Al Qaeda is operating “across the country” and not confined to one region, the commander of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan confirmed.
General Austin Miller, the commander of Resolute Support Mission and US Forces – Afghanistan, confirmed several analyses by FDD’s Long War Journal, which has noted for years that al Qaeda’s footprint spans all regions of Afghanistan.
“We have seen al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. Yes, in different parts of Afghanistan,” Miller said, according to TOLONews. “In different parts of Afghanistan, we can find them, so it’s not one particular region, it’s across the country.”
FDD’s Long War Journal has tracked al Qaeda’s presence in Afghanistan for well over a decade, using press releases and public statements from the US military, NATO’s command in Afghanistan, and Afghan security services, as well as the jihadist groups’ own martyrdom statements. This data was then geotagged to a map (above) which tracks the terrorist group’s operations and movement, as well as the US and Afghan military’s operations against them. [See Taliban continues to host foreign terrorist groups, despite assurances to the contrary.]
The data clearly shows that al Qaeda and allied terrorist groups have been operating on Afghan soil for the past two decades with the approval of the Taliban. These terrorist organizations often operate in areas controlled by the Taliban – and the jihadists killed in coalition or Afghan raids often die alongside members of the Afghan Taliban.
Since 2007, NATO, US, and Afghan forces, have launched at least 373 operations against these foreign terror groups in 27 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces.
FDD’s Long War Journal has also created a map, seen above, of al Qaeda’s and the Islamic State’s presence in Afghanistan based primarily on the last two United Nations Security Council reports on al Qaeda and the Islamic State’s presence in Afghanistan. In its latest report, the UNSC warned that both groups maintain a significant presence in Afghanistan. [See UN: Al Qaeda continues to view Afghanistan as a ‘safe haven’.]
The data was supplemented with operational reporting from the US military and Afghan security forces in recent years. The map above shows the presence of al Qaeda and al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS), as well as the Islamic State, across 13 Afghan provinces. Al Qaeda and its regional branch, Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent, are present in all 13 of the shaded provinces. The Islamic State’s Khorasan Province is present in five of the shaded provinces.
The US government, led by Zalmay Khalilzad – the Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation – is currently negotiating with the Taliban and has said the terror organization can be an effective counterterrorism partner and prevent Afghanistan from being used as a launchpad for international terrorist attacks.
However, Al Qaeda and the Taliban remain steadfast allies, and Khalilzad is well aware of that fact. While testifying before the House Foreign Affairs Committee in July 2016, he personally described the Taliban as an “extremist organization” with enduring ties to al Qaeda, and said the two would not part ways. [See Khalilzad flip flops on Pakistan, Taliban’s relationship with al Qaeda.]
Miller’s comments about al Qaeda’s presence throughout Afghanistan should call into question the US efforts to negotiate a peace deal with the Taliban. The Taliban is clearly supporting al Qaeda to this day, because al Qaeda would not be able to operate “across the country” without the explicit support and approval of the Taliban.