US President Joe Biden said last month that Al-Qaeda was “gone” from Afghanistan, a statement made after the fall of capital Kabul to the Taliban. Days later, Biden’s claim was contradicted by Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who acknowledged in an interview with Fox News that “remnants” of Al-Qaeda were still present in the Central Asian nation.
Proscribed terrorist outfit Al-Qaeda on Tuesday released a two-page statement in English and Arabic praising the “historic victory” of the Taliban in Afghanistan, which it described as the “graveyard of empires” and an “impregnable fortress”.
“… Just as you have liberated Afghanistan from the American occupation, liberate Palestine from the Zionist occupation and the Islamic Maghreb from French occupation… Liberate the Levant, Somalia, Yemen, Kashmir and the rest of the Islamic lands from the clutches of the enemies of Islam”, reads the statement, released hours after the Pentagon announced that the last American troop had left Afghanistan.
The Taliban also proclaimed its independence from US occupation on Tuesday, 31 August, as per the group’s spokesperson.
Al-Qaeda’s statement was released by the SITE Intelligence Group, a US non-profit tracking online activity of terrorist outfits. It has since been reported by several media outlets, including Long War Journal and Indian daily The Hindustan Times.
— Rita Katz (@Rita_Katz) August 31, 2021
In response to Al-Qaeda’s reference to Kashmir in its statement, Taliban spokesperson Suhail Shaheen told Sputnik that his outfit didn’t have “any foreign agenda”.
“We are entirely focussed on the reconstruction of Afghanistan and other domestic priorities”, he said.
Al-Qaeda predicted that America’s “debacle” marked the “beginning of the end of the dark era of western hegemony and military occupations of Islamic lands.”
“With the help of Allah, the historic victory will open the way for the Muslim masses to achieve liberation from the despotic rule of tyrants who have been imposed by the West on the Islamic world,” it said.
— Dhairya Maheshwari (@dhairyam14) September 1, 2021
Al-Qaeda also said that the “historic events” in Afghanistan also offer an opportunity for the “masses in Europe and East Asia to break free from the shackles of American hegemony”.
The organization has also called upon the people of Afghanistan to “unite around the blessed leadership” of the Taliban. The appeal by Al-Qaeda comes amid calls by the foreign governments to form a “broad-based” and “inclusive” government representative of various ethnicities of the Central Asian country.
The Taliban, which follows the hardline Hanafi brand of Sunni Islam, draws the majority of its support from Pashtuns, who in turn constitute between 40 and 50 percent of Afghanistan’s population, as per a 2013 study by the country’s National Statistics and Information Authority (formerly Central Statistics Organisation). The last official census in Afghanistan was carried out in 1979.
Al-Qaeda went on to heap praises on the Taliban’s current chief Haibatullah Akhundzada, as it credited the Islamist outfit’s leadership for “breaking America’s back, tarnishing its global reputation and expelling it” from Afghanistan.
Further, Al-Qaeda also remembered the Taliban’s previous two heads—Mullah Omar (the Taliban’s co-founder, whose death was announced in 2015) and Mullah Akhtar Mansour (his death was announced in 2016).
In its statement, Al-Qaeda also paid tribute to the “father of martyrs” Sheikh Jalaluddin Haqqani, a jihadi commander and former Haqqani Network chief who died in 2018.
Senior members of the Haqqani Network, currently led by Jalaluddin’s son Sirajuddin, were put in charge of Kabul’s overall security this week.
Khalil al Rahman Haqqani, an uncle of Sirajuddin, is the group’s most senior figure in Kabul. Both are US-designated terrorists with bounties of $5 million each on their heads. Sirajuddin has been opposed to the ongoing peace negotiations with the US government, as per the UN.
Anas Haqqani, another son of Jalaluddin, is one of the negotiating members of the Taliban political office based in Doha.
Al-Qaeda’s statement praising Taliban comes after Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid claimed in an interview with NBC News that there was “no proof” that Osama bin Laden had been involved in the 9/11 terror attacks.
On 30 August, several videos on social media also showed Amin-ul-Haq, a former aide of bin Laden, returning to his native Nangarhar province after it fell to the Taliban.
— Joyce Karam (@Joyce_Karam) August 30, 2021
As per the terms of the “Doha Peace Deal” of February 2020, which set the stage for the withdrawal of US and allied troops from the nation, the Taliban has committed to not let Afghan soil be used by Al-Qaeda or any other terror outfit threatening the security of the US or its allies.
*The Taliban and Al-Qaeda are terrorist organisations banned in Russia