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Usama bin Ladin's "Father Sheikh": Yunus Khalis and the Return of al-Qa`ida's Leadership to Afghanistan

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The purpose of this report is to shed light on the poorly understood role that Yunus Khalis played in modern Afghan political history. Although he was an author, teacher, and the leader of the Hizb-e Islami Khalis mujahidin political party during the Soviet-Afghan War, today Yunus Khalis is most often discussed in the context of his personal relationships with Jalaluddin Haqqani and Usama bin Ladin. There is little doubt that Khalis was on friendly terms with these two men. However, Haqqani had a far more visible effect on the growth of al-Qaida than Khalis, and the latter apparently had major political disagreements with Bin Ladin. This report will argue that Yunus Khaliss historical impact is better found in his work as an activist intellectual and his refusal to take sides in the Afghan Civil War than in his relatively peripheral contact with Usama bin Ladin. According to the available sources, Yunus Khalis did not play a major role in the Haqqani Networks diversification as a financial, criminal, and terrorist enterprise, and he also had little direct role in al-Qaidas growth after the Battle of Zhawara. Even so, the Khalis biographies fill some of the gaps in other sources about Bin Ladins arrival in Nangarhar in 1996. This helps pinpoint with increasing confidence the identity of the Afghan mujahidin commanders who were most closely involved in the return of the al-Qaida leadership to Afghanistan. Additionally, these biographies offer hitherto unknown details about the history of Khaliss base at Tora Bora and the critical role that Haqqani played in helping Khalis to begin an organized fight against the Soviets. Since so little is known about Yunus Khaliss life and career, the first section of this report will draw together the most important available details of his biography. This will provide the proper context for the discussion of Khaliss contact with Bin Ladin, Haqqani, and Mullah Omar in the second section.

Subject Categories:

  • Humanities and History
  • Psychology
  • Unconventional Warfare

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