Dan Darling over at Winds of Change has written a special analysis of the life and times of Abu Walid, the Chechen terrorist who was killed earlier this week. Here’s the bottom line:
As an Afghan-trained Saudi al-Qaeda leader, he personified al-Qaeda’s influence within the Chechen hierarchy, an influence that has by and large succeeded in transforming the Chechen struggle for independence into a jihad dedicated to the establishment of a Wahhabi theocracy in the Caucasus.
Dan has a tendency to attribute pretty much everything that happens in Chechnya to al-Qaeda. To his credit, Dan does note that a lot of people (me included) will object to his labelling many Chechen leaders as al-Qaeda.
Given that who holds the purse strings is generally the ultimate means of determining who one is working for, I see nothing wrong with calling a spade a spade.
I would agree that there is a strong islamic fundamentalist presence in Chechnya, and it does provide substantial funding. And that some of the Chechen leaders really do have goals beyond Chechnya and Russia’s borders. But, overall, I think he overestimates the strength of Islamic fundamentalism, and underestimates the passions of simple nationalism, the desire to be free of an oppressive regime. The vast majority of the Chechens opposed to Russia are do not have a wider agenda, and this includes many of the senior leadership. The Chechens, along with most other rebel groups, are perfectly capable of taking money from a sponsor organisation that they do not support 100%. My enemy’s enemy, and all that.
Chechens are, to a very real degree, working with al-Qaeda. And it is right to recognise that fact, and to confront it. There is a cancer in the midst of Chechnya. But to over-estimate the size of that cancer would be a critical mistake.
Update: For those of you who don’t read the comments, Dan has posted a reply to my comments at his own weblog: Regnum Crucis