Inside the anti-US resistanceOsama Bin Laden is ill and invisible, but five years after September 11, 2001, his al-Qaeda movement has become the fulcrum of a global, Islamic resistance against the United States.
Asia Times Online has learned from an operative close to the al-Qaeda leadership that bin Laden languishes on a dialysis machine, in rapidly declining health.
"Sheikh [Osama] was in a poor condition when my father last visited," said the operative, who uses the name "Abdullah". Abdullah's father, known as Sheikh Ibrahim, is number two after Tahir Yuldeshev in the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IUM), a group closely allied with al-Qaeda and the Taliban, and operating in Afghanistan, Uzbekistan and Pakistan.
Sheikh Ibrahim's meeting with bin Laden took place "a few weeks ago", Abdullah told Asia Times Online in an interview at the end of June in a northern Pakistani city. Abdullah had traveled there from North Waziristan, a Pakistani tribal agency on the Afghanistan border, to meet this correspondent.
"He [bin Laden] asked all of us to pray for his health. For the past many months he has been on dialysis and just cannot move. My father never told me where he was when he met Osama ... but he was worried about his fast-waning health."
Nevertheless, said Abdullah, the al-Qaeda leadership remains in Afghanistan and still serves as the nucleus of the movement.
"Dr Ayman al-Zawahiri [bin Laden's number two] is very active in Afghanistan and controlling affairs. Most of the Arab fighters left Afghanistan after the US invasion of Iraq and many went there to fight. But the main leadership of al-Qaeda continued to stay in Afghanistan," Abdullah said.
Abdullah is a tall, strongly built 23-year-old. He lived through some very hard times after the US invasion of Afghanistan and the Taliban's subsequent retreat. His family moved to Pakistan's southern city of Karachi, and later went abroad. In 2003, when the Taliban regrouped in South Waziristan, his family returned to Karachi.
Abdullah has been in a position to observe the rise and fall of the Taliban over the past eight years, due to his father's senior position in the IMU as well as his own involvement with the movement.
"Until the end of 2003 Karachi was the focal point of all al-Qaeda, Taliban and other people who fled from Afghanistan. But constant intelligence operations forced us to leave Karachi and by the end of 2003 we reached South Waziristan, where my father joined hands with Sheikh Essa [an Egyptian] and Tahir Yuldeshev," Abdullah said.
He confirmed Asia Times Online reports that bin Laden had been short of funds, hampering al-Qaeda operations. Still, Abdullah maintained that the al-Qaeda leadership would remain in Afghanistan despite all difficulties, because of the country's identification with Bilad-i-Khurasan - a land, Muslims believe, where Muslim armies will finally regroup and go to liberate the "land of Abraham" from the Anti-God (Dajal).
"I have heard this notion since the days when Abu Hafs [the al-Qaeda number three who was killed in a US strike on Kabul in 2001] was alive. He often repeated that," Abdullah said.
Abdullah also revealed that international players are aligning themselves with al-Qaeda and the Taliban in a global Islamic alliance to fight the US.
"The money is now with Tahir Yuldeshev, who organizes Uzbek youths in South Waziristan. Where the money comes from is a mystery, but a few years ago I personally witnessed two sources of his funding, one from Turkey and the other from Saudi Arabia. Both were private people. I was with Tahir and I personally saw him receiving money in Madina," Abdullah said.
"Many months ago, I learned about a delegation of Muslim youths from Russia who met with Mullah Omar [the Taliban leader] and offered to arrange a supply of Russian-made missiles and sophisticated weapons, for cash. Mullah Omar refused the deal.
"However, recently another development happened which once again reminded us that international forces are aiming at us.
"The development occur in the wake of differences between the Uzbeks. A group of Uzbeks, to which I belong, defied Tahir Yuldeshev because of his dictatorial behavior. We left South Waziristan and went to the North Waziristan town of Mir Ali. His dictatorial behavior aside, there were many other rumors in circulation about him. All put a question mark on Tahir's integrity."
(At this time, Yuldeshev was settled in South Waziristan and allied himself with local commander Abdullah Mehsud. Yuldeshev was not active on any front.)
"There were a lot of things published in the Russian press about Tahir's connection with Americans. We were not sure about that, but the way Tahir made himself aloof from al-Qaeda and the Taliban created doubts," Abdullah said.
Yuldeshev then "circulated a message through a CD, strictly for his Uzbek circle, in which he stated that a smear campaign was being run against him by Russia. Tahir said that Russians contacted him, and after he approved they came to see him in South Waziristan and offered him a deal to finance him and provide arms and ammunition to fight against the Americans in Afghanistan, on condition that he gave up his struggle in Uzbekistan.
"Tahir said on the CD that he refused the offer outright, after which a campaign was run to malign him and portray him as having CIA [the US's Central Intelligence Agency] connections."
Nevertheless, as Asia Times Online has reported, recently a greater alliance hasbeen formed throughout North and South Waziristan. Yuldeshev has changed his reclusive behaviour and joined hands with Haji Omar, Biatullah Mehsud and other Taliban commanders in a new drive against the American-led forces in Afghanistan.