A former senior mujahidin figure and an ex-counter-terrorism analyst cooperating to write a book on the history and legacy of Arab-Afghan fighters in Afghanistan is a remarkable and improbable undertaking. Yet this is what Mustafa Hamid, aka Abu Walid al-Masri, and Leah Farrall have achieved with the publication of their ground-breaking work. The result of thousands of hours of discussions over several years, The Arabs at War in Afghanistan offers significant new insights into the history of many of today's militant Salafi groups and movements. By revealing the real origins of the Taliban and al-Qaeda and the jostling among the various jihadi groups, this account not only challenges conventional wisdom, but also raises uncomfortable questions as to how events from this important period have been so badly misconstrued.
Mustafa Hamid was among the first Arabs to join the jihad against the Soviets, and rose to become an influential figure, counting leading Afghan commanders and, later, senior Taliban and al-Qaeda figures among his friends. He was eyewitness to and a participant in events that shaped not only Afghanistan's history, but also the destiny of the Arab volunteers who joined in its liberation. After fleeing Afghanistan after 9/11 he spent close to a decade detained in Iran and has now returned to his native Egypt. Leah Farrall was formerly a senior counterterrorism analyst with the Australian Federal Police, before turning to academia. Her research focuses on al-Qaeda and other jihadi groups, especially the myths surrounding their emergence, evolution and persistence.