Thanks, Joe: Al-Qaeda Resumes Taking Refuge in Afghanistan Under the Taliban

AP Photo/Kathy Gannon

It turns out that the Taliban is not the only organization grateful for President Joe Biden’s botched withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan. According to a United Nations report, radical Islamic terrorist group al-Qaeda is once again finding a safe haven in the region.

As the Taliban faces continued attacks from the Islamic State (ISIS), it is “maintaining close ties with al-Qaida as they consolidate control over the country,” according to the Times of Israel. The U.N.’s report warned that as the weather becomes more favorable in the region, hostilities between the two foes could intensify. However, the organization does give an assurance that neither ISIS nor al-Qaeda “is believed to be capable of mounting international attacks before 2023 at the earliest, regardless of their intent or of whether the Taliban acts to restrain them.”

Still, countries bordering Afghanistan are concerned about the development and the presence of “many other terrorist groups and fighters on Afghan soil.” The report also painted a chaotic picture of the Taliban’s regime. The organization’s priority is to cement its control over the region “while seeking international recognition, to re-engage with the international financial system and to receive aid in order to deal with the growing economic and humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan.”

However, the U.N. points out that “There have been many factors creating internal tensions within the movement, leading to perceptions that the Taliban’s governance has been chaotic, disjointed and prone to reversing policies and going back on promises.”

The organization’s attempts to gain legitimacy on the world stage have not been successful largely because of its inability – or unwillingness – to stop allowing terrorist groups like al-Qaeda to use the country as a safe harbor to plan their operations. Another issue is the Taliban’s refusal to treat girls and women as equals and create a more inclusive environment in the country. From the Times of Israel:

So far, not a single country has officially recognized the Taliban, and there is growing international anger at its treatment of girls and women and its failure to keep its promise of forming an inclusive government. There are also concerns about the Taliban’s inability to keep its promise not to allow terrorist groups to operate in Afghanistan.

The panel said the Haqqani Network, a militant Islamist group with close ties to the Taliban, moved quickly after their takeover to gain control of key portfolios and ministries including interior, intelligence, passports and migration. It now “largely controls security in Afghanistan, including the security of the capital, Kabul,” the experts said.

The report noted that the Haqqani Network is perceived to have the closest ties to al-Qaeda and the Taliban remains closely allied with the organization. The report also notes that al-Qaeda’s leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri maintains a constant presence in eastern Afghanistan.

Biden’s failure to facilitate a smooth transition of U.S. troops from the region has done more than just provide extra weapons and equipment to the Taliban. It has also been a significant boon for al-Qaeda and other radical Islamic terrorist groups. As the report noted, the organization appears not to be in a position to launch major attacks on the western world anytime soon. The same could be said of ISIS at the moment after its downfall under the Trump administration. However, this does not mean the U.S. should become complacent.

It was only a few weeks ago that the FBI discovered an ISIS plot to assassinate former President George W. Bush. Forbes reported that the bureau discovered an individual planning to smuggle operatives over the southern border to assist them in the operation. From the report:

While the sources were passing on what they learned over WhatsApp throughout 2021 and 2022, they were also secretly recording the in-person meetings with the alleged plotter in which additional startling details were revealed, according to the FBI. In one conversation from December, according to the warrant, the suspect claimed to have had just smuggled two individuals associated with Hezbollah — a terrorist organization, according to the U.S. — into the U.S. for a fee of $50,000 each.

Also in the FBI court filing, the alleged plotter claimed to be a member of “the resistance” and had killed many Americans in Iraq between 2003 and 2006, packing vehicles with explosives and detonating them when U.S. soldiers were near.

Now that the United States has left Afghanistan without putting in place an infrastructure that would hinder the return of al-Qaeda, the group is still insistent on regrowing its numbers. The fact that the Taliban was able to essentially return to its former glory, so to speak, might inspire al-Qaeda to do the same. If our agencies are not careful, Biden’s mistakes might come back to bite us in more ways than one.


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