ISIS, Al-Qaeda ‘reconstituting’ in Afghanistan – US general
Lieutenant General Michael Kurilla, tapped to lead US Central Command (CENTCOM), has accused the Taliban government in Afghanistan of refusing to denounce terrorist groups Al-Qaeda and ISIS-K, an offshoot of Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS).
“One of the challenges is the threat to the homeland from Al Qaeda and ISIS-K. They are reconstituting. The Taliban has not renounced Al Qaeda, ISIS-K,” Kurilla told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday, pointing to the release of prisoners from the Bagram and Pul-e-Charkhi prisons by the Taliban after the militant group reconquered Afghanistan last year.
“While they have aspirations to attack the homeland, they do not have the capability yet,” Kurilla said of Al-Qaeda and ISIS-K.
The general’s remarks came a week after a UN report said that Al-Qaeda, the jihadist group behind the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the US, received “a significant boost” following the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, and some of its “closest sympathizers” within the Taliban were now in power in Kabul.
Billal Karimi, the deputy spokesman for the Taliban-led government, dismissed Kurilla’s words as “propaganda” that lacked “evidence or documentation.”
“We hope instead of spreading propaganda and allegations without evidence, the world will come forward and engage and cooperate with the Islamic Emirate,” he said, as quoted by TOLOnews, using the Taliban’s official name of its regime in Afghanistan.
The Taliban seized power in Afghanistan last year during the final stage of the withdrawal of Western forces from the country after nearly two decades of US-led occupation. In a written statement provided to the Senate before this week’s hearing, Kurilla said “the strategic implications of that war are not yet fully understood.”
ISIS-K claimed responsibility for killing 13 US service members and more than 160 Afghan civilians in a bombing outside the Kabul airport in August 2021, and later for similar attacks against the Taliban government.
Islamic State rose to power in 2014, rapidly conquering large swaths of northern Iraq and eastern Syria. The self-proclaimed IS caliphate then began to lose ground and was largely extinguished following the US-led and Russian military operations.
Washington announced on February 3 that IS leader Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurashi was killed in a US raid in northwestern Syria. His predecessor, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, was killed under similar circumstances in 2019.