During my Middle East BA studies I came across the book “join the Caravan” by Sheikh Abdullah Yusuf Azam, Book call the Islamic youth to go to war in Afghanistan and fight against the Soviet regime. The book reminded me that Jabhat al-Nusra split from Al-Qaeda happened in the past, the figures were much closer than Abu Mohammad al-Julani and Ayman al-Zawahiri. A similar process happened in Afghanistan between Sheikh Abdullah Yusuf Azam and Osama bin Laden.
Sheikh Abdullah Yusuf Azam
Abdullah Yusuf Azam a.k.a. “Father of Global Jihad” was a Palestinian Sunni Islamic scholar and theologian and founding member of al-Qaeda. He raised funds, recruited and organized the international Islamic volunteer effort of Afghan Arabs through the 1980s, and emphasized the political aspects of Islam.
Relationship with bin Laden
Azzam was a teacher and mentor of Osama bin Laden and persuaded bin Laden to come to Afghanistan and help the jihad. After Osama bin Laden graduated from the University of Jeddah in Saudi Arabia in 1981; Azzam convinced bin Laden to come to Afghanistan and help personally finance the training of recruits. In 1981 bin Laden arrived in the city of Peshawar, Pakistan, and settled there permanently in 1986. He helped the Afghan forces fighting against the Soviet Union and its adherents mainly by raising funds for the rehabilitation of refugees, and the construction of roads and shelters rebels. It is known that in 1987 he participated in the “Jeji” Battle.
Abdullah Yusuf Azam wanted liberate Palestine and establishment of Caliphate there, on the other hand bin Laden strive to establish the Caliphate in Saudi-Arabia.
The Battle of “Jaji” occurred in April 1987, during the first stage of withdrawal of Soviet forces from their war in Afghanistan. Remaining Soviet troops supported the Soviet-backed government’s operations in Paktia Province against the Mujahedeen, hoping to relieve a besieged garrison at Ali Sher, and cut off supply lines to the Mujahideen from Pakistan. In the end, the Mujahideen successfully held their complex system of tunnels and caves named “al-Masada” just outside the village of Jaji, near the Pakistani border, from Soviet capture. As a result of the battle bin Laden was treated as a victorious military leader and attracted a number of followers to his cause. From that moment bin Laden criticizes the actions of the Sheikh frequent and more aggressive until the cooperation between them ceased completely.
*It is important to note that I don’t believe bin Laden was involved in the assassination of Abdullah Azam.
After the Soviet retreat bin Laden returned to Saudi Arabia and fought against the Saudi monarchy and against American involvement in Saudi Arabia. After the Gulf War, bin Laden was expelled from Saudi Arabia and fled to Sudan.
A restriction to our time
Abu Mohammad al-Julani is the emir of the Syrian militant group Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, announced on 28 July 2016, that Jabhat al-Nusra has split from al-Qaeda.
It is important to remember that in 1996 when bin Laden returned to Afghanistan from Sudan there still continued struggles for power in country. Then fighting was concentrated against the Taliban, which was established to promote the interests of Pakistan in Afghanistan, And when Jalalabad fell in the hands of the Taliban Bin Laden decided to join the organization.
Interesting to see if again al-Julani will take an example from Bin Laden, if so we may see a merger between Jabhat Fateh al-Sham and another dominant militant group in Syria.