Afghan commandos and an intelligence unit over the weekend raided a Taliban warehouse used to store explosives expected to be used by jihadis from al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) to carry out attacks in Kabul and other “major cities.”
In a series of tweets issued Saturday, the Afghan Ministry of Defense revealed:
Taliban’s major stronghold and warehouse of explosive materials located and destroyed by [the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces — ANDSF] in [Ghazni province located adjacent to two provinces that border Pakistan].
As a result of special joint operations by Commandos and [Afghanistan’s main intelligence agency the National Directorate of Security] NDS special Unit 703 with support from the Air Force, last night one of the major strongholds of [Taliban] terrorists in Moqor district of Ghazni province was destroyed.
The warehouse was controlled by Hafiz Jahangir – Head of Taliban’s military operations in the area.
During the operations, [two] of the terrorists’ bases were demolished along with 120 barrels full of explosive materials, around 2000 kilograms of primary explosive substances, 26 motorbikes, and one Corolla vehicle.
The materials were transported to Ghazni from the neighboring country. Skilled explosive experts of the terrorist group of ‘Al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent’ were to use the materials to prepare explosives for attacks in the Capital and major cities across Afghanistan.
The ANDSF killed 26 Taliban jihadis. One Afghan security force member sustained injuries.
Excluding the Taliban deaths in Ghazni, Breitbart News tallied at least 172 fatalities sustained by the terrorist group in several provinces across Afghanistan at the hands of U.S. forces and their Afghan counterparts over the weekend alone.
The discovery of the weapons cache in Ghazni came a week after U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that al-Qaeda is “a shadow of its former self in Afghanistan.” Pompeo also claimed this month that the Taliban was planning to “break” from al-Qaeda “publicly and permanently” as part of the so-called peace pact canceled by Trump.
Bill Roggio, an Afghanistan war expert at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) and the editor of the think-tank’s Long War Journal reported Monday:
The raid against the explosives warehouse in Ghazni highlights the enduring relationship between the Taliban and al Qaeda. Al Qaeda operatives have provided key support for the Taliban, including explosives experts, military trainers, and advisors, and they even fight alongside the Taliban on the front lines.
In exchange, the Taliban shelters and supports al Qaeda leaders and operative in areas they control or contest.
While the Taliban has advertised its enduring relationship with al-Qaeda, leaders of the global terrorist group have sworn allegiance to the Afghan organization’s emirs, Roggio noted.
Citing Afghan war experts like Thomas Joscelyn from FDD, the United Nations, and the Pentagon, Breitbart News acknowledged last week that al-Qaeda and the Taliban remain tight 18 years after 9/11. The Afghan war assessments, including from the U.S. government itself, indicated that the Taliban was unlikely to break its ties with al-Qaeda as part of a peace agreement.
Even if a successful political settlement with the Taliban emerges from ongoing talks, AQ, ISIS-K [Islamic State], and some unknown number of Taliban hardliners will constitute a substantial threat to the Afghan government and its citizens, as well as to the United States and its Coalition partners.
In October 2001, the U.S. invaded Afghanistan in an ongoing bid to defeat the Taliban for harboring al-Qaeda in the years leading to the September 11 attacks.
The Afghanistan-based Taliban and its global jihadi ally al-Qaeda remain a daunting menace and more geographically dispersed than during any other time since 9/11.
U.S. officials argue that America has significantly degraded core al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, but AQIS now poses a threat against the United States assets.
Pentagon officials argued in July:
[Core] Al-Qa’ida poses a very limited threat to U.S. personnel and our partners in Afghanistan. Al- Qa’ida’s affiliate—al-Qa’ida in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS)—poses a greater threat to those elements. AQIS routinely supports and works with low-level Taliban in its efforts to undermine the Afghan Government, and maintains an enduring interest in attacking U.S. forces and Western targets in the region.
AQIS faces continuous [U.S.-led] Coalition CT [counterterrorism] pressure and will focus on ensuring its safe haven remains viable. Additionally, AQIS assists local Taliban in some attacks, according to al-Qa’ida statements.
The few remaining al-Qa’ida personnel focus largely on survival, while ceding al-Qa’ida’s regional presence to AQIS. AQIS continues to work toward its stated goals of freeing occupied Muslim lands, establishing an Islamic caliphate, and implementing Shar’ia law. AQIS’s interest in attacking U.S. forces and other Western targets in Afghanistan and the region persists, however, continuing Coalition CT pressure has reduced AQIS’s ability to conduct operations in Afghanistan.
Early this year, the U.N. reported that the ties between the Taliban and al-Qaeda are “long-standing” and “strong,” noting that the international jihadi group “continues to see Afghanistan as a safe haven for its leadership.”
The American military and its allies have “significantly degraded” core al-Qaeda in South Asia, the U.S. State Department reported late last year. “Several hundred” AQIS members continue to operate in Afghanistan and to a lesser extent in Pakistan, Bangladesh, and India, it added.