Af-Pak: One Year Since the Taliban’s Return to Power
The one-year Taliban rule has left Afghanistan and Pakistan more susceptible to religious extremism, while undermining the counter-terrorism gains. The Taliban victory has created a triumphant jihadist narrative in the two countries and rejuvenated groups like Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). Similarly, Al-Qaeda (AQ) is still closely allied to the Taliban, and enjoyed freedom of movement and assembly in Afghanistan. However, the AQ chief Ayman al-Zawahiri’s killing in a US drone strike in Kabul on July 31 would change that dynamic. At the same time, the Taliban’s arch-nemesis, the Islamic State of Khorasan (IS-K), remains defiant and resilient, continuing its attacks to undermine the Taliban rule. Despite consolidating their grip on power, the Taliban are divided ethnically and factionally and their leaders are bickering over sharing of power and resources. They also face a rebellion in northern Afghanistan from the National Resistance Front and a plethora of other little-known groups. Though the Taliban do not face an existential threat to their rule, they sit on a power keg which can ignite with one major mishap in a country suffering from extreme hunger and poverty.
The US Exit from Afghanistan: A Pyrrhic Victory for the Taliban and Pakistan
The Taliban’s return to power in Afghanistan turned out to be a Pyrrhic victory for Pakistan. Despite being a US ally, Pakistan supported the Taliban to keep India out of Afghanistan and ensure the Taliban’s return to power, albeit through power-sharing with other Afghan factions.
Although Pakistan achieved these goals, the Taliban have turned out to be a liability rather than an asset. Against Pakistan’s expectations, the Taliban have refused to act against TTP. Furthermore, the Taliban have also reached out to India to reopen its embassy in return for sureties of cooperation against anti-Indian jihadist groups in Afghanistan. Similarly, far from recognising the Durand Line as the internationally recognised border, the Taliban have clashed with the Pakistani forces over the Pak-Afghan border’s fencing, calling it illegal. The radicalisation trend has increased alarmingly in Pakistan since the Taliban’s return to power. Compelled by the Taliban’s inaction against TTP and the latter’s increasing attacks, Pakistan is pursuing peace talks with Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) from a weak position.
When the Taliban captured Kabul, they were not ready to assume power immediately and run the country. On top of the Taliban’s lack of governance credentials, the US’s decision to freeze US$9.5 billion Afghan central bank reserves and the brain drain of skilled manpower to the West and other parts of the world have further crippled the Afghan economy. The common Afghans’ hardships have increased due to extreme poverty and hunger. So far, no country has recognised the Taliban regime. Though the Taliban have restored order in Afghanistan and there has been a dramatic decrease in the level of violence, Islamic State of Khorasan (IS-K)’s attacks against the Taliban and religious minorities persist.
For the Taliban, the transition from an insurgent to a political movement has been fraught with risks of losing ideological legitimacy and incurring internal fractures. Currently, the movement is torn between pragmatists who advocate moderation for international recognition and hardliners who prefer ideological purity. Similarly, the pragmatists are proponents of a tougher policy towards AQ, while the hardliners oppose it.
Taliban Pragmatists Versus Purists
Currently, there are two power centres in Afghanistan: Kabul (political) and Kandahar (ideological). The Taliban supreme leader Haibatullah Akhundzada and his religious council sit in Kandahar. Haibatullah’s religious council can veto any decision taken by political leaders in Kabul. For instance, in March, the Taliban cabinet decided to open girls’ secondary schools. However, the Taliban cabinet had to travel to Kandahar to explain this decision to the religious council which had reservations over the decision. Following serious disagreements between the hardliners and pragmatists during that meeting, Haibatullah put the decision on hold. He also formed a commission to list a policy of recommendations for all girls’ schools to reopen.
Haibatullah and the Deputy Prime Minister, Mullah Baradar, also have disagreements over the inclusion of other Afghan ethnic and political factions in the government. In August 2021, Baradar almost reached an understanding with former Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Dr Abdullah Abdullah on giving them 30 percent share in the government. Ahmed Massoud, the son of former anti-Taliban Afghan commander Ahmed Shah Massoud, was himself demanding a 50 percent share. However, the deal could not be concluded when fighting broke out between Taliban and Massoud’s forces in the Panjshir valley. In September 2021, when Baradar left Kabul after a scuffle with the Haqqanis in the presidential palace and moved to Kandahar, one of his conditions to return to the capital was the guarantee to include non-Taliban representatives in the cabinet. The eventual expansion of the Taliban cabinet where token representation was given to other ethnic communities was on Baradar’s insistence.
