Washington Institute For Defence & SecurityWashington Institute For Defence & SecurityWashington Institute For Defence & Security
Washington, DC 20001
Taliban's struggle against al-Qaeda in Afghanistan

Some historical events gave clear outcomes such as  al-Qaeda’s attack on America in 2001. In such major historical events,  a clear ending is often expected, such as a victory celebration, a peace treaty, or a final chapter that wraps everything up.

Well the situation and its outcome is totally different with al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. All of those guys that were involved in illegal work just disappeared, and their downfall has gone largely unnoticed. Furthermore, Islamic State-Khorasan is also being defeated. It seems like that allis over but the outcome was unclear. 

Now the question is what makes this situation Awkward is that  the Taliban is now managing al-Qaeda’s surrender. Back to past history the conflict between US and Afghanistan continued for more than 20 years with US little success. After taking control of Kabul, the Taliban sheltered al-Qaeda. Furthermore, they prevent al-Qaeda from launching international attacks. The Taliban is also on the top that aggressively targets ISIS-K.

Recently some announcement was made from US intelligence. They announced the end of al-Qaeda’s presence in Afghanistan. The National Security Council released this information around the anniversary of the September 11, 2001, attacks. At that time everyone had a different perspective. Some thought the timing was political. Despite little public attention, the announcement is significant. If accurate, it marks the end of a major chapter in America’s long and challenging involvement in Afghanistan.

It is the time when Al-Qaeda is not strong enough in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Also according to the head of the National Counterterrorism Center, Christy Abizaid, it is unlikely to bounce back. 

In a statement made on September 11, she mentioned that recently declassified intelligence shows the group has lost important factors like access to targets, strong leadership, unity, committed members, and local support. Al-Qaeda’s ability to pose a threat to the United States from Afghanistan is the lowest it’s been since the group moved there in 1998.

According to an intelligence report, very few members of Al- Qaeda have left in Afghanistan. Additionally another intelligence official said the country is surrounded with fewer than twelve core members. Also comparison was made for these remaining members to residents in a “nursing home for AQ seniors.”

Another survey revealed that  there are between 30 and 60 core al-Qaeda members in Afghanistan, with around 400 fighters in total. Also some warning letters were issued from Critical Threats on Sept 11 that Al-Qareda maintained its capability again to launch attacks across the world. 

However, experienced U.S. intelligence officials argue that these gloomier reports are incorrect. According to one senior intelligence officer I spoke with, the UN’s description of al-Qaeda’s presence doesn’t match the reduced threat they pose. “I haven’t seen any evidence supporting the idea of a significant comeback,” said Michael Leiter, a former chief of the National Counterterrorism Center.

Today the main purpose of the Taliban is to stop terrorism in Afghanistan. When the United States was ready to leave Kabul, the Taliban promised to keep al-Qaeda from using Afghanistan to plan attacks in other countries. On this the American official stated that Taliban never break their promises. 

Some Taliban members likely knew al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri was in Kabul, possibly protected by the Haqqani group. Two missiles were used in 2022 from the CIA to kill him. At this action the Taliban did not react too much. 

With good planning the Taliban has been fighting ISIS-K. Taliban effective fighting forced the ISIS-K leaders to leave Afghanistan. Furthermore, a total eight ISIS-K leaders were killed due to the Taliban attack. 

Without targeting details, the CIA shared information with the Taliban. Some official of the Uited States criticize Taliban policies on women and girls as “shocking.” But both sides cooperate to contain groups challenging the Taliban. 


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