By Charles Cameron
Something veeery interesting is breaking in the blogosphere: Leah Farrall is talking with Abu Walid al-Masri.
Leah Farrall blogs with verve and insight. She has been a “senior Counter Terrorism Intelligence Analyst with the Australian Federal
Police and the organization’s al Qaeda subject matter expert” who served as “senior Intelligence Analyst in the AFP’s Jakarta Regional
Cooperation Team (JRCT) in Indonesia and at the AFP’s Forward Operating Post in response to the second Bali bombings”. She’s now working on here PhD thesis on “Al Qaeda and militant salafist jihad”.
One of the leading figures in the interwoven tales of Al Qaida and the Taliban is Abu Walid al-Masri, who also blogs. According to his West Point CTC bio, Abu Walid fought for eleven years as a muj against the Soviets in Khost, Afghanistan, where he “gained a reputation as a skilled and pragmatic strategist and battlefield tactician”. He criticized bin Ladin’s 1991 decision to relocate AlQ to the Sudan, and was an early member of Mullah Omar’s circle. He also served as a reporter for Al-Jazeera, and (as the profile puts it) ended up wearing “several hats: Taliban propagandist, foreign correspondent, and al-Qa’ida trainer and strategist.” He strongly opposed 9/11.
In his early writings, he quoted Lenin, Mao, and Sun Tzu — and his writings have been extensive. Leah writes that in her view:
“….his work (12 books in all plus articles) was the most comprehensive and accurate of all memoirs or first hand accounts of al Qaeda and more broadly the history of Afghanistan since the Soviet invasion. I reached this conclusion after literally spending years and years cross checking his work with other accounts and all manner of sources, from both sides, for use in my thesis…”
And now for the drama:
As Leah notes with understandable excitement, Abu Walid has begun to respond to her blog posts with his own.
Readers of Zenpundit already know the power of multi-blogger conversations, and indeed it was one such conversation that gave rise to the Boyd Roundtable book that Zen himself edited.
This engagement between Leah and Abu Walid takes things a step further — two enemies, one an intel analyst and the other an insurgent strategist, are now holding a debate in public across the blogs.
That’s an interesting conversation to watch in its own right — and I trust Leah will bring Abu Walid’s side of it across into English. It is
also, it seems to me, an historic moment in the use of cyberspace.
Leah on Abu Walid responding to her blogging:
Text of Abu Walid’s response in Arabic — Leah notes she hopes to put up an English digest, if not a full translation, shortly:
Again, it’s fascinating if you’re interested in web-based discourse, and with a nice Mahdist strand in there to please little old me.
I hope to pick up on that aspect with a post here shortly.
And then there’s blogger friend John Robb, who has recently been emailed by the Nigerian Henry Okah, whom Robb considers “hands down the most innovative and successful guerrilla entrepreneur in the world today”: