Ten years after bin Laden’s death, al-Qaeda is alive and promises “war”
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With Zawahiri in charge, he turned to franchise – from Yemen to Somalia, through North Africa. But experts say it is too early to make an “obituary” for the group.

“Bin Laden is dead and Al-Qaeda has been weakened in Afghanistan. The time has come to end the endless war,” said President Joe Biden, in a speech confirming the departure of American troops by September 11. The date is symbolic because it corresponds to the 20 years of the attacks that killed almost 3000 in the USA, but yesterday, the eve of another symbolic date – the 10 years of the Team 6 operation of the Seal that led to the death of Bin Laden in Abbottabad. in Pakistan – the organization that the Saudi led and which was behind the 2001 attacks, al-Qaeda, has proved itself.

“The war against the United States will continue on all other fronts unless the Americans are expelled from the rest of the Islamic world,” said two al-Qaeda operatives in an interview with CNN conducted through intermediaries.

Al-Qaeda rarely responds to interviews, preferring to spread the message through its own propaganda. Today the organization that came to terrorize the world with its attacks – in addition to 9/11, those in Bali in 2002, which killed 202 people, those in Madrid in 2004 (190) or London in 2005 (52) – is reduced to a shadow of itself. But it has now come to say that it is ready to return, in partnership with the Taliban. “Thanks to the Afghans for the protection they have given to our allies, so many jihadist groups have been operating successfully in different parts of the Islamic world for so long,” explained one of the al-Qaeda operatives.

One of Biden’s arguments for withdrawing from Afghanistan – which he has advocated since his time as vice president of Barack Obama – was an agreement signed with the Taliban, in which they pledge to cut off relations with al-Qaeda, which led the US to invade the country as early as October 2001, when the Taliban refused to hand over bin Laden.

The interview was done by freelance journalist Saleem Mehsud through intermediaries, but the veracity of the answers was confirmed by the experts. Among them Peter Bergen, a CNN terrorism expert and author of several books about bin Laden who considered the responses “genuine”. For Bergen, the fact that Al-Qaeda maintains links with the Taliban only “confirms what the UN has said, that the Taliban regularly consulted with Al-Qaeda during negotiations with the United States”.

The organization’s operatives claimed a victory in Afghanistan. “The Americans are now defeated,” they said, before drawing a parallel with the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan in 1989 and the consequent collapse of their economy – “The US war in Afghanistan played a decisive role in reaching the American economy”. An argument that was inspired by Bin Laden himself, who promoted the simplistic idea that the Soviets went bankrupt in Afghanistan.

The Base and its franchising

The organization whose name means “The Base” was born in the 1980s as a network to recruit mujahedin to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan. Officially founded in 1988 by Osama bin Laden and other Arab mujahedin who had joined the jihad, al-Qaeda later sought to expand its scope. And when Saddam Hussein’s Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990, leaving Saudi Arabia at risk, Bin Laden, born in a family of construction tycoons, offered the services of his mujahedin to the king. But Fahd preferred to open the doors to American troops, infuriating Bin Laden who denounced the presence of foreign military personnel in the “land of the two holy mosques”. He was banned and forced into exile in Sudan. Under pressure from the United States in 1996, he finds refuge in Afghanistan.

Today, al-Qaeda bears little resemblance to the network that attacked the United States in 2001. The leadership was taken over by Ayman al-Zawahiri, a 69-year-old Egyptian physician in fragile health who has been presumed dead several times. Little charismatic, hidden in a haven that is estimated to be on the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan, Zawahiri saw the role of international terrorism shift to Islamic State, the jihadist group that led a self-proclaimed caliphate between 2014 and 2019, in Syria and the rest of the world. Iraq. With active communication on social media, Islamic State has recruited followers from around the world, multiplying attacks in the West against “infidels”.

Al-Qaeda has turned to the franchise: from the Arabian peninsula to the Maghreb, from Somalia to Yemen. “Al-Qaeda has become increasingly decentralized and authority is mainly in the hands of the heads of its subsidiaries,” the think tank Counter-Terrorism Project explained to AFP. But for those who dictated the organization’s death, Colin Clarke, research director at the Soufan Center, leaves the warning: “It is too early to write the al-Qaeda obituary.”

Source: Diário Noticias / Helena Tecedeiro

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