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.
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.
The raids in Helmand and Nangarhar indicate that al Qaeda’s leaders are not focused on its survival. Al Mesri was focused on manufacturing IEDs to support the Taliban’s insurgency in Helmand, while Rahmatullah and his cohorts were operating in Nangarhar’s provincial capital.
AFRICOM noted that Shabaab, which is al Qaeda’s branch in East Africa, continues to maintain “training camps” and “safe havens throughout Somalia and the region.”
In 2017, LWJ reported unprecedented levels of airstrikes in Somalia and Yemen. Thus far in 2018, the United States has sustained its high strike tempo in Somalia and improved transparency on its air campaign in Yemen. Strikes in Pakistan have leveled off, however press restrictions make tracking operations there difficult. In Libya, the U.S. has targeted jihadists sparingly.
The Red Unit, the Taliban’s version of special forces that operates throughout Afghanistan and is often at the tip of the spear of assaults on district centers, military bases and outposts, is said to have initiated the fighting in Dasht-i-Archi district. At least 30 Afghan soldiers were killed during the assault.
The deadly bombing is the first major attack executed by the Taliban group since Mufti Noor Wali Mehsud assumed command of the group in late June.
The Turkistan Islamic Party (TIP) in Afghanistan and Syria has long operated as part of the Taliban-al Qaeda axis. Earlier this year, however, the TIP’s Syrian branch sided with Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) during its battles with other rebel groups. This infighting and related events have complicated the picture with respect to the TIP in Syria. One TIP-affiliated outlet claimed earlier this year that the group’s senior management had sent new leadership from Afghanistan to Syria.