, it’s now a fair target.

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