Driving assessment

Al-Qaeda is still the engine of international terrorism

The United States, under President Donald Trump, made a peace pact in 2020 with the Taliban on the pretext that they would sever ties with Al-Qaeda. It didn’t happen then, it hasn’t happened since, and now the group that blew up the Twin Towers enjoys Taliban hospitality while remaining the dominant ideological and operational influence for the jihadists in the world. from South Asia to North Africa.

American officials in both the Trump and Biden administrations viewed the Islamic State rather than al-Qaeda as the greatest threat to the American homeland. Al-Qaeda, it was argued, was a depleted force, particularly after the brutal elimination of leader Osama bin Laden in a raid by US special forces in Pakistan in 2011.

The reality is that al-Qaeda remains the driving force of international terrorism, more so than the locally focused Islamic State has ever been, and continues to inspire terrorist groups from Syria and Somalia to Mali and Mozambique.

The United States, under President Donald Trump, made a peace pact in 2020 with the Taliban on the pretext that they would sever ties with Al-Qaeda. It didn’t happen then, it hasn’t happened since, and now the group that blew up the Twin Towers enjoys Taliban hospitality while remaining the dominant ideological and operational influence for the jihadists in the world. from South Asia to North Africa.

American officials in both the Trump and Biden administrations viewed the Islamic State rather than al-Qaeda as the greatest threat to the American homeland. Al-Qaeda, it was argued, was a depleted force, particularly after the brutal elimination of leader Osama bin Laden in a raid by US special forces in Pakistan in 2011.

The reality is that al-Qaeda remains the driving force of international terrorism, more so than the locally focused Islamic State has ever been, and continues to inspire terrorist groups from Syria and Somalia to Mali and Mozambique.

Al-Qaeda is ultimately the most dangerous enemy,” Bill Roggioa senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies told Congress. “Al-Qaeda continues to maintain effective insurgencies in multiple countries while using these bases to plan attacks against our homeland and our allies,” he said. Told the House Committee on Homeland Security this year.

Ayman al-Zawahiri, bin Laden’s successor, is alive and in control of al-Qaeda’s global network, Roggio said. “The next generation of al-Qaeda leaders, military commanders and operatives are taking the field while key elements of the old guard remain to guide them.”

For now, al-Qaeda is keeping a low profile. Al-Qaeda members are “slow movers, very calculated. They bide their time; they consolidate,” said Pakistani journalist Iftikhar Firdous, who specializes in South Asia terrorism.

Al-Qaeda is the godfather of terrorists who want to overthrow governments from China to Nigeria and Cashmere in Yemen.

Yet an official US assessment of the jihadist threat emanating from Afghanistan downplays al-Qaeda’s role as an inspiration and mentor to Islamist groups around the world. Part of the reason is that US President Joe Biden fell back on a seemingly downgraded al-Qaeda to justify the US-led military withdrawal from Afghanistan last summer, which handed the country over to the group. activist. Asfandyar Mir of the American Institute for Peace said ahead of the US midterm elections in November and alongside the Biden administration’s pivot to China, it became the official narrative.

“Despite immense pressure to do so, the Taliban did not break with al-Qaeda,” Mir said. wrote in a recent article. “In place, core members of al-Qaeda and the Indian subcontinent affiliate of Al-Qaeda stay in Afghanistanwell placed to continue a steady accumulation of deniable operations.

However, the story goes through a recent report by the US Department of Defense on US counterterrorism operations in Afghanistan, which claims that al-Qaeda has been “restricted” by the Taliban. According to the report, the main threat to the United States now comes from the Islamic State, known in Afghanistan as Islamic State-Khorasan. He benefited from prison openings as the Taliban swept through Afghanistan last year and recruited disenfranchised Taliban fighters and former Afghan military personnel, the report said.

It also says that al-Qaeda’s regional franchise, al-Qaeda in the Indian subcontinent, has only 200 fighters, and the core has even fewer. As of the first quarter of 2022, “the U.S. government took no action to disrupt or degrade al-Qaeda’s activities in Afghanistan, including its media operations, which have increased since August 2021.”

But the numbers are not the problem. Al-Qaeda characteristics are found from Pakistan to the Sahel: suicide bombers, improvised explosive devices, roadside bombings, hijackings and complex paramilitary-type operations.

Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), which seeks to establish an Islamic emirate in Pakistan, has carried out more than 100 attacks on Pakistan, many of which are complex al-Qaeda-style attacks on military targets. Furious that the Taliban were protecting the TTP, Pakistan bombed PTT posts in the Afghan provinces of Khost and Kunar to force the Taliban – who won their war with the support of Pakistan – to stop the attacks.

The Institute for Economics and Peace said in its recent report that Al-Qaeda’s affiliate in the Maghreb and West Africa region, Jamaat Nusrat al-Islam Wal-Muslimin (JNIM), was the “fastest growing terrorist organizationin 2021. Mir said JNIM threatened the stability of Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and West Africa in general. It’s not better in the east. This month, Biden approved the deployment of US special forces in Somalia to counter the growing threat from al-Qaeda affiliate al-Shabab.

Like al-Qaeda; TTP; the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMO); the East Turkestan Anti-Chinese Islamic Movement (ETIM); Jamaat Ansarullah, known as the Tajik Taliban; and many others “now enjoying the protection of a state, an ungoverned state, why should the strength of any of these groups diminish?” asked Pakistani lawmaker Mohsin Dawar.

At the center of the Taliban-al-Qaeda network is Sirajuddin Haqqani, head of the al-Qaeda-affiliated Haqqani network, the most brutal of the Taliban offshoots. He is the Taliban’s deputy leader and Afghanistan’s acting interior minister, a position that oversees internal security and finance. He is famous in the leadership of Al-Qaeda.

The ties between the Haqqanis and al-Qaeda that go back generations are now reflected in the leadership of the Taliban. Tajmir Jawad, another Sirajuddin alumnus in Haqqani known for his ability to network with terrorist groups to pool operational talent, is the deputy head of the Afghan intelligence agency; his uncle Khalil ur-Rahman Haqqani is the acting minister for refugee affairs. Along with half of the Taliban cabinet, they are listed as terrorists and wanted by the FBI.

For Dawar, the Pakistani parliamentarian, “the biggest threat is militancy, and I believe that it will remain a threat, not only al-Qaeda but TTP, [the Islamic State-Khorasan]IMU, [Lashkar-e-Taiba]they are all there [in Afghanistan]and they all have their own agenda.

“They have comparatively more space to operate, recruit, train and plan operations now with the Taliban,” he added. “All the countries in the region feel threatened.”