Al Qaeda may rebuild Afghanistan in 1-2 years, US officials say

Al Qaeda may rebuild Afghanistan in 1-2 years, US officials say

Top intelligence officials said on Tuesday that al-Qaeda could rebuild inside Afghanistan within one to two years, noting that some members of the terrorist group have already returned to the country.

Earlier in the year, top Pentagon officials said al-Qaeda could reorganize within two years, then told lawmakers after the fall of the Afghan government that they were revising that timeline.

The new timeline is not a radical change, but reflects the reality that the Taliban have limited ability to control Afghanistan’s borders. While the Taliban have long been affiliated with the Islamic State, they are established allies of al Qaeda. Although the Taliban promised not to allow Afghanistan to be used by terror groups in a February 2020 peace deal with the United States, analysts have said such promises are hollow.

“The current assessment is probably one to two years for al-Qaeda to build at least the ability to threaten the homeland,” Lieutenant General Scott D. Barrier, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, said Tuesday at the annual Intelligence & National. Security Summit.

CIA Deputy Director David S. Cohen said the difficult part of the timeline question was knowing whether Afghanistan would have “the ability to attack the homeland” before detecting them as affiliated with al Qaeda or Islamic State. .

The CIA is keeping a close eye on “some possible movement of al Qaeda in Afghanistan”, Mr Cohen said.

Mr Cohen did not identify specific Qaeda members who have returned to Afghanistan since the fall of the US-backed government. But Osama bin Laden’s former security chief, Amin al-Haq, who served with bin Laden during the Battle of Tora Bora, was seen in the video returning to the Afghan province of Nangarhar last month.

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On Monday, speaking at the same conference, the Director of National Intelligence, Avril D. Haynes said that Afghanistan was not the biggest terrorist threat facing the United States. Yemen, Somalia, Syria and Iraq, he said, all posed more significant threats.

The CIA will have to increase its reliance on remote intelligence gathering in the so-called “Over the Horizon” operation, Mr Cohen said. He said the agency hopes to do its job – which includes rebuilding the informant network – closer to Afghanistan. “We will also be looking for ways to work from within Horizon, as far as possible,” he said.

General Barrier said there would be intelligence gathering in Afghanistan, as well as agencies improving their ability to keep tabs on China and Russia.

“We are looking at ways to get access back into Afghanistan with all kinds of sources,” the general said. But he added, “we have to be careful to balance these very scarce resources along this axis to China and Russia.”

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