The Haqqani-Kandhari Power Struggle
The main factional fault-line is between the Haqqani Network and the Kandhari Taliban. The Kandharis complain that military power is concentrated in the Haqqanis’ hands. Along with getting the most powerful interior ministry and the lucrative ministry of migration and tribal affairs, the Haqqanis are also entrusted with the task of maintaining Kabul’s security, among others. On the other hand, the Haqqanis are apprehensive that the Kandhari Taliban have taken most of the government jobs. The Kandharis have objected that the Haqqanis’ overwhelming presence in the cabinet will hinder the efforts to get international recognition. It is important to mention that during the Taliban insurgency, the Haqqani Network was notorious for its high-profile attacks in Kabul.  The Taliban Interior Minister Sirajuddin Haqqani is a globally designated terrorist with a US$10 million bounty.
Another source of Haqqani-Kandhari friction is the never-ending debate on the credit for victory.  The Kandharis argue that victory was made possible after the Doha Agreement which Mullah Baradar negotiated with the US in 2020. They uphold that the deal paved the way for the US withdrawal from Afghanistan. On the contrary, the Haqqanis maintain that the victory was achieved through the military struggle for which they rendered the most sacrifices. In February 2022, Sirajuddin issued a statement that the Haqqanis contributed 1,050 suicide bombers for the fight against the US. It was a rude reminder to the Kandharis that the victory was not possible without the military fight.
Ethnic divisions are emerging in the Taliban ranks as well. Primarily, the Taliban are a Pashtun-dominated Deobandi jihadist movement. In the last few years, the Taliban recruited Uzbeks, Tajiks and some Hazaras into their ranks as well and gave them key positions in the movement. For instance, the Taliban’s Chief of Staff Qari Fasihuddin Fitrat, who is credited with the Taliban’s swift takeover of Afghanistan, is an ethnic Tajik.
At any rate, the non-Pashtun Taliban have reservations over the Pashtun Taliban’s discriminatory and condescending attitude. It is important to mention that the Taliban’s cabinet is Pashtun-dominated with token representation from non-Pashtun Taliban factions and communities. The Taliban interim cabinet comprises 43 Pashtuns, 4 Tajiks, 2 Uzbeks and one member each from the Khawaja, Hazra, Turkmen and Nooristani communities.
In June, cracks appeared when the only ethnic Hazara Shia Taliban commander Maulawi Mahdi defected after a dispute over the mining rights of a coal mine in Balkhab district. Mahdi cut all communications with the Taliban, went back to Balkhab, mobilised his supporters and forced the Taliban governor to flee to Kabul. The Taliban followed him back to Balkhab to quash the rebellion. His defection could be a precursor to ethnic and sectarian tensions in Afghanistan. In the past, the Taliban have engaged in the massacre of the Hazara Shia community in Afghanistan.
Likewise, earlier in February, the Taliban arrested an influential Uzbek Taliban commander, Makhdoom Alam, on trumped-up charges of kidnapping a boy and supporting IS-K. His arrest sparked immediate protests in Uzbek-dominated Faryab province. Kamal is credited with three quick victories for the Taliban in the north where traditionally the Taliban have been weak. The outraged Uzbek Taliban group went to Kabul to see Haibatullah. Though they could not secure a meeting with Haibatullah, the Taliban Defence Minister Mullah Yaqoob met the delegation and listened to their demands. After the meeting, Alam was released from jail. Over and above the release of Alam, the Uzbek Taliban want authority and autonomy in the Uzbek-dominated provinces of Faryab, Jawzjan and Sar-i-Pul and a fair share at the highest level of the government.
Impact on the Af-Pak Region
The Af-Pak region has borne the brunt of the Taliban’s return to power. For one, the extremist groups feel emboldened because the Taliban’s victory is a vindication of their faith in the jihadist doctrine. That is, jihadism works. Likewise, unlike widespread criticism that jihadists are religious fanatics with intangible and unrealistic goals, the Taliban’s victory has seemingly proven that limited territorial ambitions are achievable through persistent armed struggle.
