In a statement released on Voice of Jihad on Oct. 13, the Taliban took the rare step of mentioning al Qaeda in Afghanistan in their official propaganda (commanders such as Mullah Sangeen have spoken about the Taliban’s relationship with al Qaeda, but this type of statement is made outside of official Taliban channels; Sangeen’s statement was made to As Sahab, al Qaeda’s media outlet). The Oct. 13 statement addressed President Barack Obama’s speech at the United Nations, in which he all but declared victory in Afghanistan. The Taliban mocked Obama’s speech, and claimed he is actually hiding a US defeat.
In the opening paragraph, the Taliban noted that Obama said America’s primary goal in Afghanistan is “the demolition of ‘Al-Qaida'”:
In the annual session 2013 of the United Nations which was participated by nearly all heads of the states and the American president pronounced in front of all the participants that the demolition of ‘Al-Qaida’ was their main objective and since the Americans have achieved this target, therefore, the international coalition will bring the war inside Afghanistan to an end in 2014 and all the foreign forces will be withdrawn from Afghanistan till the end of the following year.
After going on at length about how the Taliban have resisted the US and NATO for 12 years, the Taliban said that Obama was trying to “conceal his obvious defeat” by claiming al Qaeda was “dismantled”:
Obama said in his statement that we have achieved our objectives and have dismantled the ‘Al-Qaida’. Actually he was trying to blow the dust into his people’s eyes and to conceal his obvious defeat but it is all in-vain. He is trying to hide the sun with two fingers but it is impossible (A local adage).
The Taliban’s statement makes two points regarding al Qaeda:
1) The Taliban are saying that since the US used al Qaeda as a pretext to invade Afghanistan, Obama’s claim that al Qaeda is defeated gives the US an excuse to withdraw.
2) The Taliban are also stating, however, that the US has not only failed to defeat the Taliban, but has failed to “dismantle” al Qaeda.
As we’ve documented at LWJ for years, al Qaeda is far from defeated in Afghanistan. In fact, Kunar and Nuristan have been primary hubs for al Qaeda leaders, and(al Qaeda is present in other provinces as well. Before ISAF ended its operational reporting in June, it consistently reported on the targeting of senior al Qaeda leaders in the two northeastern provinces.
For more than three years, the Obama administration has maintained that between 50 to 100 al Qaeda operatives are in Afghanistan (the latest figure given is 75 al Qaeda fighters in country). Interestingly, the ballpark estimate of between 50 to 100 al Qaeda operatives in country has not changed, despite heavy targeting of the group.
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