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In August 2021, all US soldiers left Afghanistan, enabling the Taliban to take over the country. Since then, the Taliban have installed a theocracy that bans women from most jobs and bars girls over the age of 12 from attending school, while maintaining close relationships with terrorist groups, such as al Qaeda.

The Taliban today control more of Afghanistan than they did the last time they were in power before the 9/11 attacks. And they are better armed since they now possess American armored vehicles and M16 rifles left behind as the US military headed for the exits.

For the past year, a group known as the National Resistance Front has waged a guerrilla war against the Taliban.…  Seguir leyendo »

En una primera lectura, la eliminación de Ayman al Zawahiri, máximo líder de Al Qaeda desde 2011, puede presentarse como un rotundo éxito de Washington en su afán por hacer justicia o vengarse —como cada cual prefiera— de quien solía identificarse como el verdadero padre intelectual del 11-S. Visto así, solo cabría alabar la pericia demostrada por los servicios de inteligencia estadounidenses —los mismos que erraron patentemente en su cálculo sobre el desafío talibán hace tan solo un año—.

Así, en lo que se nos ha presentado como un golpe quirúrgico con un misil Hellfire R9X lanzado desde un dron MQ-9 Reaper, cabría valorar positivamente que no fuera armado con una cabeza explosiva para evitar daños colaterales que pudieran afectar a los civiles que habitan las casas circundantes.…  Seguir leyendo »

Foto de una conferencia de prensa en Afganistán en 1998 con Ayman al Zawahri (centro izquierda) y Osama bin Laden (centro), cerebro de los atentados del 11 de septiembre de 2001. (Foto/Archivo AP) (AP)

Hace 20 años, siete semanas después del 11 de septiembre, fui el último periodista en entrevistar a Osama bin Laden. Nos reunimos en Afganistán, en medio de la campaña de bombardeos de Estados Unidos. Bin Laden se jactó de haber tendido una trampa que acabaría humillando a Estados Unidos en Afganistán, tal como le había sucedido a la Unión Soviética. También predijo que Estados Unidos y los talibanes tendrían conversaciones.

Dos décadas después Bin Laden está muerto, pero esas predicciones se han hecho realidad. Y no fueron las únicas que se cumplieron.

Quizás los estadounidenses pueden tener algo de consuelo en el hecho de que lograron vengarse cuando lo mataron.…  Seguir leyendo »

In this 1998 file photo, Ayman al-Zawahri, center left, and Osama bin Laden, center, hold a news conference in Afghanistan. (AP Photo/File) (AP)

Twenty years ago, seven weeks after 9/11, I was the last journalist to interview Osama bin Laden. We met in Afghanistan, in the middle of the U.S. bombing campaign. Bin Laden boasted that he had laid a trap that would end up humiliating the United States in Afghanistan — just as had happened to the Soviet Union. He also predicted talks between the United States and the Taliban.

Two decades later bin Laden is dead, but those predictions have come true. And they weren’t the only ones that did.

Americans can find some small consolation, perhaps, in the fact that they managed to take revenge by hunting him down and killing him.…  Seguir leyendo »

Los dos 11-S

El 11 de septiembre de 2001 me encontraba trabajando en mi estudio. Hacia las 15 horas sonó el teléfono: era el director de EL MUNDO que me pedía con urgencia que escribiera un artículo sobre "Los enemigos de Estados Unidos". No entendí la urgencia del encargo. Pedro J. Ramírez simplemente me dijo: pon la televisión Así hice. Conecté hacia las 15:05. Un minuto después, 15:06 (9:06 en Nueva York), contemplé asombrado cómo un avión comercial se estrellaba contra una de las Torres Gemelas, situadas en el sur de la isla de Manhattan y que albergaban el Word Trade Center. La otra estaba ya ardiendo.…  Seguir leyendo »

Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid greets United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, on June 29. (Shlomi Amsalem/AP)

If you want to understand what Islamist militancy today is really about, pay attention to this statement by the Taliban’s spokesman last week: “China is our most important partner, and represents a fundamental and extraordinary opportunity for us.”

Let me remind you that China is credibly accused of massive and pervasive persecution of its Muslim population — including mass incarceration, systematic “reeducation,” 24/7 surveillance and, in some cases, forced sterilization. In other words, the world’s most ideologically committed Islamist government has said that its closest ally will be a nation engaged in what many observers call cultural genocide against Muslims. Lesson: The Islamist militant movement has always been more about power than about religion.…  Seguir leyendo »

It wasn’t hubris that drove America into Afghanistan. It was fear

Americans long remembered where they were when they learned about the sinking of the Lusitania in 1915. The shock and horror of that event, in which a German submarine deliberately sank a British ocean liner with nearly 2,000 men, women and children aboard, produced more than moral outrage. It also reshaped Americans’ perception of the world and their role in it, ultimately leading them into the First World War. But neither their outrage at Germany nor their reconfigured view of foreign policy lasted very long. Ten years later, Americans still remembered the Lusitania, but they did not remember why they went to war — or, more specifically, how they felt about the series of events, beginning with the sinking, that ultimately led them to embrace war as their only remaining option.…  Seguir leyendo »

Taliban special forces patrol a street in Kabul on Sunday, as suicide bomb threats hung over the final phase of the U.S. military's airlift operation. (Aamir Qureshi/AFP)

As President Biden honors the U.S. troops killed in Thursday’s suicide bombing in Kabul and Afghan families prepare to bury and mourn their dead, threats of more horrific attacks by the terrorist group known as Islamic State-Khorasan, or ISIS-K, the Afghanistan and Pakistan arm of the Islamic State, hang over the U.S. evacuation.