Another alarming, albeit limited, impact has been the US-made Small and Light Arm Weapons (SLAW) left in Afghanistan making their way to regional conflicts. For instance, the Af-Pak militant and insurgent groups have intermittently used M9 and M1911 pistols, M249 automatic rifles, 509 tactical guns, M4 carbine assault rifles and Iridium satellite phones. At the tactical level, the acquisition of advanced technologies, particularly night vision goggles or infrared lasers for guns, can increase the accuracy and lethality of terrorist attacks. Both TTP, through night-time sniper attacks along the Pak-Afghan border, and Baloch separatists, during gun-and-bomb attacks on the Noshki and Panjgur Frontier Corps’ camps in February, have employed these weapons. The Indian military has recovered similar weapons from Kashmiri militant groups as well.
The Taliban’s victory in Afghanistan has reinvigorated TTP, which has increased its attacks against Pakistan. In 2021, TTP carried out as many as 282 terrorist attacks against Pakistani security forces. Similarly, in the first quarter of 2022, the group killed more than 79 Pakistani security personnel. Soon after the Taliban victory, TTP renewed its pledged of allegiance to Taliban leader Haibatullah and vowed to follow the Taliban’s example for a Shariah system in Pakistan as well.
TTP has deep-seated political, ethnic and ideological linkages with the Taliban. After 9/11, TTP sheltered the Taliban leaders and fighters in the ex-FATA (Federally Administered Tribal Areas) region, now merged with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, and assisted in fighting the US forces in Afghanistan. Since 2020, at least 17 militant factions, including TTP splinters, Al-Qaeda in the Indian Sub-continent (AQIS) and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) factions, have pledged allegiance to TTP chief Nur Wali Mehsud. It has strengthened its operational and organisational prowess. There are about 5,000 to 6,000 TTP fighters in Afghanistan.
Contrary to Pakistan’s (mis)calculation, the Taliban regime has not taken any action against TTP. On the contrary, the Taliban termed TTP as Pakistan’s internal matter and urged both sides to settle their dispute through talks. TTP’s persistent attacks and the Taliban’s refusal of kinetic cooperation compelled Pakistan to pursue peace talks from the position of weakness. On July 6, Pakistan’s Parliamentary Committee on the National Security (PCNS) formally approved negotiations between the Pakistan Army and TTP. During the PCNS briefing, the army leadership informed the parliament that it was compelled to talk to TTP to avoid the latter’s alliance with IS-K.
In a recent interview, Nur Wali has compared the TTP-Pakistan talks with the US-Taliban negotiations in Qatar. He has said that just like the US, TTP has defeated the Pakistan Army in the ex-FATA region and soon Shariah will be implemented there as well. If the TTP-Pakistan talks culminate in the creation of a mini-jihadist state in the ex-FATA region, it will be a huge confidence booster for regional jihadists and will be portrayed as the domino effect of the Taliban victory in Afghanistan. Furthermore, it will compromise Pakistan’s counter-terrorism gains, turn the ex-FATA region into a sanctuary for jihadists, and lead to a spillover of jihadist narratives and violence into other parts of the country.
IS-K remains resilient and defiant with its signature high-profile attacks in urban Afghanistan. Currently, IS-K poses the most formidable challenge to the Taliban in Afghanistan, with about 2,000 to 2,200 IS-K fighters in cell formations in the country. It continues to undermine the Taliban’s claim of restoring order in Afghanistan by attacking religious minorities. According to the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, IS-K killed most of the 700 people who lost their lives in Afghanistan between 15 August 2021 – 15 June 2022.
Despite the Taliban’s claims of crushing IS-K, the US withdrawal and the Taliban’s weak law enforcement capability has allowed IS-K a permissible environment to survive and grow. The US fears that IS-K’s agenda in Afghanistan is externally-focused and that it will attain the capability of mounting international attacks from Afghanistan in one year to 18 months.
