As I have noted previously, a number of European muhajireen (foreign fighters) are still in the northwest of Syria, fighting in the ranks of insurgent factions. On 22 July 2019, I interviewed one such muhajir: Abu Khalid al-Shami, also known as Abu Khalid Almani ("Abu Khalid of al-Sham" or "Abu Khalid the German"). Abu Khalid is affiliated with the small jihadi faction Junud al-Sham ("Soldiers of al-Sham"). I leave this interview for the historical record. Any parenthetical insertions in square brackets are my own.
Q: Can you talk about the progress of the current battles and the fate of the jihad in al-Sham in the long-run?
A: We must know something: that God the Exalted and Almighty has sway over affairs and makes use of [/subjects] causes to hold sway in affairs. What are the causes? The causes of states that have interests in this area realize the fate of the jihad. So in the first instance, it is the will of God and then if the states like Turkey, Russia, Iran, Syria, America: if they have for instance political problems with each other, the fighting will continue. But if these states agree with each other they will try to stop the fighting. So America for instance does not want the fighting to be stopped. And Russia and Turkey have interests that the fighting should be stopped. And at the same time there is Iran which does not want the fighting to be stopped. So God willing this is the will of God upon which He rules.
Q: Some of the brothers say that if the jihad continues you will see positive results like the Taliban experience in Afghanistan. Do you agree with this analysis?
A: Yes, brother, we put great probability on this. By God's will, if the Muslims take up the causes of the victory and prevent oppression from themselves, and, by the Lord of the Worlds, do good for the Ummah, the Lord of the Worlds, if God wills, will support them as in Afghanistan if God wills, and if they follow the middle manhaj as there is in Afghanistan and the Taliban group, if God wills.
Q: Can you talk a little about the current battles? Are the battles difficult? How is the humanitarian situation on the ground?
A: The battles currently are difficult because the concentration of the Russian military forces has a strong impact on the ground but by God's permission the mujahideen will resist them with earnestness and power if God wills. And in the battles there is the situation of attrition because of the technology of the Russians and their targeting, but the attrition if God wills on the other side and their lack of ability to advance are evidence of their weakness, despite their technology, forces and the power of their targeting, they are not able to advance and have not been able to achieve results.
The humanitarian situation: so long as the Russians see they cannot advance and cannot achieve their objectives, what will they do? First they will take revenge on the people and strike them with aircraft, meaning with Russian and Syrian aircraft, so they want to achieve striking the people, the people of the mujahideen in order to divert the mujahideen away from the fighting, and they want to achieve by striking the people that the people should begin to hate the mujahideen by these strikes that they are subject to because of the wars. So they will begin to hate the war originally, so this is what they want to achieve, and they want to displace the people of the areas. Why? Because if they displace the people of the areas, they will be able to take control of them more easily as there will be no strong air defence and steadfastness if there are no people.
Q: Have a large number of the mujahideen been martyred in the current battles? Can we say that Hay'at Tahrir al-Sam has borne most of the fighting on the fronts?
A: A number of the muhajireen have been martyred here, there are muhajireen who have been martyred. And in accordance with the proportion of the muhajireen, so a proportion has gone and become martyred. And Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham is the biggest group resisting these attacks of Russia and the regime. And it is expending the strongest efforts for this resistance and it is the shield of the liberated areas frankly because in its creed and thought, it must protect the Muslims and it is among the first people and factions to resist this fierce campaign. Therefore of course, its losses will be greatest.
Q: For example the factions of the National Front for Liberation are tantamount to an auxiliary force for Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham in the battles?
A: Yes dear brother the Hay'a has the greatest activity on the ground but the National Front also has activity. The activity of the National Front is concentrated in an expression as it has missiles like Kornet missiles that target the vehicles of the enemy and inflict losses on them. Of course the Hay'a also has these missiles but not like the National Front. The reason it has more firepower and ammunition because of support for it from Turkey, because the National Front is supported by Turkey. So it has stronger ammunition. This also has an impact on the battle: it has a very good impact for us.
Of course we do not forget the efforts of Jaysh al-Ahrar and Jaysh al-Izza and the very good efforts of the factions operating right now. We cannot forget them otherwise we would be wronging them: may God bless them. They have given fine efforts and exertion in Hama.
Q: In your opinion why have the factions not merged under one banner until now?
A: The non-Islamic factions have not merged because every faction has external support and there is generally political sway. This impedes merging. The second reason is they fear merging with the Islamic factions because they don't want to be called terrorists: meaning it is state pressures frankly as well. Yes this is the reason. And these people- the amirs of the factions- are impeding the victory by this because they must not be influenced by external political pressures.
Q: How do you assess the Turkish role in the region generally? Does it have a positive role on the ground currently? What is your opinion on the observation points? Do they have any role in resisting the regime and Russian attack?
A: The Turkish role has positive aspects to it because it supports the mujahideen currently because of its personal interest in the geographic situation. But the Turkish observation points are as though they are non-existent, they have no role at all. But the role as I said to you in supporting the mujahideen has a strong impact on resisting the regime and this we must not forget and this is among the causes of God making use of His servants for us in supporting us so we can resist the enemies of God, or He makes use of people for us.
Q: From the personal angle can I ask when did you come to Bilad al-Sham and for what reasons did you come?
A: Yes, I came from the beginning of 2013 and praise be to God. The reasons for which I came: jihad in God's path supporting Islam first and the Muslims, and making highest the word of God the Exalted and Almighty, and we see and find an opportunity in al-Sham to establish justice, faith and the religion in an Islamic system that restores the rights of the Muslims, defends the Muslims and is a force for the Muslims. This is what we strive for, by God's permission, if God wills. And we expend our efforts for this thing.
Q: If the mujahideen bring down the regime does the jihad end here or it continues until a Caliphate on the Prophetic Methodology is established?
A: Brother, if God wills, we said in the beginning this is the will of God but the jihad continues until the rise of the Hour and we hope we can establish the Caliphate on the Prophetic Methodology in al-Sham, and it is possible this is the time that God will allow for us to establish it, even after a long while. But this remains in the will of God. And if it is not here, we will strive and expend our efforts to establish this in another place. And we will find and take the opportunity to establish itin another time.
Q: What are the fiercest battles you have participated in?
A: The fiercest battles I have participated in are of the time of the Russian advance and intervention firstly in the Sahel when they struck the Sahel and advanced in it. So we were in a state of resistance and it was a difficult situation for us. Secondly, the battles in the Hama countryside behind the Abu Dali area when there was an advance for the soldiers of Da'esh or the Islamic State as is said. And there were fierce battles because of the Islamic State and its soldiers on the ground. They had soldiers on the ground and activity on the ground so the fighting there was a strong confrontation.
Q: If the mujahideen bring down the regime, will you stay in al-Sham or will you go to another jihad front?
A: By God, if an Islamic state is established that restores rights to the Muslims and oversees their affairs we will remain here of course. We will see later. But of course our work will always be jihad in the path of God and obedience to God the Exalted and Almighty.
Q: Some supporters of the revolution accuse the muhajireen of harming the revolution's reputation. What is your response to these words?
A: Yes. My response to these words is that every muhajir brother strives for an Islamic objective in this revolution, to achieve an Islamic objective pure to the face of God. Of course there will be people opposing him from those who do not have this objective. This is the first thing. And also you may see mistakes from the muhajireen but they are human mistakes that can occur among all people and we cannot disparage all the muhajireen for that. On the contrary, the muhajir is the one who has implemented the command of God to migrate to support His religion so we must respect him and follow his example and respect him and his situation and his expending and obedience. Yes.