By: Monitoring Desk
Experts say that although the terrorist group is not as strong as it was in the past, developments in Afghanistan present new opportunities for the group.
All eyes are on Afghanistan as the Taliban rapidly takes control of several Afghan provincial capitals. The Taliban has taken dozens of districts and border crossings in the past few weeks as foreign troops withdraw.
Several experts have been expressing concern about a potential comeback for Al Qaeda due to the fallout from the conflict between the Taliban and the Afghan government, due to the power vacuum left by the withdrawing US troops.
While Daesh has dominated headlines in recent years, Al Qaeda has quietly pursued a strategy of restructuring and forging alliances with regional organizations. The US National Intelligence in 2019 warned that senior al Qaeda leaders were “strengthening the organization’s global command structure, continuing to encourage attacks on Western and US targets.”
A UN report that same year revealed that Al Qaeda appears to be even more revered, remains resilient and active in many regions and retains a desire to take on a more international appearance.
Most recently, Alex Younger, former head of British intelligence last month also warned that the Al Qaeda threat will grow saying that “it would be an “enormous mistake” to neglect Afghanistan as happened back in 1989 after the mujahideen defeated the Soviet Union.
In light of recent developments, many believe that Al Qaeda and Daesh terrorist groups will take advantage of the departure of foreign forces.
August 11 marks 33 years since the founding of Al Qaeda.
Terror and security expert, Dr Elisabeth Kendall from Oxford University’s Pembroke College plays down some of the more sensationalist warnings about Al Qaeda’s resurgence.
“It has been degraded by drone strikes, infiltrated by spies, and fragmented by infighting. We should no longer think of Al Qaeda as a single integrated movement with central command and control,” she told TRT World.
“But we must not be complacent. Its various splinter groups forge different alliances and this makes today’s Al Qaeda both less predictable and more difficult to define and monitor.”
According to security expert Abdullah Agar, Al Qaeda has ’completed’ its work.
“When we look at such structures, they have all mutated, they have changed their strategies related to terrorism and politics, they come out very differently in this context. They completed their main task, which was for Islamophobia to prevail in the West,” he added. “Al Qaeda still makes sense to some people, especially in certain segments, it still has the capacity to act, but its techniques and tactics have changed,” Agar tells TRT World. On the other hand, Dr Kendall says Al Qaeda is still looking to attack the West and its allies.
“But its capacity to directly launch attacks inside the West is greatly reduced. Of course, the capacity for Al Qaeda’s ideology and propaganda to inspire so-called lone wolf attacks remains. One other possibility is to launch ‘international’ attacks inside the Middle East, for example by focusing on soft targets or maritime shipping,” she added. Security expert Agar also believes that Al Qaeda has been instrumental in building anti-Islamic discourse across the world. “They have performed their functions and will continue to perform their duties with the like. For Christians and Jews, Islam was also a hope, and these organisations became part of the perception operation against Islam”. According to Dr Kendall, the developments in Afghanistan can also help Al Qaeda to find an opportunity. “Al Qaeda has a habit of bouncing back, particularly in conflict zones and failed states. So the unravelling of Afghanistan presents a golden opportunity for Al Qaeda to resurge. It has retained ties to the Taliban and may be able to re-group in the safe haven provided in the country,” she told TRT World.