In a sign that there could be dangerous times ahead for Afghanistan and the entire surrounding region, al-Qaeda chief Ayman al Zawahiri pledged allegiance to the newly-appointed Taliban “emir,” Mullah Akhtar Mohammed Mansour, in an audio tape released Thursday by the jihadist group.
As the Long War Journal’s Thomas Joscelyn points out, the speech is dated August 1, meaning that the al-Qaeda leader recorded his message just two days after the Taliban announced Mansour as their new leader.
Zawahiri said, according to a translation provided by SITE:
I, as the Emir of [al Qaeda], present to you our pledge of allegiance, renewing the method of Sheikh Osama [bin Laden] and his brothers the pure martyrs, in their pledge to the Emir of the Believers Mullah Muhammad Omar Mujahid, may Allah have mercy on them Allah, in pledging allegiance to you on the Book of Allah and the Sunnah of His Messenger, Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him, and on the traditions of the rightly-guided caliphs, may Allah approve of them.
Taking shots at rival jihadist group the Islamic State, Zawahiri added that he pledged to Mansour “to establish the Islamic state that rises on the selection of the Muslims and their approval, and spreads justice and consultation, and achieves security, removes injustices, restores rights, and raises the banner of jihad.”
The al-Qaeda leader said that the coming days will bring Sharia law “until it rules the lands of the Muslims” and liberates “every inch of the stolen, occupied lands of the Muslims from Kashghar [part of China] to al Andalus [part of Spain], from the Caucasus to Somalia and Central Africa, from kashmir to Jerusalem, from the Philippines to Kabul, and from Bukhara to Samarkand [part of Uzbekistan].”
By pledging to Mansour, Zawahiri is following in the footsteps of his predecessor, Osama Bin Laden, Joscelyn notes. Bin Laden released a similar message when he once pledged his group’s allegiance to Mullah Omar, who led the Taliban before passing away two years ago.
The newly-sealed firm alliance between the Afghan Taliban and al-Qaeda’s core could have massive implications for the Afghan government and coalition forces still in the region, who are struggling to combat a recent surge in jihadi attacks which have resulted in record casualties.