Say, remember when Joe Biden assured us that al-Qaeda was “gone” from Afghanistan? Ten days later, the security chief for Osama bin Laden at Tora Bora returned to his home province in Nangarhar, amid adulation — and Taliban protection. Amin ul-Haq even flashed a thumbs-up to his admirers out an open window as Taliban troops waved his car through a checkpoint.
Something tells me that the Taliban might not be the strategic partners against international terrorism that the Biden administration suggests:
Dr. Amin-ul-Haq, a major al-Qaeda player in Afghanistan, Osama Bin Laden security in charge in Tora Bora, returns to his native Nangarhar province after it fell to the Taliban. Dr. Amin became close to OBL in the 80s when he worked with Abdullah Azzam in Maktaba Akhidmat. pic.twitter.com/IXbZeJ0nZE
— BILAL SARWARY (@bsarwary) August 30, 2021
Bill Roggio gives the context, including his observation at the ease of Taliban personnel at openly collaborating a senior AQ figure:
Dr. Amin al Haq, the former head of bin Laden’s Black Guard, was captured on video in a large convoy as it traveled through a checkpoint in Nangarhar province. Haq was accompanied by a large convoy of heavily armed Taliban fighters in brand new SUVs. A small crowd flocked to Haq to shake his hand and take selfies with him.
The video of al Haq is evidence that Al Qaeda commanders now feel secure enough to appear publicly in a Taliban-controlled Afghanistan.
It was not immediately clear if al Haq was returning to his home in eastern Afghanistan for the first time, or if he has been in Afghanistan the entire time since being released from Pakistani custody. He may have also been traversing the porous border between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Either way, the confidence to travel and operate out in the open – in plain sight for the first time in a decade – speaks to the marked change in Afghanistan over the last month.
Ten days earlier, Biden argued that the Taliban had learned their lesson over the last twenty years, and that we had no more security interests in Afghanistan:
Look, let’s put this thing in perspective here. What interest do we have in Afghanistan at this point with al Qaeda gone? We went to Afghanistan for the express purpose of getting rid of al Qaeda in Afghanistan, as well as — as well as getting Osama bin Laden. And we did.
Imagine — just imagine if that attack — if bin Laden had decided, with al Qaeda, to launch an attack from Yemen. Would we ever have gone to Afghanistan? Would there ever be any reason we’d be in Afghanistan — controlled by the Taliban? What is the national interest of United States in that circumstance? We went and did the mission. You’ve known my position for a long, long time. It’s time to end this war. …
The threat from terrorism has metastasized. There’s a greater danger from ISIS and — and al Qaeda and all these affiliates in other countries, by far, than there is from Afghanistan. And we’re going to retain an over-the-horizon capability that if they were to come back — to be able to take them out, surgically move.
It appears that Afghanistan has at least become one of those affiliates that Biden will supposedly target. What happened to our over-the-horizon capability with regard to ul-Haq? He’s clearly come back, and it doesn’t appear that it’s simply for a soft retirement in beautiful downtown Jalalabad.
Two days after Biden made those remarks, Jake Sullivan attempted to walk them back a bit:
Q Thank you, Jake. So, Friday, the President said that we got rid of al Qaeda in Afghanistan. Sunday, the Secretary of State said there is al Qaeda in Afghanistan. So, are you presenting the President with the full picture, or is he just misapplying the intelligence when he makes these public statements?
MR. SULLIVAN: The President was referring to al Qaeda’s capability to attack the United States, which the intelligence community tells us today is not present in Afghanistan. Today, it is not present in Afghanistan.
What is present in Afghanistan right now, to our forces at the airport, is a serious threat from ISIS-K, which we’re trying to deal with. And, of course, there’s the possibility that al Qaeda could reconstitute an external plotting capability in Afghanistan.
That’s why you’ve heard from the President repeatedly about the need for an over-the-horizon capability that will allow the United States, working with partners, to continue to suppress the terrorism threat in Afghanistan from al Qaeda or ISIS-K or anyone else, just as we work to suppress the terrorism threat from al Qaeda and ISIS in Yemen, in Syria, in Somalia, in the Islamic Maghreb, in many other countries.
If that’s the case, why did we retreat from Afghanistan, since it’s clear that AQ is not just present but reconvening its leadership? And under Taliban protection, no less? If they’re still counting on the Taliban to be our partners in targeting AQ with an “over-the-horizon capability,” then ul-Haq’s triumphant return amid cheering Taliban troops should disabuse them of that notion.
And by the way, ul-Haq has come back at just the right time. Thanks to Biden’s pell-mell rout out of Afghanistan, AQ has access to a weapons trove they couldn’t have dreamt of seizing:
A mind-blowing graphic in today's Times on what $85bn worth of lost equipment means in practice for the Taliban: pic.twitter.com/GDcuNQbb6P
— Will Brown (@_Will_Brown) August 29, 2021
The article itself is behind a paywall, but the figures speak for themselves. We left behind over four hundred thousand automatic weapons for the Taliban and its allies to exploit. Those weapons won’t just arm the Taliban and AQ either; they will get sold on the black market for hard currency, arming every terror network with our weaponry, most likely to be primarily aimed right back at us. It’s Fast and Furious on steroids. Terror attacks on Americans are a matter of when, not if, thanks to the space and resources Joe Biden has gifted al-Qaeda.