The group claimed responsibility for the airport attack, striking a major blow against the departing U.S forces and Afghanistan’s new rulers, the Taliban. Until Thursday, ISIS-K hadn’t claimed credit for any American casualties in Afghanistan since the February 2020 U.S.-Taliban peace agreement. With their latest attack, the group undermined the Taliban’s claim of being able to provide security and stability once the United States is gone.…  Seguir leyendo »

Monumento a las Víctimas del 11-M, Madrid, España. Foto: Maritè Toledo.

Tema

Con los talibán gobernando en Kabul es previsible que el mando central de al-Qaeda como estructura yihadista global disponga entre Afganistán y Pakistán de un espacio mucho más permisivo para volver a planificar atentados en el mundo occidental, lo que a corto y medio plazo tendrá una mayor repercusión sobre las sociedades europeas.

Resumen

Los talibán afganos han mantenido, desde mediada la década de 1990, una relación estable y estrecha con al-Qaeda. El mando central de al-Qaeda se encuentra desde 2002 en las zonas tribales de Pakistán adyacentes con Afganistán y protegido por los talibán paquistaníes. Además de su continua y estrecha relación con al-Qaeda, los talibán afganos han mantenido vínculos con otras organizaciones yihadistas activas en el sur de Asia.…  Seguir leyendo »

‘The Taliban have clearly indicated their desire for international recognition, or at least acceptance.’ Fighters on guard outside Kabul airport. Photograph: EPA

After the bloodshed at Kabul airport, the grim reality for those who want to prevent Islamic State’s affiliate causing further murder and mayhem in Afghanistan is that in practice their best partner for this complex and difficult battle would be the Taliban.

Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP) – the name is borrowed from that used by early Islamic empires to describe much of modern Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan – was founded six years ago. Until this week it had been something of a failure. Though the group made early gains, these were rapidly lost as the Taliban fought back hard: they were not going to allow an upstart newcomer, particularly one largely composed of disaffected former Taliban commanders, Pakistanis and Uzbeks, to take over.…  Seguir leyendo »

Taliban fighters inside the Afghan presidential palace in Kabul on Aug. 15. (Zabi Karimi/AP)

Remember “Baghdad Bob”, the Iraqi information minister who, as U.S. forces entered the capital, insisted that there were no Americans in Baghdad? That’s what President Biden is beginning to sound like with his delusional insistence that no Americans were having trouble getting to the Kabul airport, no allies were calling into question the United States’ credibility, and that the United States had no interest in Afghanistan because al-Qaeda was “gone”.

Really? If that last claim were true, then how did the Afghan military manage to kill al-Qaeda’s second-in-command, Abu Muhsin al-Masri, in Afghanistan’s Ghazni province last October? Al-Masri was on the FBI’s most wanted list for conspiracy to kill Americans.…  Seguir leyendo »

Some jihadist groups including the Pakistani Taliban are celebrating the Taliban’s return in Afghanistan, whilst others are critical and could engage in attacks. Photograph: Saood Rehman/EPA

Following the withdrawal of US troops, the Taliban’s swift and summary takeover of Afghanistan territory and political leadership has left many wondering what their return to power means for international jihadism.

The last time the Taliban were in power, they ruled Afghanistan in a notoriously brutal manner and harboured al-Qaida - a transnational jihadist movement that conducted the largest terrorist attack in history against the United States – prompting the US invasion in 2001 and two decades of military involvement that came to its ignominious end just a few short days ago.

The Taliban leadership is eager to assuage the fears of Afghan civilians and the international community, who remember all too well what happened the last time the Taliban were in power.…  Seguir leyendo »

El verdadero fracaso es Pakistán

Solo hay un aspecto positivo sobre el hecho de los talibanes hayan restablecido el Emirato Islámico de Afganistán a días del aniversario 20 de los ataques terroristas a EE.UU. del 11 de septiembre de 2001: servirá como recordatorio de por qué hace dos décadas hubo que invadir el país y derrocar al gobierno talibán.

Cuando cerca de 3000 personas son asesinadas en tu propio suelo en una operación planificada y ordenada por un grupo terrorista conocido desde un país cuyo gobierno se niega a cooperar para llevar ante la justicia a esa organización y a su líder, no hay buenas opciones.…  Seguir leyendo »

El terrorismo y los talibanes

Al retirar apresuradamente las tropas estadounidenses desplegadas en Afganistán, el Presidente estadounidense Joe Biden ha cometido un grave error, o así lo plantean muchos. Por ejemplo, el líder de la minoría republicana en el Senado, Mitch McConnell, ha calificado la rápida toma del país por parte de los talibanes como “una secuela aún peor que la humillante caída de Saigón en 1975”. Una secuela que altos generales estadounidenses, políticos conservadores e incluso algunos liberales predicen que se caracterizará por el resurgimiento del terrorismo internacional.

