US officials have rejected the recent report by the UN Security Council Sanctions Committee regarding terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda and ISIS in Afghanistan. According to these American officials, the intelligence they possess does not align with the findings presented by the United Nations. In a discussion with VOA, several American officials expressed their lack of evidence to substantiate the United Nations’ conclusions.
The recent report from the Analysis and Monitoring Group of the UN Security Council Sanctions Committee suggests that terrorist groups in Afghanistan now enjoy greater freedom of action compared to previous years, leading to an increase in terrorist threats both within Afghanistan and the surrounding region.
However, an anonymous American official, speaking to Voice of America, contradicted this information, stating that it does not correspond with the analysis conducted by the US intelligence community. The official further claimed that the estimates of al-Qaeda’s presence and influence provided in the United Nations report are sporadic and inconsistent when compared to the assessments made by American intelligence agencies and their partners and allies.
The UN report also mentions the establishment of training camps by al-Qaeda and ISIS in various provinces of Afghanistan. The United Nations estimates that there are approximately 30 to 60 high-ranking al-Qaeda officials in the provinces of Kandahar, Helmand, Kunar, and Kabul. Additionally, the report indicates the presence of around 400 fighters from al-Qaeda, along with 1,600 members of their families, scattered across different training camps in Afghanistan. Furthermore, it states that the Khorasan branch of ISIS has between 4,000 to 6,000 members in Afghanistan, with camps and shelters established in at least 13 provinces.
A senior American official provided a more candid assessment, informing VOA that the United Nations’ estimates regarding the number of al-Qaeda and ISIS members are inconsistent and disjointed compared to the information gathered by the American intelligence community and their partners. The official added that, in the American assessment, there are fewer than 12 major al-Qaeda members currently present in Afghanistan, and since the US eliminated the group’s leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in Kabul, there is no prominent al-Qaeda leader remaining in the country. The official refuted the notion that al-Qaeda has revived its presence or established training camps in Afghanistan following the US withdrawal in August 2021.
Moreover, the United States has refuted claims made by some members of the United Nations that Saif al-Adel, also known as Ibrahim al-Madani, the leader of al-Qaeda, left his base in Iran and visited Afghanistan in 2022. At least one UN member has suggested that Saif al-Adel is currently situated in Afghanistan. The American official dismissed these assertions, stating that the Khorasan branch of ISIS has failed to achieve its goal of attacking the United States in the past two years.
In conclusion, American officials have dismissed the recent UN report on terrorist groups in Afghanistan, citing discrepancies between the UN findings and their own intelligence assessments. These officials have highlighted inconsistencies in the estimates of al-Qaeda and ISIS members, as well as the presence of training camps in Afghanistan. The United States maintains that al-Qaeda’s influence is minimal, with few major members remaining in the country, and that there is no evidence to suggest the establishment of training camps. Furthermore, the US rejects claims that Saif al-Adel, the leader of al-Qaeda, has relocated to Afghanistan.