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US Withdrawal from Afghanisation – the Future of Al-Qaeda
28 Jun 2021

A webinar by the International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research (ICPVTR), RSIS, on 28 June 2021 was the first in a three-part series to spotlight the US’ withdrawal from Afghanistan. Terrorism scholars and practitioners have been divided in their views on Al-Qaeda’s current and future trajectory. While some believe that Al-Qaeda is unlikely to return to its former glory, others are less optimistic, warning that the transnational jihadist group, given its nexus to the Taliban, can still exploit the chaotic and unstable security vacuum to reconstitute itself and make a comeback.

In light of this, the webinar speaker and former Director General of Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence, Lieutenant General (R) Asad Durrani, opined that the US’ departure from Afghanistan will undoubtably embolden the Taliban to seize power and facilitate their inevitable takeover. In addition, he cautioned against the competing threats emanating not just from Al-Qaeda but also from other jihadist groups like Daesh, which must not be sidelined. However, he felt it would be equally important not to overstate the security threat from Al-Qaeda.

Comparing the present situation to the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan in the late 1980s, General Durrani asserted that regional countries have had more time to forge cooperation, although major challenges have yet to materialise in full force. While various counter-terrorism approaches aimed at the new threats remain on the table, he reckoned that the ever-changing threat landscape posed by a plethora of jihadists would make it hard to adopt a more pre-emptive strategy in the region. General Durrani closed with the warning that international intervention has in the past and will in the future only exacerbate the security situation, and this may provide actors like Al-Qaeda with the ideological narrative to thrive once again.

Note: This webinar was held before the Taliban’s takeover of Kabul.
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