Al Qaeda can take a year or two to rebuild in Afghanistan, say US officials

NEW YORK: US officials are concerned about the banned outfit Al Qaeda rebuilding and regrouping in Afghanistan, as per a report in The New York Times.

Top US intelligence officials noted that some members of the Al Qaeda had returned to Afghanistan as the Taliban consolidated their hold over the country.

The assessment from the US officials came amid concerns over the Taliban’s capacity to ensure that militants do not take advantage of the vacuum in the war-ravaged country and use Afghanistan’s soil as a launching pad against other countries.

Top intelligence officials met at the annual Intelligence and National Security Summit where they noted that it would take Al Qaeda at least one to two years before it can strike the US again.

“The current assessment probably conservatively is one to two years for Al Qaeda to build some capability to at least threaten the homeland,” Lt. Gen. Scott D. Berrier, the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, said.

David S Cohen, the deputy director of the CIA, said it was hard to detect when the Al Qaeda or Daesh’s local affiliate would have the capability to threaten the US, adding that the CIA is keeping a close watch on “some potential movement of Al Qaeda to Afghanistan.”

“We’re thinking about ways to gain access back into Afghanistan with all kinds of source,” said General Berrier.

Won’t allow Afghan soil to be used for terrorism, say Taliban

The Taliban’s spokesman in Doha, Suhail Shaheen. had said a couple of days ago that the Taliban had condemned the 9/11 attacks 20 years ago and told the US that “no Afghans were involved” in them.

Shaheen’s remarks came during an interview with Geo News on programme “Jirga”, aired last week.

“I recall that we condemned the incident. [Abdul Salam] Zaeef was the ambassador (to Pakistan) and I was an aide. We called a press conference and we condemned the incident. We said we will cooperate to unearth the real behind the scenes culprits,” he had said.

“We asked that the matter be resolved through dialogue, do not invade Afghanistan. And the result of an invasion is before you now,” Shaheen had said.

“It won’t be a good result for you, so it is better for you and for us also, having fought against an invasion (for so long) and many people being martyred, so we do not want this,” he had recalled the Taliban saying to the US.

“But they did not listen to us and came to Afghanistan and occupied it through sophisticated weapons. At a time there were more than 150,000 soldiers here of theirs and of the alliances. But the result was what we had warned against 20 years ago,” the spokesman said.

He went on to state that “with the support of the people, we won back our freedom”.

To a question, Shaheen had said that Al Qaeda at the time had not taken into confidence Afghanistan or Mullah Muhammad Omar over such a move, and that the Taliban, who were in power at the time, were “caught off-guard”.

He added that the Taliban have now, since taking control of Afghanistan, made a policy to never allow the use of Afghan soil against any other country.