Expansion of Terror Networks Being Organized In Afghanistan, National Resistance Front Tells the Sun

Al Qaeda now allegedly operates training camps in ten out of 34 Afghanistan provinces.

AP/Mohammad Asif Khan
Taliban soldiers in September 2021 at Panjshir province, northeastern Afghanistan. AP/Mohammad Asif Khan

An “expansion of terror networks” being organized in Afghanistan “highlights the enduring alliance between the Taliban and Al Qaeda,” the head of foreign relations for an insurgent group there, the National Resistance Front, Ali Maisam Nazary, tells The New York Sun.

Mr. Nazary’s comments follow the latest update by the United Nations Security Council, which outlines this development in its 33rd report concerning ISIL and Al Qaeda. The report was released on January 29. That same day, the Taliban hosted at Kabul China, Russia, and Iran to promote “regional cooperation.”

Al Qaeda now operates training camps in ten out of 34 Afghanistan provinces. The terrorist organization “established up to eight new training camps in Afghanistan, including four in Ghazni, Laghman, Parwan and Uruzgan Provinces,” the report said, “with a new base to stockpile weaponry in the Panjshir Valley.”

The Panjshir Valley is the historic base of the NRF of Afghanistan, which describes itself as “the last force fighting for the restoration of democracy in Afghanistan” and has long opposed the Taliban. Mr. Nazary tells the Sun, “the NRF has been fighting against the 21 known regional and international terrorist groups since August 2021,” and “showing their resolve.” 

These enemy weapons stockpiles have been able to proliferate, according to Security Council member states, from stockpiles left behind after the American withdrawal from Afghanistan in August 2021.

Al Qaeda has also been increasing its use of drones. The Security Council analysis said Al Qaeda has established “a specialized unmanned aerial systems unit with capacity to operate and weaponize” the drones.

The Taliban vowed not to provide safe haven to Al Qaeda after America’s withdrawal. The Security Council report worsens fears that this promise has been broken. The close relationship between the two was noted in the report by Al Qaeda’s “holding pattern in Afghanistan under Taliban patronage.”

Although the relationship with Al Qaeda flourishes, the Taliban tries to hide it from external actors. Mr. Nazary told the Sun that this “contradicts the Taliban terrorists’ previous assurances to curb terrorism, revealing their duplicity and deception.”

Will Al Qaeda’s revitalization spill over Afghanistan’s borders? Fighters using sophisticated weapons and equipment leftover from America “crossed the Afghan border to attack Tajik targets in Dushanbe,” one member state reported. Whether these fighters were Al Qaeda operatives is unclear, though instability could provide greater movement for other terrorist groups.

Another terrorist group closely affiliated with Al Qaeda, Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan, set up a new base at Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in Pakistan, according to the report. This base trained 66 TTP individuals as suicide bombers.

Al Qaeda is also strengthening its connection with Iran after years of senior leaders operating inside the country. Al Qaeda now “maintains safe houses to facilitate the movement between Afghanistan and the Islamic Republic of Iran.” 

Individuals provide liaison between Al Qaeda’s de facto leader, Saif al-Adl, situated in Iran and senior commanders in Afghanistan such as Abdul Rahman al-Ghamdi, several Security Council member states reported.

Although Al Qaeda and the Islamic Republic may be seen as incompatible given their sectarian differences within the Islamic faith — Al Qaeda is led by Sunni Muslims and Iran is predominantly Shia.

Yet both share strong anti-American sentiment and the desire to undermine Saudi Arabia’s interests. Their relationship dates back to the 1990s when Al Qaeda trained with Iranian intelligence operatives. The 9/11 commission report disclosed that Al Qaeda was receiving assistance from Iran leading up to the attack.

The Security Council report stated that Al Qaeda poses a threat to the region, and potentially beyond, yet cannot “project sophisticated attacks at long range.”

Mr. Nazary says “the escalating terrorism in Afghanistan poses a significant threat not only to regional security but also to global security.” He added that “a feckless policy of appeasement is ineffectual against the terrorism that seeks to destabilize both the region and the world.”

The New York Sun

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