The al-Qaida leadership, rumored to have fled from the devastation of Afghanistan, is finding a ready supply of new, youthful followers who claim to be ready to fight “at every moment.”
“Al-Qaida is still intact,” and American bombing “barely scratched” the terrorist network, according to one student attending a Pakistani religious school and interviewed by the respected Italian news daily Corriere della Sera.
“It is not enough to believe American propaganda,” the young Islamic militant stated.
Most of those attending the school firmly hold the belief that the U.S. began the war against the Taliban in Afghanistan as an unprovoked attack on the Muslim world.
Several of the approximately 3,000 students (including some 600 Afghans) at the school – referred to as a “madrassa” – revealed their determination to fight against the “great war launched by the Americans” against Islam.
It is the duty of every “good Muslim” to be “ready to fight at every moment,” one of the students declared.
Another student, who is a recent arrival from Kabul, Afghanistan, quickly entered the discussion and added, “Even if Osama and Mullah Omar are dead, it would be of little importance, because the cause for which we fight” would find leadership “in other individuals.”
The students’ remarks, and the enthusiasm for a “holy war” on the part of many of their classmates, verify the observations of one early authority on Islamic extremism.
Yossef Bodansky, in his seminal work “Bin Laden: The Man Who Declared War on America”, noted the existence of a “solid, capable Islamic terrorist infrastructure in the West, capable of operating both at home and overseas” that does not rely upon specific instructions from bin Laden.
The students who were interviewed attend a school called The Straight Path University, which is located about 30 miles south of Peshawar, in northern Pakistan, near the Afghanistan border and the fabled Khyber Pass.
There is no admission on the part of the students that the Taliban or al-Qaida committed any wrong, and certainly no indication of remorse for the actions attributed to Islamic terrorism.
“Repentance – for what?” responded one of the young Muslim scholars when Corriere Della Sera asked about Islam’s share in the responsibility for events in Afghanistan.
“The United States” uses every chance “to attack Islam,” the student declared, and asserted that “their [U.S.] secret services had planned the attacks of Sept. 11 for a pretext” to use against al-Qaida, the Taliban and bin Laden.
The students regard with contempt the new government in Afghanistan, a coalition of factions supported by the West.
The present Kabul regime is, according to the students, a “fantasy and a farce” that will fall like a “house of cards” and could “hardly succeed against serious opposition.”
Despite America’s war on terrorism, the school continues to operate without financial difficulty, with much of its funding from wealthy donors in Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates, according to the Corriere della Sera report.
Sympathies of those on the Pakistani side of the border with Afghanistan have aided Taliban fighters in their escape from U.S. bombardment and attacks from anti-Taliban forces.
Outright bribery has also proven effective in assisting the flight of Taliban and al-Qaida personnel from Afghanistan, with the price for passage from Afghanistan to Pakistan ranging from $1,600 to $3,300, depending upon the importance of the refugee, according to an earlier Corriere della Sera report.