Al-Qaida numbers in Afghanistan up ‘slightly’ – KXAN Austin

Al-Qaida numbers in Afghanistan up ‘slightly’ – KXAN Austin

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WASHINGTON (AP) – The al-Qaeda extremist group in Afghanistan has grown slightly since the US forces withdrew in late August, and the country’s new Taliban leaders are divided over whether to keep their promise in 2020, the links to the group, the top US commander, to cancel in the region said Thursday.

Marine General Frank McKenzie, head of US Central Command, said in an interview with The Associated Press that the withdrawal of US military and intelligence resources from Afghanistan has made it much more difficult to track down al-Qaeda and other extremist groups in Afghanistan.

“We have probably about 1 or 2% of the capacity we once had to investigate Afghanistan,” he said, adding that it is “very difficult, not impossible” to ensure that neither al-Qaeda nor Islamic is State The Afghan partner can pose a threat to the United States.

At the Pentagon, McKenzie said it was clear that al-Qaeda was trying to reestablish its presence in Afghanistan, from where it was planning the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States. He said some militants come into the country through its porous borders, but it’s hard for the US to keep track of numbers.

The US invasion after the 9/11 attacks led to a 20-year war that initially succeeded in ousting the Taliban, but ultimately failed. After President Joe Biden announced his full withdrawal from Afghanistan in April, the Taliban systematically overwhelmed the Afghan government’s defenses and captured the capital, Kabul, in August.

McKenzie and other senior US military and national security officials said before the US withdrawal that doing so would complicate efforts to contain the al-Qaeda threat, in part because of the loss of intelligence on the ground and the lack of a friendly US government in Kabul. The US says it will rely on air strikes by drones and other aircraft outside Afghanistan’s borders to respond to extremist threats against the US homeland.

McKenzie said no such attacks have been carried out since the US withdrawal from Afghanistan was completed on Aug. 30, and is currently under development. “

Al-Qaeda is one of the numerous extremist groups in Afghanistan. After 2001, it lost most of its numbers and ability to directly threaten US territory, but McKenzie said it retained “an ambitious desire” to attack the United States. During their first term in Kabul, from 1996 to 2001, the Taliban gave refuge to al-Qaeda and rejected Washington’s request after September 11, 2001 for the group to be expelled and its leader, Osama bin Laden, to be surrendered. The Taliban and al-Qaeda have had ties since then.

“So we’re still trying to figure out exactly how the Taliban will act against them, and I think in the month or two it will become a little clearer to us,” he said.

Likewise, McKenzie said it is not yet clear how strong the Taliban will crack down on the Islamic State Group, also known as ISIS, which has violently attacked the Taliban across the country. The United States blamed ISIS for an August 26 suicide attack on Kabul airport that killed 13 American soldiers in the final days of the US evacuation.

The IS was “resuscitated” by the release of numerous IS fighters from Afghan prisons in mid-August, said McKenzie. ISIS and al-Qaeda are recruiting both inside and outside Afghanistan.

“So we should certainly expect a resurgence of ISIS. It would be very surprising if it weren’t for that, “he said, adding,” It remains to be seen whether the Taliban will be able to act effectively against them. “

Al-Qaeda is a more difficult problem for the Taliban because of their longstanding ties.

“I think there are internal disputes within the Taliban about how to proceed,” he said. “What we would want from the Taliban would be a strong position against al-Qaeda,” which they promised under the Doha Agreement of February 2020, which obliged the United States to withdraw completely from Afghanistan. “But I don’t think that’s fully realized yet.”

McKenzie declined to provide an estimate of the number of al-Qaida activists in Afghanistan.

“I think it’s probably a bit increased,” he said. “There is a presence. We thought it was pretty small, you know, towards the end of the conflict. I think some people probably came back. But it’s one of the things we look at, but I wouldn’t be sure to give you a number now. “

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