Al-Qaida having fun with a haven in Afghanistan beneath Taliban, UN warns | Afghanistan

Al-Qaida has a haven in Afghanistan beneath the Taliban and “elevated freedom of motion” with the potential of launching new long-distance assaults in coming years, a UN report primarily based on intelligence provided by member states says.

The evaluation, by the UN committee charged with implementing sanctions on the Taliban and others that will threaten the safety of Afghanistan, will increase considerations that the nation might as soon as once more develop into a base for worldwide terrorist assaults after the withdrawal of US and Nato troops final yr.

Critics of the US president, Joe Biden, will level to the report’s description of a “shut relationship” between al-Qaida and the Taliban as proof that his choice to tug out all US forces was an error.

Nevertheless, a feared inflow of overseas extremists to Afghanistan has not materialised, with solely a small variety of arrivals detected.

Although al-Qaida has been overshadowed by the violence of Islamic State lately, it stays a possible menace with a presence in elements of south Asia, the Center East and the Sahel. A number of dozen al-Qaida senior leaders are primarily based in Afghanistan, in addition to affiliated teams akin to al-Qaida within the Indian Subcontinent.

The Taliban have repeatedly mentioned they’re adhering to an settlement they signed with the US in 2020, earlier than taking energy, during which they promised to combat terrorists, they usually have insisted Afghanistan is not going to be used as a launching pad for assaults towards different nations.

The report credit the Taliban with making efforts to restrain al-Qaida, however raises considerations that these could not final.

An undisclosed variety of al-Qaida members are reported to be dwelling in Kabul’s former diplomatic quarter, the place they might have entry to conferences on the overseas affairs ministry, the report’s authors say, though they are saying this data shouldn’t be confirmed.

The report additionally says a sudden spate of statements and communications from al-Qaida’s chief, Ayman al-Zawahiri, suggests “he might be able to lead extra successfully than was doable earlier than the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan”.

A earlier UN report mentioned Zawahiri was significantly ailing, and a few officers have instructed the 70-year-old could also be lifeless.

The Egyptian-born veteran militant has centered on increasing grassroots assist and presence within the Islamic world since taking up al-Qaida in 2011, when Osama bin Laden was killed in a US particular forces raid in Pakistan.

Though the group is unlikely to mount or direct assaults exterior Afghanistan for the following yr or two, owing to a scarcity of functionality and Taliban restraint, its long-term goal remains to be to return to “international jihad”, the report says.

It says the Taliban’s dedication to stopping al-Qaida from launching a world terrorism marketing campaign “is unsure within the medium to long run”. This effort obtained a lift when the Taliban took over Kabul, it says, with al-Qaida ready to make use of the obvious victory of the Islamist militia to draw new recruits and funding and encourage associates globally.

In April al-Qaida launched a video during which Zawahiri praised an Indian Muslim lady who in February defied a ban on carrying the standard headband, or hijab. The footage was the primary proof in additional than a yr that he was alive.

A earlier video of Zawahiri, which circulated on the anniversary final yr of 9/11, didn’t check with the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan in mid-August. It did point out the assault on 1 January 2021 assault on Russian troops close to the northern Syrian metropolis of Raqqa.

In his most up-to-date video, Zawahiri referred to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, blaming “US weak point” for the conflict. “Right here [the US] is after its defeat in Iraq and Afghanistan, after the financial disasters attributable to the 9/11 invasions, after the corona pandemic, and after it left its ally Ukraine as prey for the Russians,” he mentioned.

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The UN report suggests most senior al-Qaida leaders are presently primarily based within the japanese area of Afghanistan, from Zabul province north in the direction of Kunar and alongside the border with Pakistan. The border area between Pakistan and Afghanistan is lined with inhospitable hills which have served as strongholds for a variety of militant teams.

The Taliban tried to limit the actions of Bin Laden when in energy in Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001, however didn’t forestall a sequence of assaults on US targets that culminated within the 9/11 assaults.

Like al-Qaida, the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant – Khorasan, which has been combating the Taliban, shouldn’t be thought able to mounting worldwide assaults earlier than 2023 on the earliest, the UN report says. The group is believed to have 1,500-4,000 fighters, additionally concentrated within the east of Afghanistan.