Intel officials: Al Qaeda could rebuild in Afghanistan in a year

(Ibaa News Network, via AP)

Okay, I’m actually exaggerating slightly with that headline. The Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency didn’t say al Qaeda could rebuild within a year. He said they could rebuild in a year or two. That’s a change from an estimate made earlier this year that it would take about two years. So now the story is maybe only half that time. And when the DIA Director says “rebuild” what he means, specifically, is that’s how soon they could have the ability to attack the United States here at home:

The new timeline is not a drastic shift, but reflects the reality that the Taliban have a limited ability to control the borders of Afghanistan…

“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 Tuesday at the annual Intelligence and National Security Summit.

David S. Cohen, the deputy director of the C.I.A., said the difficult part of the timeline question was to know when Al Qaeda or the Islamic State affiliate in Afghanistan would “have the capability to go to strike the homeland” before they could be detected.

The CIA is keeping tabs on the al Qaeda members who are currently returning to Afghanistan. They aren’t naming names but there was video of Osama bin Laden’s security chief, Amin al Haq, arriving last month:

Foreign Policy published a piece yesterday noting just how devoted the Taliban are to their friends in al Qaeda:

It is often acknowledged that al Qaeda has pledged loyalty to the Taliban. However, it is just as often understated how much weight that pledge carries.

This pledge, called bay’ah, is more than a mere gesture of alliance; it is a sacred, holy relationship that is rarely undone. One that continues to this day.

Osama bin Laden swore allegiance to then-Taliban leader Mullah Omar in the 1990s and, by extension, so did every al Qaeda leader and fighter. And in 2016, following the killing of Taliban head Mullah Mansour, al Qaeda published a 14-minute video featuring its current leader Ayman al-Zawahiri again pledging allegiance to the Taliban—this time to the group’s new leader, Haibatullah Akhundzada…

To date, the Taliban has never disavowed al Qaeda’s pledge, which has helped fuel confidence in al Qaeda members and supporters that these ties endure, regardless of what the Taliban say to the world.

So, not matter what the Taliban says in English about not allowing attacks from their territory, the fact is that the terror group has sworn their allegiance to the Taliban and they know they will be safe in the Taliban controlled Afghanistan to do what they do.

There’s really no upside to this story but I can’t help but think 1-2 years means whatever disaster results from this is going to happen not years from now but on President Biden’s watch. He better hope those “over-the-horizon” efforts to control al Qaeda work because if they don’t he’ll be the one trying to explain how this was all part of his plan.