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In Battle of Jihadi Groups, Pakistani Taliban Prefers al Qaeda Over ISIS

The Pakistani Taliban has published an essay criticizing the Islamic State's aggressive tactics.

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In the ongoing competition for top dog among international jihadi groups, the Islamic State currently reigns supreme. The group holds a huge chunk of territory in Syria and Iraq, and has established a caliphate that purports to bring back an extreme form of Islamic law. It attracts more recruits than any other group and has won the allegiance of a large number of jihadi organizations around the world. But the Pakistani Taliban is not impressed and on Thursday announced in a statement it is rejecting the Islamic State’s caliphate, its leader, and its tactics.

In an essay released online, Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) said that the Islamic State has pursued too aggressive a policy by opening fronts against multiple enemies, destroying apostate shrines, and overextending itself in an effort to prematurely establish a caliphate. The essay argues that the actions of the Islamic State will bring about “disastrous results,” according to a translation provided by the SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors online jihadi activity.

The destruction of religious shrines by the Islamic State has managed to unite religious minorities and Shiites against the group in an unprecedented coalition. The TTP essay instead urges caution in the destruction of such shrines and compares the Islamic State’s actions with those of the Afghan Taliban, who, as an example, waited until they had pacified most of Afghanistan before destroying the famous Buddhas of Bamiyan.

“We do not mean that blowing up shrines and deforming polytheist antiquities is not permissible as per Shariah, but what we want is prioritizing and using wise policy,” the essay contends.

In opening a number of fronts in Iraq and Syria, the essay also argues that the Islamic State has failed to heed the example of the Prophet Mohammed. “It was from the wise policy of the Prophet, Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him, to reduce the number of enemies,” the essay notes, referring to his military campaigns. “He, peace be upon him, did not open endless fronts at the very beginning.”

In recent months, the Islamic State has managed to win the support of some militant groups and commanders in Pakistan and Afghanistan, raising the possibility of a wider rift between al Qaeda and the broader Taliban movement on one side and the Islamic State on the other. The TTP’s dismissal of the Islamic State also includes praise of al Qaeda and its leadership, an indication that the group continues to side with Ayman al-Zawahiri over Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the head of the Islamic State.

In the popularity contest between al Qaeda and the Islamic State, score one for the godfathers of terror.

Photo credit: AAMIR QURESHI/AFP/Getty Images

Elias Groll is a staff writer at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @EliasGroll

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