Friday, May 7, 2021

U.S. troops are leaving Afghanistan, however Al Qaeda stays

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Mike Specter
What's there to say about me, blogging is my passion, but that goes without saying, i love football and i won't turn down an invitation for a drink. Make that Tequila and you have my undivided attention! How ironic lol I enjoy reading and occasional golf


In a hidden nook of Hamid Karzai Worldwide Airport, half a dozen army officers sat at their desks, staring glassily at displays exhibiting high-resolution video feeds and surveillance footage beamed from drones, warplanes and helicopters throughout the nation.

It was a tableau typically seen in years previous, however on this current afternoon there was a vital distinction: The Afghans have been alone, with out the American forces which have backed them in a 20-year conflict.

That absence, amid a shift that places Al Qaeda — somewhat than the Taliban — within the U.S. and NATO’s crosshairs, has compelled an evolution in how Afghan forces function. After years centered on roving fight with the Taliban on the battlefield, the Afghan army now should take full cost of the air help it relied on the U.S. to offer, integrating surveillance and airpower into its personal Operations Intelligence Middle.

Afghan military officers walk together

Gen. Yasin Zia, middle proper, visits the 777 Particular Mission Wing, which incorporates surveillance plane that feeds info to intelligence officers.

(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Instances)

“We created this capability to defend our troopers and bases transferring from one space to a different. We put all the weather, all of the gamers collectively to do that idea: ‘Discover, repair, end,’” stated Gen. Yasin Zia, the Afghan military’s chief of workers and appearing protection minister, utilizing the American terminology as he spoke of finding militant teams and Al Qaeda operatives in Afghanistan’s huge deserts and mountain ranges.

However the way forward for that counter-terrorism effort is in flux.

Intelligence officers look at monitors

Afghan intelligence officers in Kabul monitor aerial footage from surveillance plane on the Operations Intelligence Middle.

(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Instances)

For the primary time in 20 years, the USA says it is going to haven’t any troops and contractors in Afghanistan, and the CIA and particular forces groups which have led the seek for Al Qaeda’s remaining operatives will now not work from bases within the japanese a part of the nation.

In current days, the Pentagon started a “retrograde” of its forces within the nation, which embody what it says are some 2,500 service members, just a few hundred particular operations troops and a few 18,000 contractors. NATO is conducting its personal drawdown. The withdrawal might be full as early as July. President Biden positioned a Sept. 11 deadline for the pullout, 20 years after the Al Qaeda terrorist assaults within the U.S.

Biden administration officers say that the menace from Al Qaeda has been sharply decreased for the reason that U.S. invasion in 2001 and that it is going to be attainable to maintain tabs on the militant teams in Afghanistan from outdoors the nation. Even earlier than Al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden’s killing in 2011 in Pakistan, the group’s ranks have been decimated and far of its management killed or captured.

If a menace of a terrorist assault on the USA or its pursuits is detected, the Biden administration officers insist, the Pentagon or CIA may strike inside landlocked Afghanistan — with air assaults from faraway bases or particular forces groups inserted on so-called “seize or kill missions.”

Troops and journalists are silhouetted on a hilltop

Gen. Yasin Zia and his command workers, together with members of the media, stand atop a hillside to look at a war-game train on Wednesday.

(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Instances)

Two troops put weapons in a container.

Members of the 777 Particular Mission Wing load ordinances right into a container.

(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Instances)

“We are going to preserve an over-the-horizon functionality to suppress future threats to the homeland,” Biden stated Wednesday in an deal with to Congress. He added that Afghanistan is now not the one location from which militants threaten the usand its allies, naming Yemen, Syria, Somalia and “different locations.”

Fighter planes flying from plane carriers and longer-range bombers from air bases within the Persian Gulf, Indian Ocean and even the USA may strike rebel fighters whose areas are fastened by surveillance drones, communications intercepts and informant networks.

However many uncertainties stay about that technique, together with whether or not any of Afghanistan’s neighbors will comply with let the U.S. base forces or surveillance drones on their territory. If not, the U.S. must depend on forces working from American bases within the Persian Gulf.