IS-K has enhanced its propaganda operations from Afghanistan, focusing on regional conflicts in South Asia and publishing in multiple regional languages, including Urdu, Hindi, Malayalam, Tajik and Pashto. IS-K has criticised the Taliban regime for being soft on the Shia community (which it considers as apostate) and the Taliban’s growing ties with China and India – the two countries increasingly on the global radar for their treatment of Muslims in Xinjiang and Kashmir, respectively. IS-K taunts the Taliban for compromising on Shariah principles for economic assistance and diplomatic recognition. IS-K has cleverly positioned itself as the most suitable jihadist alternative to the Taliban in Afghanistan to absorb angry Taliban dissenters and hardliners.
Until recently, AQ was quietly reviving and rebuilding itself in Afghanistan under the Taliban’s protection. Since the US withdrawal, AQ has also been aspiring to establish presence in northern Afghanistan, mobilise new fighters and increase resources. However, the AQ chief Ayman al-Zawahiri’s killing in a US drone strike on a Taliban safehouse in Kabul on July 31 will blunt those ambitions. The group was supporting the Taliban in an advisory role and enjoying freedom of movement and assembly in Afghanistan. As a consequence of al-Zawahiri’s killing, AQ fighters and leaders will go underground and maintain a distance from the Taliban for the foreseeable future. Zawahiri’s deputy and Egyptian AQ commander Saif al-Adel is likely to succeed him.
Al-Zawahiri’s killing in a Taliban safehouse exposes the terror group’s continued close association with the Taliban, though publicly, both the Taliban and AQ downplay their nexus so as not to create complications for each other.
According to UN reports, there are about 500 to 550 AQ and AQIS fighters in Afghanistan. While AQ currently lacks an external operational capability in Afghanistan, it poses a long-term threat to the international security landscape. The US’s official assessments indicate that AQ can attain the capability of carrying out international terrorist attacks from Afghanistan in two years.
Since the Taliban’s takeover, the frequency of al-Zawahiri’s videos has increased substantially. Another striking feature of AQ’s recent social media propaganda is its India obsession. Most of AQ’s videos since the Taliban’s takeover have focused on political developments in India, such as the hijab-ban issue in Karnataka, the ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) former spokesperson Nupur Sharma’s derogatory remarks about the Prophet Muhammad, and the situation in Kashmir, among others. AQ’s India-focused propaganda is consistent with the transnational jihadist group’s localisation and regionalisation approach with two possible motives. First, to make inroads in India through fresh recruitment by exploiting issues which are emotionally appealing to the Indian Muslims. So far, AQ has struggled to make an impact in India. Second, after the US withdrawal from Afghanistan, the jihadist group needed a big “villain” state to justify its violence. The growing Islamophobic trends in India make it convenient for AQ to turn its guns towards India.
The anti-Taliban resistance in Afghanistan is weak but defiant, particularly the National Resistance Front (NRF) of Ahmed Massoud. Operating out of Tajikistan, Massoud has been demanding an inclusive government in Afghanistan, politically and ethnically. Otherwise, he has threatened that NRF’s anti-Taliban resistance will grow. Though NRF lacks funding, weapons and fighters, the Taliban’s refusal to incorporate other ethnic and political factions as well as their internal divisions could turn NRF into a force to reckon with. Intermittently, NRF has targeted the Taliban’s positions in northern Afghanistan. The Taliban’s ethnic discrimination outlined above will create space for NRF in Afghanistan’s resistance landscape. NRF has carried out coordinated operations in the Panjshir valley and adjacent north-eastern provinces of Takhar, Baghlan and Badakhshan.
Other anti-Taliban factions which have emerged in the last year include the Afghanistan Freedom Front of the former chief of general staff Yasin Zia, the Afghanistan Islamic National & Liberation Movement of former Afghan Army special forces commander Abdul Mateen Sulaimankhail, Tehrik Islami Azad Milli Afghanistan of Hazara militia leader Abdul Ghani Alipur, and the Noor Guerrillas of former Balkh Governor and Afghan warlord Atta Nur Muhammad. Other little-known anti-Taliban groups which have publicised their presence include Freedom Corps, Liberation Front of Afghanistan, Soldiers of Hazaristan, and Freedom and Democracy Front.
