The myth of Talqaeda

Alex Strick van Linschoten writes:

The purported merger of the Taliban and al-Qaeda is the WMD of the Afghan war. This myth is almost as old as the two groups themselves. There’s so much writing on Afghanistan that it’s always going to be easy to find wild theories and dodgy “scholarship”, but this supposed morphing between militant Islamist groups along the Afghan-Pakistani border has grown into more than just the theories of a few crackpots; in some ways, it’s part of national security discourse and debate.

My colleague, Felix Kuehn, and I have tackled the topic from the perspective of the Afghan Taliban, drawing in as much actual evidence as we could. For the easy question to ask after reading one or another of the proponents of “TalQaeda” – as we propose the purported behemoth be called – is “what’s the evidence for that?”

Two pieces were published in the last month which reminded me how enduring the myth is, so I thought it’d be useful just to examine them openly, in the harsh light of day, since they are pretty representative. I’d like to hope that 2011 will be the year this hoary old chestnut comes to rest, but I think we’ll be fighting this one for a good while yet.

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