New US intelligence assessments counsel that’s “unlikely” al Qaeda will revive in Afghanistan and Pakistan and that counterterrorism operations by the Taliban in Afghanistan have degraded the Islamic State’s presence there, two senior US officers stated on Friday.
The assessments described by the officers in a briefing to reporters paints an optimistic image of the general terrorist presence in Afghanistan, suggesting it has been waning regardless of the US navy’s withdrawal from the nation in 2021.
Because the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan – and because the US has shifted intelligence assets away from counterterrorism priorities to give attention to China and Russia – the Biden administration has been at pains to emphasise that it retains “over the horizon” capabilities to trace terrorism threats emanating from South Asia.
Nonetheless, some US officers have privately raised considerations that because the US has transitioned intelligence belongings away from the Center East and South Asia, the Biden administration might wrestle to trace the risk posed by ISIS, which continues to function in ungovernable areas in Syria and elsewhere.
ISIS-Khorasan, the Afghanistan affiliate of ISIS, has continued to assault high-profile targets inside Afghanistan. ISIS-Ok assaults have killed and wounded dozens of civilians because the Taliban took over in 2021, a part of an try to undermine the Taliban’s rule and erode public confidence in its assurances of safety.
ISIS-Ok carried out the Abbey Gate bombing that killed 13 US servicemembers in 2021 – the final to die in America’s longest struggle. Between late 2022 and early 2023, the group attacked the Pakistani and Russian embassies, hit a resort the place Chinese language enterprise representatives have been staying and carried out an explosion at an air power compound, CNN has reported.
“ISIS-Ok is a risk that we’re actually involved about, from an exterior operations perspective,” one of many officers stated. “Nevertheless it’s a basically totally different sort of risk than what we noticed from al Qaeda on 9/11.”
The officers added that intelligence reveals ISIS-Ok has been below rising stress from the Taliban and lots of of its key leaders have fled the nation in latest months, the officers stated.
“ISIS Khorasan members concerned in media, facilitation and recruitment in assist of exterior operations are more and more shifting to neighboring international locations to evade the Taliban [counterterrorism] marketing campaign,” the official stated.
The officers stated that the risk from al Qaeda, in the meantime, is at its lowest level in a long time.
“Al Qaeda is at its historic nadir in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and its revival is unlikely,” one of many senior officers advised reporters in a briefing, including that the group’s “skill to threaten the USA from Afghanistan or Pakistan might be at its lowest level” in a long time.
That’s a minimum of partly as a result of al Qaeda has misplaced one among its main targets: US troops, the official stated. The US withdrew its forces from Afghanistan in August 2021, leaving al Qaeda with no “proving floor” to coach fighters and operatives.
After a US drone strike killed al Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri in August 2022, the group was left with out “management expertise” and “strategic steering,” the official added. The Taliban claimed on the time that they didn’t know Zawahiri was residing within the Afghan capital of Kabul when the US focused him.
Notably, the US assessments downplaying a terrorist resurgence seem to distinction with a report launched in June by the United Nations’ Sanctions Monitoring Crew, which assessed that al Qaeda “is in a reorganization section,” and had been establishing new coaching amenities in Afghanistan’s Kunar and Nuristan provinces.
The report additionally stated that ISIS-Ok “continues to pose a major risk inside Afghanistan, and Member States are involved about its potential to develop exterior operations functionality and to mission a risk into the area and past.”
Requested concerning the distinction between the US and UN assessments, one of many senior officers stated the UN report was “wildly out of whack” with intelligence collected by the US and its companions.
“We’ve tried to have interaction with those that produced the report to know the place it comes from higher and ideally, educate them again,” the official stated. “The underside line is, that report is an outlier inside the UN system.”