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Biden’s remarks an ‘acknowledgement’ of no armed groups in Afghanistan: IEA

(Last Updated On: July 1, 2023)

The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan on Saturday said it considers remarks by President Joe Biden on the issue of al-Qaeda in Afghanistan as the US leader acknowledging that armed groups do not exist in the country.

In a tweet early Saturday, the IEA’s ministry of foreign affairs’ spokesman Abdul Qahar Balkhi said: “We consider remarks by US President Joe Biden about non-existence of armed groups in Afghanistan as acknowledgment of reality & state that it refutes the recent report by UN Sanctions Monitoring Team alleging the presence & operation of over twenty armed groups in Afghanistan.”

“The Islamic Emirate maintains the policy of not allowing anyone to use the soil of Afghanistan to harm others. Our actions in this regard are not due to the requests or support of anyone, including America,” he said.

The report issued by the Director of National Intelligence, which serves as the head of the US Intelligence Community, did not however say al-Qaeda was not present in the country, but rather that the US foresees al-Qaeda prioritizing its sanctuary over conducting operational activity in Afghanistan during the next two years.

“We do not assess that al-Qaeda has the personnel, infrastructure, or unique capabilities to pose a threat to the United States from Afghanistan at this point,” the report read.

The document also pointed out that it was likely al-Qaeda would shelter a few leaders and conduct other activities in Afghanistan, such as media production, recruitment, facilitation, and training that have the potential to enable or inspire attacks elsewhere.

However, the group’s trajectory in Afghanistan will continue to depend on the IEA and its ability to enforce restrictions, the report stated.

The report also stated that al-Qaeda has little infrastructure in place in Afghanistan but that it could rely on the attack capabilities its affiliates in the Middle East and Africa possess.

“Al-Qaeda leaders will choose not to jeopardize their use of Afghanistan, which is one of only a few viable locations for leadership refuge,” the report said adding that “the Taliban’s (IEA) will and capability to restrict al-Qaeda will be the primary factor that determines the threat emanating from Afghanistan.

“Thus far, the Taliban’s strictures have by and large been observed by al-Qaeda, and we assess that this probably will remain the case during the next two years, as the group recognizes the need for Taliban support to maintain a presence in Afghanistan. Al-Qaeda leaders’ perception of CT pressure also will influence Afghanistan’s appeal as a place where they can live securely.”

Late Friday, a defiant US President Joe Biden, said in answer to a question, on the report, that was shouted out by a journalist as he walked out of a press conference: “Remember what I said about Afghanistan? I said al-Qaeda would not be there. I said it wouldn’t be there. I said we’d get help from the Taliban. What’s happening now? What’s going on? Read your press. I was right.”

With that, Biden turned and left the room – without elaborating.

However, within a few hours, former US special envoy for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad said Biden’s comments “might have relied on the recent National Intelligence Council (NIC) assessment, declassified a few days ago by DNI with some parts redacted.”

In a tweet early Saturday, Khalilzad stated: “I’ve highlighted 3 relevant judgments [noted in the report]:

1. Al Qaeda has little infrastructure in place in Afghanistan.

2. Al Qaeda is unlikely to reconstitute the capability in Afghanistan to direct external operations from the country through 2024.

3. If al Qaeda decides to carry out attacks globally, it can rely on the attack capabilities of its affiliates in the Middle East and Africa.

The release of the Washington reports follows the UN’s recent report that alleges terrorists had “greater freedom of maneuver” in Afghanistan since the IEA reclaimed control in August 2021.

That report stated that the IEA’s link “remains strong and symbiotic” with terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda and the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).

“There are indications that al-Qaeda is rebuilding operational capability, that TTP is launching attacks into Pakistan with support from the Taliban, that groups of foreign terrorist fighters are projecting threats across Afghanistan’s borders, and that the operations of ISIL-K (Daesh) are becoming more sophisticated and lethal,” the report said.

IEA spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said at the time the IEA will not allow anyone to use Afghan territory against other countries.

“The Islamic Emirate emphasizes that the publication of such biased and baseless reports by the Security Council does not help Afghanistan and international peace and security; rather, it increases worry among the people and raises doubts about the independence and impartiality of the United Nations.”