Tawhid Joins al-Qaeda
On the internet site of Monotheism and Holy War (al-Tawhid wa al-Jihad), the group allegedly declared, “We announce that the Tawhid and Jihad Group, its prince and soldiers, have pledged allegiance to the sheikh of the mujahideen Osama bin Laden.” This pledge is a new development. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and his group are said to have been bitter rivals of al-Qaeda during the Afghan resistance days. One witness at the Moutasaddiq trial in Germany alleged that Zarqawi had not allowed Monotheism and Holy War to share resources with al-Qaeda in the early zeroes of the 21st century. If the statement is true, it is a worrying sign that even the divided small radical guerrilla groups are being “picked up” by al-Qaeda. This consolidation is obviously a result of Bush’s aggressive invasion of Iraq and of the botching of the aftermath. It is a setback for the war on terror.
Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan was a group of only a few hundred “Afghan Arabs” who pledged personal loyalty to Usamah Bin Laden. It could notionally be expanded to encompass the 5,000-strong “55th Brigade” of the Taliban regime, though this is not the technical definition. Because Usamah is Saudi, my guess is that they were especially influenced by an extremist form of the Wahhabi school of Islam that predominates among Saudia’s some 15 million citizens. In 1998 they were joined by Egyptians from the al-Jihad al-Islami group of Ayman al-Zawahiri (many of these were from Upper Egypt, especially Asyut and environs). After that point, al-Qaeda was a joint enterprise between the Egyptian extremists and the polyglot Arabs around Bin Laden, only some of whom were Saudi.
Zarqawi is a Jordanian, and his Monotheism and Holy War group in Afghanistan probably had a distinctive coloration as mainly Jordanian, Palestinian and Syrian. They also had a special connection to some extremists in Jordan and Germany. They are probably especially oriented toward the Salafi school of modern Islamic thought, which has a Protestant-like emphasis on going back to the original practice of the early companions of the Prophet Muhammad. (Most Salafis are not militant or violent, though they tend to be rather narrow-minded in my experience, on the order of Protestant Pietists). Monotheism and Holy War obviously does have a violent interpretation of Salafism, rather as the the leaders of the so-called German Peasant Rebellion among early Protestants did.
Another worrisome sign is that local Iraqi Sunni fundamentalists opposed to the US presence in Iraq have begun joining Monotheism and Holy War, and wearing its distinctive orange and black insignia. These have been sighted among Iraqi crowds on Haifa Street in Baghdad and in Samarra. So now there are hundreds of al-Qaeda members in Iraq where there had been none before.
The consolidation of smaller local radical fundamentalist groups with al-Qaeda can also be seen in the case of the Fizazi group in Tangiers that morphed into the Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group, had members who met with September 11 ringleader Muhammad Atta, and ultimately was in part responsible for the Madrid train bombings.