Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri has pledged allegiance to the new Afghan Taliban chief in an audio message posted online.
The pledge to Mullah Akhtar Mansour was issued by al-Qaeda’s media arm al-Sahab and was Zawahiri’s first message since September last year.
The chances that Zawahiri was no longer among the living were pretty slim to begin with, but this likely puts that question to rest. Sure, nobody really knows how long Mansur has been running the Taliban at this point, so Zawahiri could have recorded this message a while ago. But I doubt it. Zawahiri probably had to record this message only after Mullah Omar’s death became public, lest a bunch of Al-Qaeda types suddenly find themselves free of their organizational allegiance to the Taliban and in a position to, oh, pledge allegiance to somebody else.
It’s interesting that Zawahiri is keeping Al-Qaeda tied to the Taliban, particular to a Taliban leader who reportedly favors negotiations with Kabul and who isn’t universally accepted even within his own organization. Then again, where else was Zawahiri going to go? There’s not exactly an abundance of receptive, qualified “Commander of the Faithful” candidates out there, and Zawahiri lacks either the personal charisma or the successful track record to put himself at the center of the jihadi movement.
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