The Taliban never slowed in launching numerous attacks across the country even as it committed significant resources to the fight in Ghazni.
According to a new report published by the United Nations, al Qaeda’s “alliance with the Taliban and other terrorist groups in Afghanistan remains firm,” as al Qaeda and the Taliban are “closely allied.” Some of the UN’s Member States consider al Qaeda’s global network to be a bigger long-term threat than the Islamic State.
A report by the United Nations includes new details concerning the dispute between Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) and al Qaeda’s senior leaders, including the role played by two veteran operatives living in Iran. The UN’s member states say that HTS is still in “contact” with al Qaeda’s leadership despite their heated disagreements, and that al Qaeda has even reinforced HTS with “military and explosives experts” sent from Afghanistan.
On Aug. 8, the State Department announced that it had increased its reward for information concerning the whereabouts of two veteran al Qaeda leaders: Abdullah Ahmed Abdullah and Saif al-Adel. Although State didn’t explain the move, there is evidence that the two al Qaeda managers were operating inside Iran as of 2017.
In addition to Ajristan and Khwaja Umar, the districts of Nawur, Jaghatu, and Deh Yak have fallen to the Taliban. Meanwhile, Resolute Support has intentionally misled the the public about the status of seven of Ghazni’s districts. Resolute Support claimed these districts were under government control; in reality the Taliban physically controlled the terrain while the Afghan government operated the government remotely from Ghazni City.
Al Qaeda has long operated in Ghazni province, the site of a large-scale Taliban offensive in recent days. In 2010, Osama bin Laden ordered his men to relocate from northern Pakistan into Ghazni and other Afghan provinces. Bin Laden’s lieutenant also wrote in mid-2010 that al Qaeda had “very strong military activity” in at least eight Afghan provinces, including Ghazni. More recently, American and Afghan forces have targeted al Qaeda operatives in the province.
This now makes two Iranian-based leaders of Bahraini militant group Saraya al Ashtar, or the Al Ashtar Brigades, to be designated as global terrorists by the US State Department.
The current fighting in and around Ghazni City indicates that the Taliban has a detailed plan to tie up Afghan forces while attempting to seize the provincial capital. Additionally, the Taliban was able to mass its forces undetected; the Afghan military was clearly caught off guard and is struggling to get into the fight four days after the Taliban launched its attack.