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Thread: Thoughts on "My Life Inside the Jihad"

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    Default Thoughts on "My Life Inside the Jihad"

    I just finished this book for a directed reading I am doing in my graduate program, and was wondering if anybody else had read it. I am highly skeptical about it after just finishing it, particularly about the absurd amount of detail and the seemingly fantastical "superhumans" that were in the camps in Afghanistan. I thought some of the insights about the rift between the Taliban and those in the camps was also interesting, but not really enough of a redeeming quality to make the book worth recommending. It also seemed to me that the author was not really "on our side" so to speak. While he seemed to strongly dislike the tactics of say the GIA, he seemed okay with insurgent attacks as long as they didn't target civilians. Apart from his other "motives" that he talks about, I don't really see why he would have worked with the DGSE, MI5, and MI6 when he doesn't really seem to agree with what Western countries are doing, particularly when intelligence agencies are often on the front line. Any thoughts on it would be helpful. Maybe there has been some vetting I am unaware of.

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    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Inside the Jihad; recommended

    Zack,

    (Posted earlier this year in the 'What are you reading thread').

    In early 2007 this insiders account 'Inside the Jihad: My life with Al Qaeda: A Spy's story' by Omar Nasiri (Pub. 2006) appeared on some threads here and somewhere on this thread. Recently I purchased a second-hand edition and read it the other day on a train journey. Superb account on this Moroccan's journey, insights into the training camps and how he was handled / managed by the intelligence agencies - before "resigning".

    The 2006 introduction by the BBC's Security Correspondent, Gordon Corera is excellent and just as relevant today. A summary is on: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/6156180.stm

    Amazon link: http://www.amazon.com/Inside-Jihad-M.../dp/0465023886

    davidbfpo

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    Council Member bourbon's Avatar
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    Zack,
    I thought it was a great book. Remember though, he started out with the motivation of getting the GIA guys out of his house. Was he “on our side”? I don’t know, but I doubt it is ever black and white for sources like Omar.

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    I didn't mean to sound as though there are clear sides. It just seemed like a conflict of interests to me. On the one hand he had a personal affinity for European life but he also seemed to think that insurgent groups that only targeted combatants were legitimate. If that is your conception it seems to me very contray to his beliefs to work for Western intelligence which targets both insurgents and terrorists.

    That was an excellent introduction also. It was included in the edition that I have. So apart from mild doubt did nobody else have significant doubts about it's veracity? I am a little upset that my professor assigned it to me.

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    Default Still a good book

    Zack,

    Inside the Jihad remains one of the best books I've read by an insider, even if there is doubt about him and his views. I started reading such books from the conflict in Northern Ireland; I'd recommend 'The Informer' by Sean Callaghan, pub. 1999 (who was handled by the Garda (Irish Police) and was inside the Provisional IRA).

    davidbfpo

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    FWIW, there was a critical review (more of a denial) that I’ve seen:

    “OMAR NASIRI” BOOK: AN ANTI-FRENCH MANIPULATION, By Claude Moniquet. European Strategic Intelligence and Security Center, 22/11/2006. (PDF)

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    Quote Originally Posted by Zack View Post
    I didn't mean to sound as though there are clear sides. It just seemed like a conflict of interests to me. On the one hand he had a personal affinity for European life but he also seemed to think that insurgent groups that only targeted combatants were legitimate. If that is your conception it seems to me very contray to his beliefs to work for Western intelligence which targets both insurgents and terrorists.
    By black and white I intended to mean by his perspective. He might have been sympathetic on macro level; but on micro level - in practice, he wanted them out of his house and was stealing money from them. That’s an interesting grey area to me, it’s an interesting paradox.

    Indeed, contradictions run through the book; he writes about how young North African males in Europe struggle with self identity, seeing themselves as neither fully Muslim nor fully European. How some will drink booze, have sex, and peddle drugs, but will become absolutely spellbound at the mention of the word ‘Jihad’. How some pursue this to fulfill that void in their life.

    That's a fascinating insight. How big a theme is this in the radicalization process? How can apply this insight to counter homegrown radicalization? That's where I think the value of this book comes in.

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    Default My Jihad

    A similar "insider" account is "My Jihad" by Aukai Collins. I read it a few years ago, but from what I remember, it was interesting. He was a California native that converted to Islam, and ultimately volunteered for jihad in Chechnya and Central Asia. The book follows him through his overseas travel, training at AQ camps in Afghanistan, and combat against Russians. He eventually turned on the mujahideen and became a FBI informant, though I forget what info he provided. It sounds a lot like "My Life Inside the Jihad."

    Quote Originally Posted by davidbfpo View Post
    Zack,

    Inside the Jihad remains one of the best books I've read by an insider, even if there is doubt about him and his views. I started reading such books from the conflict in Northern Ireland; I'd recommend 'The Informer' by Sean Callaghan, pub. 1999 (who was handled by the Garda (Irish Police) and was inside the Provisional IRA).

    davidbfpo
    "What do you think this is, some kind of encounter group?"
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    Quote Originally Posted by patmc View Post
    A similar "insider" account is "My Jihad" by Aukai Collins. I read it a few years ago, but from what I remember, it was interesting. He was a California native that converted to Islam, and ultimately volunteered for jihad in Chechnya and Central Asia. The book follows him through his overseas travel, training at AQ camps in Afghanistan, and combat against Russians. He eventually turned on the mujahideen and became a FBI informant, though I forget what info he provided. It sounds a lot like "My Life Inside the Jihad."
    Another interesting read too; the Nasiri book is better though imo. Collins claims he provided info to the FBI on hijacker Hani Hanjour in Arizona in 1998, while Hanjour was in flight school with a group of Arabs. Collins' info may have led to the infamous "Phoenix Memo".

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    Thanks for all the input, it is much appreciated. I am going to write my review (for the directed reading) tonight. I'll post it if anybody is interested.

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    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Maybe a reassessment is needed?

    Stephen Grey, the author 'The New Spymasters' reviewed elsewhere, conducted a recent interview with Nasiri and remarks:
    .. that much of what he said was credible..but, parts of his account..did not ring true and seemed like the words of a ghostwriter chosen for an American audience.

    Nasiri said the book had been a negotiation with publishers in which he had to 'close my eyes' to some of what was written. He struggled to get the book to reflect his own radical perspective.
    There is more in the chapter, pgs. 109-132.

    Link to review and book details (on Post 68):http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/...t=21574&page=4
    davidbfpo

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