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Tuesday, October 23

Al Qaeda in Afghanistan

The headline given to this Associated Press report is a little odd:  Al-Qaida in Afghanistan is attempting a comeback.  Odd because the report, filed by veteran war journalists Deb Riechmann and Robert Burns, makes it very explicit that al Qaeda has been entrenched in Afghanistan for years. 

Ah, well, we take our data where we find it, and there's a lot of interesting data in the report.  Here are just the opening paragraphs (I've linked to the report at e-Ariana  -- datelined there October 23 although it was first published Oct. 20 -- which archives news reports longer than Google News):
KABUL, Afghanistan — A diminished but resilient al-Qaida, whose 9/11 attacks drew America into its longest war, is attempting a comeback in Afghanistan's mountainous east even as U.S. and allied forces wind down their combat mission and concede a small but steady toehold to the terrorist group.

That concerns U.S. commanders, who have intensified strikes against al-Qaida cells in recent months. It also undercuts an Obama administration narrative portraying al-Qaida as battered to the point of being a nonissue in Afghanistan as Western troops start leaving.

When he visited Afghanistan in May to mark the one-year anniversary of the U.S. raid that killed Osama bin Laden, President Barack Obama said his administration had turned the tide of war. "The goal that I set -– to defeat al-Qaida, and deny it a chance to rebuild -– is within reach," he said.

As things stand, however, an unquestionably weakened al-Qaida appears to have preserved at least limited means of regenerating inside Afghanistan as U.S. influence in the country wanes. The last U.S. combat troops are scheduled to be gone by Dec. 31, 2014, and security matters turned over to the Afghan government.

"They are trying to increase their numbers and take advantage of the Americans leaving," the police chief of Paktika province, Gen. Dawlat Khan Zadran, said through a translator in an interview this month in the governor's compound. He mentioned no numbers, but said al-Qaida has moved more weapons across the border from Pakistan.

For years the main target of U.S.-led forces has been the Taliban, rulers of Afghanistan and protectors of al-Qaida before the U.S. invasion 11 years ago. But the strategic goal is to prevent al-Qaida from again finding haven in Afghanistan from which to launch attacks on the U.S.

Al-Qaida's leadership fled in late 2001 to neighboring Pakistan, where it remains.  [Pundita note:  To be precise, the leadership was airlifted to Pakistan, with permission from Vice President Dick Cheney, just before the fall of Kunduz.]

The group remains active inside Afghanistan, fighting U.S. troops, spreading extremist messages, raising money, recruiting young Afghans and providing military expertise to the Taliban and other radical groups.

U.S. Gen. John Allen, the top commander of international forces in Afghanistan, has said al-Qaida has re-emerged, and although its numbers are small, he says the group doesn't need a large presence to be influential.
Oh heck, as long as I'm trying to ruin your day I might as well add this other oddly headlined report, which I also found at e-Ariana -- odd because the topic is treated as if it's news.  The only real news here is that this particular American Member of Congress is just learning the ISI is directing the insurgency in Afghanistan. Did he spend years sleeping through the intelligence briefings?
ISI directing Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan: US lawmaker
Times of India

WASHINGTON - Pakistan's spy agency ISI is directing the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan, a US lawmaker has alleged, saying his view is based on his meetings with the people and officials in the war-torn country.

"US military commanders at several levels of the chain of command indicated that they believe Pakistan and its intelligence agency specifically, the ISI, is directing the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan," California's Republican Congressman Duncan Hunter told the UTSanDiego.Com.

"The fact that they (Pakistanis) are controlling them was pretty astounding to me. It's bad, but it bodes well I think for long-term stability. That means it's an external threat. It's not an internal Taliban takeover like it was in the '90s," said Hunter, who visited Afghanistan as part of a Congressional delegation - the first to visit the country after the recent withdrawal of surge forces from there.

Hunter hinted that the Pakistani establishment might also be involved in the insiders attack.

"Everybody is taking the insider threat thing seriously on both sides, especially the Afghans. They are really getting to the bottom of it in every way they can. Now that the army is at its strength, they can kind of re-vet and check everybody," he said.

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