Terrorist groups are still ‘deeply embedded’ with Taliban – involved in drug and arms trade and raking in millions of dollars – fomenting fears that Afghanistan could become a terrorist sanctuary after U.S. departs
KABUL: Al-Qaeda is still active in a third of Afghanistan, in spite of a historic US-Taliban agreement earlier this year, Afghan foreign minister said on Saturday. This is as U.S. troops are halfway out of Afghanistan, leaving a security vacuum after almost 20 years of fighting.
Mohammad Hanif Atmar, who spoke at a recent international meeting in Turkey on Saturday, said that the roots of the al-Qaeda network are still alive in 11 provinces across Afghanistan and the group still poses a threat to the country.
Atmar did not provide information on provinces where al-Qaeda was embedded, but said al-Qaeda and the Taliban were earning millions of dollars a year through illegal economies.
Despite the Taliban’s agreement with the United States, the group still has close ties with al-Qaeda, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and ISIS and their fighters work together, he said. He said that nexus has even affected the Afghan peace process. He also warned that re-emergence of terrorist networks is highly likely with the withdrawal of US and NATO troops from Afghanistan.
He said that the terrorist groups of Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, East Turkestan Islamic Movement and Katibat al-Imam al-Bukhari and some other groups are still active in northern Afghanistan; and activities of these terrorist groups are concentrated in Kunduz and Faryab provinces.
“Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan is involved in the trafficking of heroin and other narcotics and earns millions of dollars a year. The trafficking of drugs, weapons and individuals is one of the main sources of income for the Taliban in Afghanistan,” he said.
The Afghan foreign minister maintained that links between terrorist groups and the production and trafficking of narcotics would help them to easily raise arms and ammunition and become “more destructive, deadly and complex” groups.
Atmar called for the attention of the international community to fight international terrorist groups operating in Afghanistan.