Afghanistan and Pakistan are the two most-affected countries by the Taliban’s return to power. Though Afghanistan has not attracted a significant number of jihadist militants following the Taliban takeover, the residual threat of terrorism itself is large enough to undermine the peace and stability in both countries with potential spillover into South and Central Asia. If Pakistan enters a peace deal with TTP, which the Taliban are mediating, resulting in the return of the ex-FATA region to TTP control, it will be a major victory for jihadists within a short span of the Taliban’s return to power.
Although the Taliban have consolidated their grip on power, their transition from an insurgency to a political movement and a governing entity is lackadaisical. The political flexibility and ideological adaptability required for this transition is lacking in the Taliban. Their internal divisions, coupled with the rising anti-Taliban resistance in the north, leave the door ajar for the regime’s unravelling should their internal ethnic, political and ideological differences and power struggles spin out of control. From Taliban leader Haibatullah’s speech to a gathering of Afghan ulema attending the Loya Jirga, or grand assembly, in Kabul, it is evident that the group will prefer ideological legitimacy over any other pragmatic considerations.
About the Author
Abdul Basit is a Research Fellow at the International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research (ICPVTR), a constituent unit of the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. He can be reached at [email protected].
Thumbnail photo by Duncan Kidd on Unsplash
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 There is no neat and clean bifurcation of hardliners and pragmatists, as such. The pragmatists and hardliners are found in all Taliban factions, which make these internal divisions even more dangerous. For instance, the Haqqani Network advocates girls’ education, political engagement with the world and inclusive power structure. At the same time, the Haqqanis are quite close to Al-Qaeda as well. For details see Thomas Jocelyn, “U.N. report cites new intelligence on Haqqanis’ close ties to al Qaeda,” Long War Journal, June 7, 2021, https://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2021/06/u-n-report-cites-new-intelligence-on-haqqanis-close-ties-to-al-qaeda.php.
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 The Taliban have used government appointments to curtail internal rifts, for details “In power, the Taliban’s divisions are coming to the fore,” The Economist, October 2, 2021, https://www.economist.com/asia/2021/10/02/in-power-the-talibans-divisions-are-coming-to-the-fore.
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 The Haqqanis got the interior ministry and the ministry of tribal regions and migration.
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 Najibullah Lalozy, Taliban commander arrested, hundreds took to street in Faryab province to demand his release,” Khama Press, January 13, 2022, https://www.khaama.com/taliban-commander-arrested-hundreds-took-to-street-in-faryab-province-to-demand-his-release-8768767/.
  Antonio Giustozzi,“اختلاف مولوی مهدی و طالبان بر سر چیست؟ (What is the difference between Maulvi Mahdi and the Taliban)?”
 Sudarsan Raghavan, “A popular Uzbek commander fought for the Taliban for more than two decades. He was arrested anyway.”
 Tore Hamming, “How the Taliban’s Victory Will Boost the Jihadi Narrative,” International Centre for the Study of Radicalization, September 10, 2021, https://www.ispionline.it/it/pubblicazione/how-talibans-victory-will-boost-jihadi-narrative-31606.
 Asfandyar Mir, “Afghanistan’s Terrorism Challenge: The Political Trajectories of al-Qaeda, the Afghan Taliban, and the Islamic State,” The Middle East Institute, October 20, 2020, https://www.mei.edu/publications/afghanistans-terrorism-challenge-political-trajectories-al-qaeda-afghan-taliban-and.
 Asfandyar Mir, “The Terror Threat from Afghanistan Post the Taliban Takeover,” CTC Sentinel, Vol. 14, Issue 7 (September 2021), pp. 29-43, https://ctc.usma.edu/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/CTC-SENTINEL-072021.pdf.
 Ruchi Kumar, “Afghan Guns Are Arming Regional Insurgents,” Foreign Policy, July 8, 2022, https://foreignpolicy.com/2022/07/08/afghanistan-weapons-smuggling-black-market-taliban-regional-insurgency/
 Ibid, p. 3.
 Tanya Mehra, Méryl Demuynck, and Matthew Wentwort, “Weapons in Afghanistan: The Taliban’s Spoils of War,” International Centre for Counter-terrorism, February 2022, p. 6,
 “Increase in seizure of arms from Afghanistan in Kashmir: Army Chief,” Greater Kashmir, April 30, 2022, https://www.greaterkashmir.com/front-page-2/increase-in-seizure-of-arms-from-afghanistan-in-kashmir-army-chief.