The Pentagon and CIA could also be compelled again to a place just like the one that they had earlier than the 2001 U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, once they relied on networks of native informants, satellite tv for pc reconnaissance and intercepted communications to maintain tabs on Al Qaeda and different militants within the nation.

In these years, a small crew of CIA officers understanding of an workplace close to the company’s headquarters in Virginia have been centered on monitoring Bin Laden’s location in Afghanistan. However they failed, regardless of broad warnings about Al Qaeda’s want to assault the U.S. homeland, to uncover his plans to assault on Sept. 11.

The company additionally ready detailed plans a number of occasions for killing or capturing him earlier than 2001, in keeping with a 2004 report by the 9/11 Fee. However officers both halted the operations or noticed them vetoed by the White Home over considerations about civilian casualties, inaccurate intelligence or diplomatic fallout from a unilateral U.S. assault in Afghanistan.

 Soldiers hold automatic weapons.

Afghan troopers stand guard throughout Gen. Yasin Zia’s go to to a army base close to Kabul.

(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Instances)

Most of the similar issues may hamper U.S. efforts a long time later.

The U.S. exit additionally means the shuttering of CIA-backed paramilitary teams chargeable for “seize and kill” operations the U.S. has relied on to bag high-value Al Qaeda and Islamic State targets. (Human rights teams contend the paramilitary teams have dedicated abuses towards civilians.)

However the Al Qaeda of 2021 is a much smaller group with much less attain, whereas the USA has constructed a counter-terrorism functionality and familiarity with Afghanistan far exceeding something it had earlier than 2001.

“There can be some degradation by way of our potential to know precisely what’s happening,” Zalmay Khalilzad, the administration’s negotiator on Afghanistan, instructed the Senate Overseas Relations Committee on Tuesday. “However we imagine, given the character of the menace proper now… that we’d get enough warning.”

Al Qaeda has fewer than 200 members in south Asia, most of them in Afghanistan, Lt. Gen. Scott Berrier, the pinnacle of the Protection Intelligence Company, stated Thursday. The group’s second-ranking chief, Ayman Zawahiri, although struggling extreme well being issues, remains to be believed to be alive, hiding probably in Afghanistan, whereas different leaders are stated to be in Iran, in keeping with the company.

“There was little discernible exercise out of the group” final yr and “all through 2021, [Al Qaeda] very seemingly can be unable to conduct terrorist assaults,” Berrier added, in written testimony to the Senate Armed Providers Committee. As an alternative, the group will “bolster its relationship with the Taliban.”

That relationship is the core U.S. concern.

Underneath the phrases of a 2020 withdrawal settlement with the Trump administration, the Taliban vowed to forestall Afghan territory beneath its management from being utilized by terrorist teams to launch assaults on the U.S. and its allies. U.S. officers insist that the deal requires the Taliban to sever its ties with Al Qaeda, however U.S. intelligence officers don’t anticipate that to happen. What occurs to that deal after Biden delayed Trump’s Could 1 withdrawal date is unclear.

Regardless of publicly distancing themselves from Al Qaeda in personal talks with U.S. officers, the Taliban “very seemingly maintains shut ties with the militants on the native degree, typically via household ties attributable to years of intermarriage” in Afghanistan and Pakistan, stated a senior U.S. official acquainted with intelligence assessments concerning the relationship.

A press release posted on the “Voice of Jihad” Taliban web site in October stated the group had no obligation to sever ties with Al Qaeda beneath the U.S.-Taliban deal, the official famous.

Taliban representatives, nevertheless, insist they’ll comprise any extremists on Afghan soil.

 Afghan Army special forces commandos stand in formation.

Afghan Military particular forces commandos regroup in formation after conflict video games on Wednesday.

(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Instances)

“Al Qaeda was in Afghanistan earlier than Taliban. All these international locations now complaining about them supported them on the time of the Soviet invasion, and we now inherited them,” stated Suhail Shaheen, a Taliban consultant in Qatar, in a cellphone interview on Thursday.

“We’re dedicated to not permitting any entity or particular person to make use of Afghanistan towards the U.S., its allies or every other nation. We have now this capability to take care of all of our safety points.”

