Al Qaeda has vowed to “make war on all fronts” against the US unless it withdraws from the entire Islamic world.
Leading up to the tenth anniversary since Osama Bin Laden’s death, two agents said the terror network is planning a comeback as President Joe Biden prepares to withdraw all US troops from Afghanistan by Sept. 11.
The Islamist group, now led by Egyptian jihadist Ayman al-Zawahiri, has been seen by the West as a diminishing force since the assassination of bin Laden by US special forces on May 1, 2011, with its focus since moving to ISIS.
Leading up to the tenth anniversary since Osama bin Laden’s death, two agents said Al Qaeda is planning a comeback.
But the agents of the group told CNN: “War against the US will continue on all other fronts unless they are driven out of the rest of the Islamic world.”
Terrorist expert Paul Cruickshank said the Islamist group may feel “bolstered” by Biden’s decision to withdraw troops.
Earlier this month, Biden said of America’s longest war, “Bin Laden is dead and Al Qaeda has been downgraded in Afghanistan. And it is time to end the eternal war. ‘
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken added: “ We went to Afghanistan 20 years ago, and we went because we were attacked on 9/11, and we went up against those who attacked us on 9/11, and to ensure that Afghanistan would not once again become a haven from terrorism directed against the United States or any of our allies and partners.
Al Qaeda, now led by Egyptian jihadist Ayman al-Zawahiri, has been seen by the West as a diminishing force since the killing of bin Laden by US special forces on May 1, 2011. Pictured: Bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, two days after his death
‘And we have achieved the goals we wanted to achieve.’
In February last year, the US struck a deal with the Taliban in which they pledged to cut ties with Al Qaeda, invading the US for the first time.
But representatives of Al Qaeda argue that the Taliban are not being fair to Biden and that US troops can be withdrawn under false pretenses.
They suggested that the two Sunni Islamist groups could continue to work together once the US leaves the region.
Al Qaeda even considers the US departure a victory, saying, “The Americans are now defeated.”
The spokespersons compared the costly war to the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan shortly before the bloc’s collapse, saying the current war has caused a major dent in the US economy.
Al Qaeda claims the relative silence over the past decade has been ‘tactical’ and part of their long war against the West, while ISIS has prevailed.
A crashed military helicopter is seen near the hideout of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden after a US Special Forces ground operation in Abbottabad on May 2, 2011.
Leader al-Zawahiri, an ideologue who has cut off a far less charismatic presence than his predecessor Bin Laden, has had to lie low and is believed to be in hiding near the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.
He is only seen virtually and in occasional propaganda releases, but there are still successful Al Qaeda franchises operating in the Middle East and North Africa.
In his speech to Congress on Wednesday, Biden said he was aware that the deal with the Taliban could be reversed by saying, “We will have the horizon to suppress future threats to the homeland.
But make no mistake – the terrorist threat has evolved outside of Afghanistan since 2001, and we will remain vigilant for threats to the United States, wherever they originate.
“Al Qaeda and ISIS are in Yemen, Syria, Somalia and other places in Africa and the Middle East and beyond.”
Despite the group’s claims, Barak Mendelsohn, a terrorism expert at Haverford College in Pennsylvania, believes Al Qaeda is “a shadow of its former self.”
Ayman al-Zawahiri is an Egyptian ideologue with a much less charismatic presence than his predecessor Bin Laden
Mendelsohn said the Al-Qaeda leadership, rather than being a cohesive decision-making center, is now more akin to a “ board of advisers ” that gathers and assists jihadists around the world.
Zawahiri, 69, has seen al-Qaeda essentially concess its operations from the Maghreb and Somalia to Afghanistan, as well as Syria and Iraq.
“Under Zawahiri’s leadership, Al-Qaeda has become increasingly decentralized, with authority primarily in the hands of Al-Qaeda’s affiliated leaders,” said a recent report by the Counter Extremism Project (CEP) think tank.
It said that Zawahiri had indeed played an important role in the reorganization of numerous jihadist groups under the al-Qaeda umbrella.
The US spent a $ 25 million bounty on Zawahiri and placed him on its most wanted terrorist list, but analysts say officials don’t seem overly concerned about him and are not making overt attempts to track him down.
Washington’s lack of interest may be due to Al-Qaeda’s declining importance as a decision-making hub, coinciding with the rise of the rival Islamic State group.
ISIS, which at its peak controlled a self-proclaimed ‘caliphate’ that included parts of Iraq and Syria, notably stole Al-Qaeda’s thunder in the media for its radical voice dominating social networks.
Rather than joining forces, the two groups have fought on numerous battlefields in the Middle East and Africa, and Al-Qaeda still faces a challenge to stay relevant.