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 Madiha Afzal, “Pakistan’s ambivalent approach toward a resurgent Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan,” Brookings, February 2022, https://www.brookings.edu/blog/order-from-chaos/2022/02/11/pakistans-ambivalent-approach-toward-a-resurgent-tehrik-e-taliban-pakistan/#:~:text=The%20TTP%20itself%20claimed%20282,42%20attacks%20in%20January%202022.
 Syed Ali Zia Jaffery, “Negotiating with the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan is a bad idea,” Atlantic Council, June 10, 2022, https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/blogs/southasiasource/negotiating-with-the-tehreek-i-taliban-pakistan-ttp-is-a-bad-idea/.
 Abdul Syed and Tore Hamming, “The Revival of the Pakistani Taliban,” CTC Sentinel, Vol. 14, Issue 4 (April-May 2021), https://ctc.usma.edu/the-revival-of-the-pakistani-taliban/.
 Tehzeeb Ul Hasnain, “The Fate of Peace Talks Between Pakistan and TTP,” The Militant Wire, June 19, 2022, https://www.militantwire.com/p/the-fate-of-peace-talks-between-pakistan.
 Abdul Basit, “Why the Taliban ignores Pakistan’s demands to take action against the TTP,” TRT World, February 7, 2022, https://www.trtworld.com/opinion/why-the-taliban-ignores-pakistan-s-demands-to-take-action-against-the-ttp-54507.
 “Parliamentary committee on national security allows govt to hold talks with TTP,” Geo Tv, July 5, 2022, https://www.geo.tv/latest/426132-parliamentary-committee-on-national-security-allows-govt-for-hold-talks-with-ttp.
 Kamran Yousaf, “Peace talks to pre-empt TTP-Daish nexus,” Express Tribune, July 6, 2022, https://tribune.com.pk/story/2364901/peace-talks-to-pre-empt-ttp-daish-nexus.
 “PCNS unanimously agrees to continue talks with TTP,” Express Tribune, July 7, 2022, https://tribune.com.pk/story/2365074/pcns-unanimously-agrees-to-continue-talks-with-ttp.
 Hamid Mir, “Why negotiating with the Pakistani Taliban is a terrible idea,” Washington Post, July 6, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2022/07/06/negotiating-ttp-pakistani-taliban-islamabad-terrorists-butcher-of-swat/.
 Neha Ansari, “Pakistan must stop accommodating the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan,” The Atlantic Council, July 15, 2022, https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/blogs/southasiasource/pakistan-must-stop-accommodating-the-tehreek-i-taliban-pakistan/.
 Abdul Syed, “Why Islamic State Khurasan Poses an Indigenous Threat to the Afghan Taliban?” George Washington University’s Program on Violent Extremism, May 9, 2022, https://extremism.gwu.edu/sites/g/files/zaxdzs2191/f/ISK-Poses-Indigenous-Threat-to-Taliban_Sayed_May-2022.pdf.
 Lucas Webber, “Voice of Khorasan Magazine and the Internationalization of Islamic State’s Anti-Taliban Propaganda,” Terrorism Monitor, May 6, 2022, https://jamestown.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/05/TM-PDF.pdf?x29503.
 “Human Rights in Afghanistan—15 August 2021-15 June 2022.”.
 Scott Berrier, “Statement for the Record Worldwide Threat Assessment Armed Services Committee Intelligence and Special Operations Subcommittee United States House of Representative,” Defence Intelligence Agency, March 15, 2022, p.33, https://armedservices.house.gov/_cache/files/5/f/5fa65e01-08c0-4b83-9713-7516a0bc4d62/481DE0F0E64E412E4B1EA9EC9984A1B8.20220317-iso-witnessstatement-berrier.pdf.
 Ricardo Valle, “Islamic State in Khorasan Province Counters Taliban with Formidable Media and Propaganda Offensive,” Terrorism Monitor, December 6, 2021, https://jamestown.org/program/islamic-state-in-khorasan-province-counters-taliban-with-formidable-media-and-propaganda-offensive/.
