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Afghanistan officials express fear over US withdrawal from the country

A raid killing Husam Abd al-Rauf last year yielded new evidence on Al Qaeda

New details of a raid that killed an Al Qaeda leader show that the terror group still enjoys the protection of the Taliban, in violation of a peace deal with the U.S. last year, raising fears that the terror group could resume attacks on America.

Al Qaeda is about 18 months away from being able to launch attacks on the West, CNN claimed on Friday in a report citing anonymous Afghan officials who are nervous about the withdrawal of U.S. troops.

U.S. forces have been deployed in Afghanistan for two decades now, with more than 20,500 wounded and 2,312 killed, after invading the country to seek out 9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden.

Last month, President Joe Biden said that the remaining U.S. troops would be pulled out of Afghanistan before September 11, the 20th anniversary of the Al Qaeda attacks on the U.S. in 2001.

‘We cannot continue the cycle of extending or expanding our military presence in Afghanistan hoping to create the ideal conditions for our withdrawal, expecting a different result,’ Biden said at the time.

Afghan police forces patrol during an anti-Taliban operation in the Andar district of Ghazni province in a file photo. Biden has promised to finally withdraw US troops after two decades

Afghan police forces patrol during an anti-Taliban operation in the Andar district of Ghazni province in a file photo. Biden has promised to finally withdraw US troops after two decades

A map shows the situation on the ground in Afghanistan earlier this year. The Taliban still controls a broad patchwork of territory across the country

A map shows the situation on the ground in Afghanistan earlier this year. The Taliban still controls a broad patchwork of territory across the country

But now, Afghan officials are anxious and pleading for an extension of U.S. support, saying they have evidence showing that Al Qaeda is still operating a global network under the protection of the Taliban.

The evidence comes from a little publicized raid, carried out by Afghan special forces, that took out a top Al Qaeda propagandist on the FBI most-wanted list. 

The October raid in Kunsaf, a village in Ghazni province’s Andar district some 90 miles southwest of Kabul, killed Husam Abd al-Rauf, also known by the nom de guerre Abu Muhsin al-Masri.

A top Al Qaeda propagandist, al-Rauf spewed audio and video rants on the terror group’s media channels, accusing the U.S. and Britain of being racist.

He also railed against Donald Trump, calling him ‘the liar in the evil White House who claims that he will withdraw their forces from Afghanistan because the mission has ended.’ 

Afghan officials told CNN that al-Rauf, an Egyptian national, had been hiding in Afghanistan after leaving Pakistan in 2014, and communicating with Al Qaeda cells in other countries. 

Messages found on his computer after the raid showed encrypted communications with Al Qaeda cells in Syria and Pakistan, one official said. 

‘He was in touch with other key members of al Qaeda in the rest of the world. He had some operational programs,’ said the senior Afghan intelligence official. 

 ‘His compound was very well-protected by the Taliban,’ the official added. 

The Taliban, a Sunni fundamentalist group that governs under an extreme interpretation of Islamic law, still controls a broad patchwork of territory in Afghanistan after two decades of fighting.

Though the Taliban is focused on territorial control and shows little interest in launching attacks on other countries, the group long provided safe harbor for Al Qaeda — an arrangement Afghan officials claim continues today.

It would be a violation of a peace deal the Taliban signed with the U.S. last year, under the Trump administration, pledging to ‘prevent the use of the soil of Afghanistan by any group or individual against the security of the United States and its allies.’ 

A senior Afghan intelligence official told CNN the Taliban’s peace pledge to the Trump administration ‘was just like a joke between themselves. They knew that this will not happen.’ 

Then U.S. Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo meets with the Taliban political affairs chief Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar in Doha, Qatar last February to sign a peace deal

Then U.S. Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo meets with the Taliban political affairs chief Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar in Doha, Qatar last February to sign a peace deal

Afghan police officers patrol earlier this week in Herat. They will be part of the Afghan government's front line of defense after the US withdraws its troops

Afghan police officers patrol earlier this week in Herat. They will be part of the Afghan government’s front line of defense after the US withdraws its troops

Al-Rauf apparently believed that the withdrawal of U.S. troops could soon return Afghanistan to its pre-9/11 status as a safe haven for Al Qaeda. 

In messages found on his computer, he boasted to his terror colleagues that Afghanistan would soon be a new terror hub, a senior Afghan official told CNN.

The senior intelligence official said he did not have any evidence at present to suggest that Al Qaeda was planning operations beyond Afghanistan. 

‘But they are entering a new place of reorganization and then making missions on a larger scale,’ he said.

Federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York filed a warrant for al-Rauf’s arrest in December 2018, accusing him of providing support to a foreign terrorist organization and being part of a conspiracy to kill U.S. citizens. 

The FBI put him on the bureau’s ‘Most Wanted Terrorists’ list, which now includes 25 others.

Elite Afghan security forces show off their skills during a training in Herat, Afghanistan on Wednesday. Around 2,500 American and 7,000 NATO troops are scheduled to complete their final withdrawal from Afghanistan by early September 2021

Elite Afghan security forces show off their skills during a training in Herat, Afghanistan on Wednesday. Around 2,500 American and 7,000 NATO troops are scheduled to complete their final withdrawal from Afghanistan by early September 2021

A crack squad of Afghan security forces show off their stuff in a training run this week. They will face the Taliban without US military support by September

A crack squad of Afghan security forces show off their stuff in a training run this week. They will face the Taliban without US military support by September

The red-headed al-Rauf, believed to be born in 1958, was an Egyptian national. An al-Qaida-issued biography said he joined the mujahideen fighters who battled the Soviet Union in 1986.

He had served for years as al-Qaida’s media chief, offering audio statements and written articles backing the militant group. 

After years of remaining silent following the acknowledgement of Taliban founder Mullah Mohammad Omar’s death, al-Rauf reemerged in 2018 in an audio statement in which he mocked Trump and those who preceded him the White House.

‘I name him `Donald T-Rambo´ who tries to copy the famous American fictional character `Rambo,´ who, with only a Kalashnikov, was able to liberate the entire Afghanistan from the Soviet Union,’ al-Rauf said, according to the SITE Intelligence Group.

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk