Security

Concerns rise over potential return of al-Qaeda to Afghanistan

By Emran

An Afghan man reads a newspaper in Kabul on May 3, 2011, which details the death of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. [Massoud Hossaini/AFP]

An Afghan man reads a newspaper in Kabul on May 3, 2011, which details the death of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. [Massoud Hossaini/AFP]

KABUL -- Afghanistan could emerge anew as a global hub for terrorist groups if al-Qaeda reestablishes itself and its safe havens in the troubled country, analysts warn.

An al-Qaeda resurgence in Afghanistan would significantly endanger global security, they add.

Among those voicing alarm is the former chief of Afghanistan's National Directorate of Security, Ahmad Zia Saraj.

Al-Qaeda aims to turn Afghanistan into a hub from which to plan and organize its terrorist attacks on other countries, Saraj cautioned in a May interview published by the Combating Terrorism Center (CTC) at West Point.

"Al-Qaeda are now in a position to make Afghanistan their command and control center," he said, adding that its funding of other militants is an additional cause for concern.

"For the preservation of the leadership of al-Qaeda, they invested in other terrorist groups like ETIM (East Turkestan Islamic Movement), like TTP (Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan), like IMU (Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan)," he said.

Many of these groups operate under al-Qaeda's guidance, he added, pointing out that al-Qaeda has deep roots in the tribal areas of Pakistan and in parts of Afghanistan, and has established a presence in Iran.

"Al-Qaeda has also separately built up a strong relationship with organized crime groups operating in the borders between Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran," he said.

"There are common areas such as drug trafficking, human trafficking, weapons smuggling, and other types of illegal lucrative business which offers benefit for both parties."

"The threat is growing," Saraj said.

A major global threat

Al-Qaeda has returned to its previous tactics in Afghanistan, Australian journalist Lynne O'Donnell wrote for Foreign Policy magazine in March.

It is once again operating militant training camps and sharing profits from illicit drug production, mining and smuggling, channeling the proceeds of these activities to its affiliates across the globe, she said.

Al-Qaeda has turned Afghanistan into its sanctuary once again, much as it did before the 9/11 attacks on the United States, said Italy-based Afghan military affairs analyst Mohammad Naim Ghayur.

"Over the past almost three years, alongside the strengthening of other terrorist groups in Afghanistan, al-Qaeda has been revived," he said. "If this continues, Afghanistan will once again become a major threat to the world."

"The situation in Afghanistan differs from other countries where al-Qaeda is present," he said. "In countries like Yemen, Somalia, or Libya, there is a risk of foreign air strikes, but currently, there is no such threat to al-Qaeda in Afghanistan."

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It is the responsibility of the current government of Afghanistan to prevent insecurity in the country. The government should work together with the international community and not allow any group to disrupt the security of the people. Strong police, intelligence, and military forces are needed to ensure security. The newly established government of Afghanistan can train its personnel through negotiations with the European Union, especially with Turkey and alongside India, and work together for the prosperity of Afghanistan.

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These are all just enemy propaganda, and there is peace in Afghanistan. God willing, peace will spread to the whole world from here. You should also not make baseless criticisms.

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Sadat

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The most important thing is that the Taliban government has strongly rejected the UN Security Council report that claimed the Taliban continued to maintain ties with the Al-Qaeda network and that the group had established new training camps in Afghanistan. Taliban government spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid released a statement saying, "The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan strongly rejects this false accusation... There are no Al-Qaeda affiliates in Afghanistan, nor does the Islamic Emirate allow anyone to use Afghan soil against others." Mujahid also claimed that a "systematic program" of accusations against their government had been launched from the United Nations and added, "We know that some member countries of the Security Council naturally harbor animosity towards Afghanistan and spread such rumors, but other member countries that have good relations with Afghanistan should not allow the reputation of this great international institution to be damaged and its decisions to be driven by the political goals of a few countries.

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If individuals like Zia Saraj, who are making such statements, had such prior intelligence during their tenure, why would Afghanistan be in the hands of the Taliban today and why would there be rumors of the re-emergence and activities of Al-Qaeda? Everyone is looking out for their own interests. Moreover, if any terrorist group is established somewhere, it is certainly supported by superpower countries. It is impossible for such a group to start activities on its own. Therefore, any country claiming that Al-Qaeda has become active again in Afghanistan and feels threatened should increase its cooperation with the Taliban to take effective steps to prevent the Al-Qaeda group. It is true that the Taliban do not listen to anyone and act on their own accord, but if, God forbid, groups like Al-Qaeda and others are established again in Afghanistan, the damage will be seen globally. It is better to work together with the Taliban for the survival of Afghanistan.

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