The Taliban are in power in Kabul for the second time in the history of Afghanistan. In this country which served in the 1990s as a rear base for Al-Qaida for the organization of the attacks of September 11, what has become of this terrorist organization founded by the terrorist for a time the most wanted on the planet, Osama Ben Laden? And what are its links today, 20 years later with the new masters of the country?
Ties remain between Taliban and Al-Qaida
« It’s not much now, there is no Al-Qaida base in the country “, Recently explained Olivier Roy, professor at the European University Institute in Florence and specialist in Afghanistan, on France 24.” People still belong to this organization, but the structure is extremely weakened. Strictly speaking, they are no longer in Afghanistan but in the tribal areas on the Pakistan-Afghan border. ».
→ MAINTENANCE. “Al-Qaida no longer has the means for its ambition”
However, ties remain between the Taliban and Al-Qaida. Just as Osama bin Laden pledged allegiance to Mullah Omar in 1996, the current head of the terrorist organization, Ayman al-Zawahiri, did the same in 2016 with the new Taliban leader, Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada. ” However, analysis Bruno Tertrais, deputy director of the Foundation for Strategic Research (FRS), it is doubtful that the Taliban will allow Al–Qaida to reconstitute itself on Afghan soil, if only because it would compromise the manna of international assistance ».
Of course, Al-Qaida still exists, but the organization is less advocating for a global jihad. It is more of a decentralized network, and its jihadist groups are no longer concentrated in Afghanistan but on local fronts, especially in the Sahel where the organization is strongly represented. Personal allegiance to Bin Laden ensured cohesion between the different branches: in Yemen Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (Aqpa), in the Maghreb Al-Qaida in the Maghreb (Aqmi), and, until July 2016 in Syria with the Al-Nosra Front, which has since swarmed some of its fighters to the Islamic State group.
Al-Qaida, an “advisory council”
This did not prevent the West from tracking down its founders, thus hoping to weaken the structure. On May 2, 2011, in an extremely risky raid on the outskirts of Abbottabad, Pakistan, an American commando team killed Osama bin Laden. Ayman al-Zawahiri, Egyptian ideologue and former personal doctor of Bin Laden, succeeded him, becoming the head of Al-Qaida.
Designer of the September 11 attacks, Ayman al-Zawahiri is now old and sick. Under his command, ” Al-Qaida central is the shadow of what it has been Barak Mendelsohn, professor at Haverford University in Pennsylvania, reported to AFP. ” Zawahiri’s greatest achievement is keeping Al-Qaida alive “. And for this, continues the researcher, he had to multiply the “franchises” and allegiances of circumstances, from the Arabian Peninsula to the Maghreb, from Somalia to Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq.
The leadership of Al-Qaida is no longer, according to him, an “advisory council”. Whose number two, Abu Mohammed al-Masri, was killed on August 7, 2020, in a street in Tehran, by Israeli agents during a secret mission sponsored by Washington, according to the New York Times.
If Al-Qaida is not what it used to be, the terrorist threat has not disappeared. As we approach the commemoration of the 20 years of the attacks against the Twin Towers in New York on September 11, 2001 – which claimed more than 2,900 victims – claimed by Al-Qaida, we can see how much since, especially with the war in Syria, the threat has become the daily life of democratic societies, privileged targets of these jihadist movements whatever they may be.
Daech, rival d’Al-Qaida
France has been and remains one of its prime targets. In a note dated July, the French Ministry of the Interior asked the prefects to “Strict due diligence measures” for July and August. This note followed the release, on July 15, of a video of Al-Qaida in Arabic, and subtitled in English, lambasting the cartoons of Mohammed and targeting France.
If Al-Qaida has lost its strike force, it is supplanted by a rival jihadist group in the Middle East: the Islamic State (IS) or Daesh organization, born in Iraq, an extremist Sunni organization, having proclaimed in 2014 a “Caliphate” in Iraq and Syria.
Daesh has claimed responsibility for many attacks in Europe such as those of November 13, 2015 and many others, sometimes carried out by proxies. It has since suffered a series of setbacks losing its territory in Iraq and Syria, and its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was killed in a US operation on October 27, 2019.
It is one of its franchises, the Islamic State group in the province of Khorasan (EIPK), which last week claimed responsibility for the attack near the Kabul airport in which more than a hundred Afghans were killed along with 13 American soldiers. Emmanuel Macron traveling in Iraq, Saturday 28 and Sunday 29 August, about this attack recalled the « menace » that Daesh represents and called to “Do not let your guard down” facing the jihadists.