New details have emerged about the tense relationship between Osama bin Laden, the leader of Al Qaeda, and Mullah Omar, the head of the Taliban, in the days before 9/11. In Afghanistan, the US aims to exploit that divide.
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
In a bid to weaken the two forces that led US troops to invade Afghanistan eight years ago and expand their presence today, Washington and its Afghan allies have been seeking to exploit the fissures between the Taliban and Al Qaeda.
With the Afghan surge ordered by President Obama under way, those sorts of efforts are likely to be redoubled in the coming months. New data points, such as a recent translation of a memoir by a former ally of both Osama bin Laden and Taliban leader Mullah Omar, could indicate differences to exploit.
That there are ideological and personality differences between Al Qaeda and the Taliban has long been understood. The Taliban is an indigenous movement
composed mostly of ethnic Pashtuns who are generally focused on power in their home base in Afghanistan and across the border in Pakistan.
Al Qaeda's leadership, by contrast, is almost entirely Arab, and its members believe they are fighting a global struggle for the supremacy and security of Islam. Afghanistan is just one of many battle fronts.
The United States and its Afghan allies have been seeking to exploit the fissures between the two groups in recent years.