In the early ’90s, Al-Qaeda (AQ) found a haven in Afghanistan. This was under the Taliban regime that had come to power. History is repeating itself. The Taliban ascended to power again in August 2021. Following a swift operation that saw them overrun what remained of the Afghanistan National Army and the withdrawal of United States troops and its allies.
AQ has since reaffirmed its allegiance to the Taliban. This was in the form of a Bay’ah (an oath of allegiance). Because the Taliban is now in charge. AQ will likely be able to re-establish itself in the country. It will be able to grow its numbers and plan attacks. However, its ability to mount attacks worldwide will not be the same as in the late 1990s or early 2000s.
Key Judgement 1: It is highly likely that Al-Qaeda will enjoy a haven in Afghanistan, using it as a base to carry out attacks in the region in the next 12 months.
- In May 2022, AQ leader al-Zawahiri once again pledged the allegiance of AQ to the Taliban. Following their victory to recapture Afghanistan. (source)
- A UN report suggests that AQ will enjoy more freedoms given the success of the Taliban in Afghanistan. This is despite the Taliban’s reassurance that it is combating terrorism within Afghanistan. (source)
- Following the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan, US intelligence monitored the movement of AQ members and followers back to Afghanistan. (source)
Key Judgement 2: It is highly likely that over the next 12 months AQ will use the economic and humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan to recruit new members.
- In May 2022, Qatar emphasised the importance of the West in engaging with the Taliban government. This is to help lessen the impact of the humanitarian and economic crisis. Fearing that it will lead to increased recruitment opportunities for AQ and other extremist groups (source)
- Furthermore, US General Mckenzie, believes AQ is actively recruiting in Afghanistan since the Taliban has taken over. And that Al-Qaeda is enjoying a haven in Afghanistan once again. (source)
- The Afghanistan economy has shrunk by at least 40% since the Taliban took over. And the poverty rate could hit 97% by the end of 2022. This provides terrorist organisations like AQ with an abundance of potential recruits. (source)
Key Judgement 3: It is unlikely that AQ will be able to conduct international attacks in the next 12 months from its bases in Afghanistan.
- Although Al-Qaeda is regrouping and growing again in Afghanistan and a haven in Afghanistan. AQ is currently unable to carry out attacks that take years of planning and multiple operatives (source)
- The Taliban will likely prevent AQ from mounting attacks against the West and the United States as it seeks legitimacy for its new regime. (source)
- Al-Qaeda will be unable to run the industrial size training camps it previously did in Afghanistan whilst the Taliban seeks international recognition. (source)
- Furthermore, DIA Director Lieutenant General Scott Berrier, has said that AQ has had troubles with reconstitution and leadership, which has led to limited capabilities to attack Western targets. (source)
Intelligence cut-off Date: 28th July 2022