The terrorist group al-Qaida has shown remarkable resilience in Afghanistan for an organization that President Barack Obama has described as “on the run” for the past three years.
The supposedly vanquished enemy has maintained a presence not only in Afghanistan, but much of the Middle East, despite being “decimated.” Al-Qaida camps have been popping up across Afghanistan, The New York Times reported Tuesday. Meanwhile, the Obama administration has refocused on countering the resurgence of the Taliban and rise of ISIS.
“I do worry about the rebirth of AQ [al-Qaida] in Afghanistan because of what their target list will be — us.” says Michael Morrell, former deputy director of CIA, reports the Times. The former intelligence official notes that al-Qaida’s resilience is why the U.S. needs to focus on extinguishing the Taliban’s resurgence; if the Taliban is able to provide safe haven for al-Qaida like they did in years past, the threat to the U.S. could increase exponentially.
Al-Qaida’s staying power was exhibited this October when 200 U.S. soldiers and their Afghan colleagues launched an assault on two massive training compounds in Afghanistan’s southern province of Kandahar, killing dozens of al-Qaida fighters. “The first site, a well-established training camp, spanned approximately one square mile. The second site covered nearly 30 square miles,” said U.S. Army Brig. Gen. William Shoffner in a statement regarding the operation.
Afghanistan’s troubles with al-Qaida and their Taliban brethren are hardly localized in Kandahar, according to Bill Roggio, editor of the Long War Journal. Roggio, a former U.S. Army infantryman and veteran journalist, has spent many years covering the war in Afghanistan both inside and outside of the country. He outlines the detrimental problems the Afghan government, and therefore the U.S., face in the southern Afghanistan province of Helmand in a Dec. 21 piece. Roggio notes that the district of Sangin, a key staging area for Afghan forces, was lost to Taliban forces on Dec. 21 despite U.S. support.
“About half of Helmand has been taken by the Taliban,” Roggio told The Daily Caller News Foundation.
“The [Obama] administration has made another ridiculous claim that there’s only 50-100 al-Qaida operatives in Afghanistan, they have used that number for four-plus years, [yet] at least 100-200 fighters were killed in the camp raid,” notes Roggio, referring to the October strike in Kandahar province– the “facts have never shown that al-Qaida has been defeated in Afghanistan.”
Al-Qaida’s presence elsewhere in the Middle East as a whole has been staunch. Al-Qaida in the Arabian Penninsula (AQAP) has been in control of several territories in Yemen for years and continues to be embroiled in the ongoing civil war in that country. Al-Nusra Front, al-Qaida’s Syrian branch, has been one of the major players in the Syrian civil war, fighting both ISIS and the Syrian government while training young boys to become jihadists and executing government soldiers en masse. In North Africa, al-Qaida-linked group al-Mourabitoun engaged in an attack on a hotel in Mali in late November, killing 20 people, including one former American Peace Corps worker.
“Facts have never shown that al-Qaida has been defeated in Afghanistan… [the administration’s] claims have not comported with reality,” says Roggio. Based on recent events, the terrorist group has not been defeat elsewhere as well.
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