 Kunal Gurav, “Islamic State’s video on Nupur Sharma, Taliban threatens attack on Hindus,” Hindustan Times, June 16, 2022, https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/islamic-state-s-video-on-nupur-sharma-taliban-threatens-attack-on-hindus-101655353764244.html.
 Amira Jadoon, “Islamic State in Khorasan: Attempting to Absorb Rival Groups,” Newline, June 9, 2020, https://newlinesinstitute.org/isis/islamic-state-in-khorasan-attempting-to-absorb-rival-groups/.
 Abubakar Siddique and Abdul Hai Kakar, “Al-Qaeda Could Flourish With New Strategy Under Taliban Rule,” Radio Free Europe, September 30, 2021, https://gandhara.rferl.org/a/afghanistan-al-qaeda-taliban/31486256.html.
 “Thirtieth report of the Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team submitted pursuant to resolution 2610 (2021) concerning ISIL (Da’esh), Al-Qaida and associated individuals and entities,” Al-Qaida and associated individuals and entities,” United Nations Security Council, July 15, 2022, p.16, https://daccess-ods.un.org/access.nsf/Get?OpenAgent&DS=S/2022/547&Lang=E.
 Rita Katz, “The Taliban’s Victory Is Al Qaeda’s Victory,” Foreign Policy, September 13, 2021, https://foreignpolicy.com/2021/09/13/taliban-victory-afghanistan-al-qaeda-victory-911/.
 “Thirtieth report of the Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team submitted pursuant to resolution 2610 (2021) concerning ISIL (Da’esh),” p. 6.
 “Thirtieth report of the Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team submitted pursuant to resolution 2610 (2021) concerning ISIL (Da’esh), Al-Qaida and associated individuals and entities,” p. 6.
 Scott Berrier, ibid.
 Kathy Gannon, “Al-Qaida Leader Circulates Video; Dispels Rumor of His Death,” The Diplomat, April 6, 2022, https://thediplomat.com/2022/04/al-qaida-leader-circulates-video-dispels-rumor-of-his-death/.
 Kabir Taneja, “Al Qaeda, Islamic State, and Targeted Online Propaganda Around India’s Domestic Political Discourse,” Observer Research Foundation, April 12, 2020, https://www.orfonline.org/research/al-qaeda-islamic-state-and-targeted-online-propaganda/.
 Mohammed Sinan Siyech, “Al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent: After the Return of the Taliban,” European Eye on Radicalization, February 16, 2022, https://eeradicalization.com/al-qaeda-in-the-indian-subcontinent-after-the-return-of-the-taliban/.
 Shafi Mostafa, “Will al-Qaida in the Indian Subcontinent Find Support in India?” The Diplomat, January 12, 2022, https://thediplomat.com/2022/01/will-al-qaida-in-the-indian-subcontinent-find-support-in-india/.
 Kallol Bhattacherjee, “Al-Qaeda in Indian subcontinent threatens to attack India after Prophet controversy,” The Hindu, June 8, 2022, https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/al-qaeda-in-indian-subcontinent-threatens-to-attack-india-after-prophet-controversy/article65505330.ece.
 Ahmed Massoud is operating out of Tajikistan and the Panjshir valley is the center of gravity of NRF.
 Tarek Ali Ahmad, “What does 6 months of Taliban rule tell us about the future of Afghanistan,” Arab News, May 2022, https://www.arabnews.com/sites/default/files/rp_6_month_of_taliban.pdf.
 Amin Saikal, “Taliban face growing armed resistance across Afghanistan,” The Strategist, June 22, 2022, https://www.aspistrategist.org.au/taliban-face-growing-armed-resistance-across-afghanistan/.
 Peter Mills, “Afghanistan in Review: Taliban and Opposition Groups Prepare a New Spring Fighting Season in Afghanistan,” Institute for the Study of War, March 9, 2022, https://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/afghanistan-review-taliban-and-opposition-groups-prepare-new-spring-fighting-season.
 Masood Farivar, “Afghan Fighting Season Ushers in New Anti-Taliban Groups,” Voice of America, April 28, 2022, https://www.voanews.com/a/afghan-fighting-season-ushers-in-new-anti-taliban-groups/6542148.html.