Some Afghan officers, in the meantime, see a chance within the Taliban’s integration into the Afghan state. That continues to be an unlikely prospect within the face of the Taliban’s dismissal of the federal government as an American puppet regime even because it views its leaders as traitors to the nation. Nonetheless, if there have been to be peace it will deny extremist teams the native safety they’ve up to now loved.

“If the Purple Power and Afghan particular forces function collectively, Al Qaeda and Islamic State can be nothing,” stated one former official with the nation’s Nationwide Directorate of Safety, its intelligence service, who refused to be named as a result of he was not allowed to talk to the media. The Purple Power is the title of the Taliban’s particular items.

However U.S. officers say that until the Afghan authorities and the Taliban attain a power-sharing deal, Al Qaeda is more likely to reconstitute its potential to threaten U.S. targets outdoors Afghanistan in two to 3 years, in keeping with the senior U.S official, citing categorized intelligence assessments.

That timetable may give the Biden administration time to construct up U.S. capabilities within the area, officers stated.

The White Home is promising to proceed help crucial to the Afghan army’s survival, and the Pentagon is planning to proceed to share intelligence and to coach Afghan forces so long as the federal government in Kabul survives.

Biden has been clear that troops and contractors will go away Afghanistan, apart from a small contingent to protect a scaled-down U.S. Embassy. If the U.S.-Taliban withdrawal settlement is violated by either side, nothing would stop the White Home from sending again covert CIA personnel in case the menace from Al Qaeda reemerged, some officers observe.

However Pentagon and intelligence officers are additionally frightened that Afghan authorities forces may rapidly face army reverses with out assist from U.S. troops and 1000’s of contractors. Afghans will now not have U.S. help on airstrikes, plane upkeep and supplying floor troops across the nation.

“Some issues the Afghans are going to must do after we go away in the event that they anticipate to outlive,” stated Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr., the highest commander within the area, in remarks to the American Enterprise Institute Tuesday. “We’ll see in the event that they’re ready to do this. I don’t need to make it sound simpler than it’s.”

If the Afghan army can stop a Taliban takeover, it may assist comprise the danger of a resurgence by Al Qaeda and Islamic State, which additionally has a small presence.

It may allow Afghan commandos, who’ve supplied a lot of the human intelligence on rebel threats, to proceed to funnel experiences to U.S. analysts outdoors the nation. It may additionally allow the Afghan authorities to herald its personal contractors, utilizing help {dollars} from the U.S., to switch these now departing.

A soldier looks out of a helicopter.

Members of the Afghan army safe the transport taking Gen. Yasin Zia to a base close to Kabul.

(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Instances)

Again within the operations middle, Gen. Zia stated the space could have little impact on information-gathering on the bottom, though Afghan officers have acknowledged that the withdrawal will cut back their capability for forensic and sign evaluation.

“We have now the very best human intelligence as a result of we’re from this area, we’re from this tradition, we now have the identical pores and skin colour; we now have no concern accumulating intelligence,” Zia stated.

“However operationalizing that intelligence to those rooms can be a problem,” he stated, gesturing to one of many displays within the middle.

Afghan officers proceed to spotlight the ties between Taliban fighters and Al Qaeda operatives, reminding U.S. officers of the persevering with relationship between the 2 teams and emphasizing Afghan forces’ continued usefulness.

Final month, the Nationwide Directorate of Safety, the nation’s home intelligence and paramilitary company, introduced it had killed Dawlat Beg, an Indian member of Al Qaeda and Hazrat Ali, a Taliban terrorist group, in Paktika province, close to the border with Pakistan.

However nonetheless, Zia stated, the U.S. battle towards Al Qaeda isn’t his nation’s high precedence.

“That’s not my struggle; it’s that of the worldwide group,” stated Zia. “In the event that they need assistance, they should sit and discover a method. And they’re doing so.”

A helicopter is seen through blades of grass.

A Mi-17 helicopter takes off after returning Gen. Yasin Zia to the Ministry of Protection in Kabul.

(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Instances)


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