La predicción es clara. Como el grupo islamista militante que es, el movimiento talibán inevitablemente proporcionará a al-Qaeda –y potencialmente a otros grupos extremistas, como Estado Islámico (ISIS)- un santuario para reclutar, entrenar y planificar ataques contra los países de Occidente.…  Seguir leyendo »

An Afghan soldier at a road checkpoint near a U.S. military base in Bagram on Thursday. (Wakil Kohsar/AFP/Getty Images)

U.S. troops are beginning the process of leaving Afghanistan, after almost 20 years of fighting. Announcing his decision to complete the U.S. withdrawal by September, President Biden declared: “I believed that our presence in Afghanistan should be focused on the reason we went in the first place: to ensure Afghanistan would not be used as a base from which to attack our homeland again. We did that. We accomplished that objective”.

But al-Qaeda — which, after 9/11, provided the U.S. rationale for invading Afghanistan — still has 400 to 600 members fighting with the Taliban, according to U.N. Security Council estimates.…  Seguir leyendo »

Afghanistan's "peace deal" has been blown up. The government has resumed fighting the Taliban after a horrifying attack by gunmen on a maternity ward run by Doctors Without Borders in Kabul. Mothers and nurses were the main victims in the first attack, with 16 killed. Two of the dead were newborns.

Although the Taliban denied being responsible for the attack, Afghanistan's national security adviser, Hamdullah Mohib, stated on Twitter that "their attacks this spring against Afghans are comparable to the level of fighting in past fighting seasons ...This is not peace, nor its beginnings", and that there is "little point in continuing to engage Taliban in 'peace talks.' …  Seguir leyendo »

Afghan police inspect the site of a suicide attack in northern Parwan province, Afghanistan, on Sept. 17 in which a Taliban suicide bomber on a motorcycle targeted presidential guards at a campaign rally. (Rahmat Gul/AP)

Late last month, Afghan and U.S. forces targeted Asim Umar, chief of al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS), at a Taliban compound in Afghanistan’s Helmand province. While the fate of Umar is unknown, several militants were reportedly killed during the operation, including the Taliban’s local explosives expert and Umar’s courier, who transported messages to al-Qaeda’s leader Ayman al-Zawahiri.

This development raises serious questions about the Taliban’s promises, made during the now-frozen U.S.-Taliban talks, to break ties with its longtime partner al-Qaeda. It suggests that the American hope of detaching the Taliban from its al-Qaeda allies, before making a deal with the Taliban, is nowhere near to being fulfilled.…  Seguir leyendo »

Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanakzai headed a Taliban delegation at meetings with Afghan opposition leaders in Moscow this week. Credit Maxim Shemetov/Reuters

The United States and the Taliban made progress in peace talks in late January after coming to a basic understanding about withdrawing American troops in return for Taliban commitments to prevent Afghanistan from becoming a safe haven for transnational terrorists. An agreement between the United States and the Taliban has been long overdue — as part of a broader settlement also involving the Taliban's Afghan opponents — and is the way out of a war without victory.

The fear of Afghanistan-based terrorists attacking the United States has been the key reason for keeping American troops in the country and keeping the Taliban out of power, but it is rooted more in perception than in reality.…  Seguir leyendo »

American military advisers at an Afghan National Army base. Credit James Mackenzie/Reuters

President Trump may be a controversial and disruptive president. But in regard to Afghanistan, his frustration with the 17-year war differs little from the sentiments of President Barack Obama or most of the rest of us. Reportedly, he has asked for a precipitous cut of up to half the 14,000 American troops serving there, early this year.

That would be a mistake. There is still a strong case to sustain America’s longest war — especially if we redefine it, away from nation-building and toward something more like an enduring partnership with the Afghan people against regional and global extremism. Indeed, Washington should stop looking for an exit strategy and view Afghanistan as one pillar in a broader regional web of capabilities against Al Qaeda, the Islamic State and related movements that show few signs of dissipating.…  Seguir leyendo »

Survivors walk after a blast in Kabul, Afghanistan 13 March 2017. REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail

Over one week, as many as 130 people, the overwhelming majority civilians, were killed in twin attacks claimed by the Taliban in Kabul. On 20 January, five Taliban suicide bombers attacked the Intercontinental Hotel, killing at least 22 people, mostly foreigners, after breaching the security of the heavily guarded building. Almost half the dead were employees of Afghan airline carrier, Kam Air. Families and friends of civilians trapped in the fourteen-hour siege spent the night in the sub-zero temperature outside the hotel waiting for news of their loved ones.

A week later the Taliban launched a deadlier attack, killing over 100 people, again mostly civilians.…  Seguir leyendo »