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IANS

Al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS), led by Osama Mehmood and his deputy Atif Yahya Ghouri retains a presence in Afghanistan, as per a UN report.

AQIS is retains a presence in the Afghan provinces of Ghazni, Helmand, Kandahar, Nimruz, Paktika and Zabul, where the group fought alongside the Taliban against the ousted Government.

AQIS is estimated to have between 200 and 400 fighters, mainly from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Myanmar and Pakistan, the report said.

Al-Qaida also received a significant boost following the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan in August 2021, as some of its closest sympathizers within the Taliban now occupy senior positions in the new de facto Afghan administration.

The Taliban takeover has made it more likely that Mohammed Salahaldin Abd El Halim Zidane, (alias Sayf-Al Adl), in the event that he succeeds al-Zawahiri, will have the option of establishing himself in Afghanistan to take up his new role, although one Member State has denied his presence in the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Although under the Doha agreement of February 2020, the Taliban has committed itself to preventing any international terrorist threat emanating from Afghanistan, Member States are concerned that the regime will offer a safe haven for Al-Qaida, provided that the latter does not jeopardize Taliban efforts to achieve international legitimacy.

Al-Qaida continues to have concerns about its future leadership, although there is now proof of life for Aiman Muhammed Rabi al-Zawahiri as recently as early 2021.

The security landscape in Afghanistan changed dramatically on 15 August, when the Taliban took control of the country. There are no recent signs that the Taliban has taken steps to limit the activities of foreign terrorist fighters in the country.

On the contrary, terrorist groups enjoy greater freedom there than at any time in recent history. However, Member States have not reported significant new movements of foreign terrorist fighters to Afghanistan.

On August 31, Al-Qaeda released a statement congratulating the Taliban on its victory. Since that statement, Al-Qaeda has maintained a strategic silence, likely an effort not to compromise Taliban efforts to gain international recognition and legitimacy.

Al-Qaeda is also continuing to recover from a series of leadership losses and is assessed to lack the capability to conduct high-profile attacks overseas, which remains its long-term goal. Amin Muhammad ul-Haq Saam Khan, who coordinated security for Usama Bin Laden, returned to his home in Afghanistan in late August.

One Member State reported that Bin Laden's son, Abdallah visited Afghanistan in October for meetings with the Taliban. Aiman al-Zawahiri was reported alive as recently as January 2021, but Member States continue to believe that he is in poor health, the UN report said.
 

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