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Resurgent al-Qaida training camps latest black eye from Biden Afghanistan withdrawal

UN report claims al-Qaida now has eight training camps in Taliban-controlled country.

Published: February 20, 2024 12:48am

Two reports released just days apart are providing stark new evidence of the lasting consequences of President Joe Biden’s bungled withdrawal from Afghanistan and his administration’s dealings with the Taliban ever since.

The United Nations Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team reported late last month that the terrorist group al-Qaida, though weakened from its heyday in the early 2000s, has reconstituted as many as eight training camps and five religious training schools known as madrassas on Afghan soil under the Taliban’s rule while also increasing its propaganda operations and recruitment.

“The relationship between the Taliban and Al-Qaida remains close, and the latter maintains a holding pattern in Afghanistan under Taliban patronage,” the report stated bluntly. “Regional States assess that the presence of Al-Qaida senior figures in the country has not changed and that the group continues to pose a threat in the region, and potentially beyond.”

You can read the full report here.

While the UN report blamed the Taliban for its hosting of al-Qaida, the Biden administration continued to send massive humanitarian dollars to the Afghan regime, in many cases through the UN and global charities, according to a separate report from an American watchdog.

John Sopko, the U.S. Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, reported a few days after the UN report was issued that the United States accounted for all but $300 million of the $2.9 billion in humanitarian aid sent to the Taliban since the withdrawal of American troops in August 2021. Most of it, he noted, came in cash.

“The U.S. is the largest international donor, having provided about $2.6 billion in funding for the UN, other PIOs, and NGOs operating in Afghanistan since August 2021,” the report noted. “More than $1.7 billion of that funding came from State and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to support humanitarian activities.”

You can read Sopko's report here.

Experts said the flow of cash to help the Taliban while it allows al-Qaida to flourish sends a dangerous message to bad actors, and much of it is routed through the very UN that issued the report.

“America is the biggest funder of this thing. So the United States taxpayer is disproportionately on the hook paying for these activities,” former Deputy National Security Adviser Victoria Coates said recently.

And coupled with the billions in high-tech weaponry Biden left behind in Afghanistan, the dynamic is creating heartburn in Congress.

“This administration has a history of giving money to terrorist organizations, abandoning $80 billion worth of military equipment in Afghanistan so the Taliban can run around with our M4s and our Blackhawks, and all of our equipment. They have an American last agenda,” Rep. Greg Steube, R-Fla., told the Just the News, No Noise television show last week.

The Taliban, of course, claims it does not harbor al-Qaida and that the UN report was “propaganda.”

"There is no one related to al Qaeda in Afghanistan, nor does the Islamic Emirate allow anyone to use the territory of Afghanistan against others," the Taliban said in a statement.

But U.S. officials told Just the News they have significant intelligence of al-Qaida’s presence and reconstitution inside Afghanistan since the Taliban overthrew the democratically elected government as U.S. troops were withdrawing in 2021.

They noted that when U.S. drones killed al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in 2022, he was living inside a Taliban Cabinet member’s guest house in Kabul’s diplomatic district.

U.S. officials added they are concerned by al-Qaida’s resilience, especially since American intelligence efforts have less visibility inside Afghanistan since the bungled withdrawal.

The UN report, culled from intelligence from its various member nations, said that while al-Qaida does not have the capability to command and conduct long-range terror attacks like 9/11 right now, it is clearly showing signs of expansion and regional reach after years of diminishment from the Bush to the Trump years.

“Al-Qaida was reported to have established up to eight new training camps in Afghanistan, including four in Ghazni, Laghman, Parwan and Uruzgan Provinces, with a new base to stockpile weaponry in the Panjshir Valley,” the report said. “Some camps might be temporary.

“Five Al-Qaida madrasas operate in Laghman, Kunar, Nangarhar, Nuristan and Parwan Provinces,” it added. “The group maintains safe houses to facilitate the movement between Afghanistan and the Islamic Republic of Iran in the Provinces of Herat, Farah and Helmand, with additional safe house locations in Kabul.”

Equally troubling, the Islamic State terrorist group is also showing resiliency in several regions of the world, particularly Afghanistan, the UN warned.

“Member States assessed that, despite the recent loss of territory, casualties, and high attrition among senior and mid-tier leadership figures, ISIL-K continued to pose a major threat in Afghanistan and the region,” it noted.

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