Global Independent Analytics

Al-Qaeda is back

Chief executives are concerned over growing ties between the Taliban and al-Qaeda

Nick Patron Walsh for CNN reports: Afghanistan's top defense official has warned that al Qaeda -- the reason the United States first invaded Afghanistan -- is "very active" and a "big threat" in the country. A senior U.S. official also expressed his concerns regarding the higher presence of al Qaeda leaders in the country than it was previously estimated. The warning comes amidst the growing tensions in the region with government security forces facing huge internal challenges, the Taliban both gaining ground and building links to al Qaeda, and ISIS increasing its footprint in the country.

Afghanistan Defense officials assume that al Qaeda forces have significantly strengthened their positions while keeping a low profile; the extremist forces were reported to be reorganizing in order to strike a severe blow. "They are working behind other networks, giving them support and the experience they had in different places. And double their resources and recruitment and other things. That is how -- they are not talking too much. They are not making press statements. It is a big threat."

Meanwhile, Major General Jeff Buchanan, Deputy Chief of Staff for the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan, stated that basing on the recent discoveries, the number of al Qaeda forces was underestimated and needs to be revised. "If you go back to last year, there were a lot of intel estimates that said within Afghanistan al Qaeda probably has 50 to 100 members, but in this one camp we found more than 150."

Also, he admitted that the U.S. intelligence officers are well aware of the danger that is being posed to the West by the extremist group: “clearly in remote parts of Afghanistan there are al Qaeda leaders we're concerned about and what they're capable of doing."

The recently discovered and destroyed al Qaeda camp revealed ties with the group’s branch in the Indian Subcontinent, which was quite troubling for the U.S. security forces. Since such kind of relations was not associated with Afghanistan earlier, the revelation raises a concern that Afghanistan once again could become a haven for international terrorist networks that are likely to direct their attacks outside the region, including the West.

Walsh provides a quote of Acting Defense Minister Masoom Stanikzai, who expressed his concern over growing ties between al Qaeda and the Taliban: “"They need the fighters, they need the support and they need recruitment from other places, and this is why (the Taliban) embrace them."

“Yet since Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour became leader in mid-2015, the group has grown closer to al Qaeda. The Taliban's current deputy commander, Siraj Haqqani, is the head of the feared Haqqani militant network and al Qaeda's top facilitator in Afghanistan, according to U.S. officials,” continues Walsh.

This developing partnership is highly likely to pose a considerable problem that might harm political settlement with the Taliban in case the U.S. and Afghanistan administrations decide to negotiate peace. U.S. officials claim that the extremist group should renounce international terrorism before any peace talks, but analysts fear that the opposite might happen if the al Qaeda-Taliban relations grow stronger.

Walsh assumes: “The Taliban have also openly stated they are not currently interested in peace talks, though U.S. and Afghan officials insist some moderates do want to talk.

"Many leaders in the Taliban are willing to enter into constructive peace talks," Stanikzai said. "From a military point of view, we have to have the flexibility to target them. When it comes to negotiation, you cannot just burn everything."

 

By Stefan Paraber for GIA.

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