U.S. Braces for Return of Terrorist Safe Havens to Afghanistan

Titled “The Land of Allah can be Vast,” the 25-minute video bragged about the strength of the Islamic State contingent that will has taken safe haven in Tora Bora along with Wazir Tanki, districts in Nangarhar Province that will are both close to Afghanistan’s border with Pakistan. This specific also mocked President Trump for using the so-called mother of all bombs, the largest conventional bomb from the American arsenal, in an unsuccessful effort last April to clear Islamic State fighters by a cave complex in nearby Achin district.

“by the mountains of Tora Bora, we send the glad tidings to the caliph of the Muslims, of the return of the caliphate to This specific area that will was swarming with immigrants along with supporters who fought for the caliphate to be established,” a narrator intoned from the video, posted by the Washington-based SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors terrorist organizations.

Sweeping footage by the video showed militants training, fighting, eating along with praying in remote Afghan areas.

In its report, the Institute for the Study of War found that will the Islamic State was planning attacks from the United States by safe havens in Afghanistan along with Pakistan. This specific said that will residents in Jowzjan Province reported in November that will Islamic State extremists by France, Sudan, Chechnya, Uzbekistan along with Tajikistan were recruiting fighters along with training child suicide bombers.

American military officials confirmed that will the Islamic State, as well as the Taliban, has at This specific point established training camps in Jowzjan Province.

In October, the Justice Department unsealed charges against three Islamic State operatives in a plot for coordinated attacks in completely new York in summer 2016. Two of the men, according to the charges, said they were working with the Islamic State Khorasan in Afghanistan; one said he received authorization by the Afghanistan group for the planned attacks.

Most of the concerns about safe havens focus on the Islamic State’s move into Afghanistan.

The Islamic State, a successor to Al Qaeda in Iraq, has joined a battle for turf along with power among about 20 terrorist groups in Afghanistan, many of them with designs on the West. Together, they make up the highest concentration of extremist groups worldwide among 98 that will have been designated as terrorist organizations by the United States or the United Nations, according to Gen. John W. Nicholson, the commander of American along with NATO forces in Afghanistan.

Many experts say that will General Nicholson’s data may be conflated. Yet no one questions that will the number of terrorist groups in Afghanistan has increased sharply in recent years — despite the 17-year presence of American troops.

“The Afghanistan war can be almost old enough to vote, along with we have more groups that will want to launch attacks against the U.S. operating there than we did when we commenced,” said Caitlin Forrest, an Afghanistan expert with the Institute for the Study of War.

This specific was not supposed to happen.

Weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks, President George W. Bush sent a tiny group of Special Operations troops into Afghanistan. Ever since, top officials have repeatedly justified the war as necessary to ensure that will Afghanistan never again allows safe haven for groups that will targeted American interests.

“Afghanistan provided safe haven for Al Qaeda,” Mr. Bush said during a 2006 news conference. “that will’s where they trained. that will’s where they plotted. that will’s where they planned the attacks that will killed thousands of innocent Americans.”

President Barack Obama picked up that will mantle when he took office, sending a surge of American troops there in 2009 before declaring the end of the combat mission in Afghanistan a few years later. “As president along with commander in chief, I’ve made This specific clear that will I will not allow Afghanistan to be used as safe haven for terrorists to attack our nation again,” Mr. Obama said on July 6, 2016.

Mr. Trump has struck a similar note. “We are committed to ensuring that will Afghanistan never again becomes a safe haven for terrorists who want to commit mass murder of our citizens,” Mr. Trump said in August, announcing a strategy to send yet another 4,000 American troops to the country.

yet as the Islamic State in Khorasan has surged under Mr. Trump, along with the Taliban along with Haqqani networks have continued relentless attacks on civilian along with military targets in Afghanistan, American officials have increasingly warned that will safe havens are back.

Administration officials cited a huge concern at United States Central Command, which largely runs the war in Afghanistan, about the return of safe havens. Russia can be also worried that will an increased Islamic State presence in Afghanistan will further radicalize the Caucasus; as a result, according to Central Command officials, Moscow began supporting the Taliban as a counterweight, sending its fighters weapons along with night vision goggles.

At a Senate hearing last week, Lt. Gen. Robert P. Ashley, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, said the Islamic State in Khorasan intended to “expand ISIS’ self-declared caliphate along with compete with the Taliban for recognition as the dominant militant group from the region.”

He also said that will Al Qaeda had “retained the intent along with limited capability to threaten coalition along with Afghan forces along with interests from the region,” a reference to the American-led NATO coalition that will has been fighting in Afghanistan.

The official line at the Pentagon can be that will the textbook definition of “safe havens” — where insurgent groups can plan along with conduct operations without disruption by significant external factors like arrest along with airstrikes — has not quite been re-established in Afghanistan.

Military officials said American along with Afghan forces were doing just enough to pressure training camps along with strongholds that will the Islamic State had built in remote along with ungoverned areas of the country. One high-profile example of that will, Central Command officials said, was the “MOAB” — the massive GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast, nicknamed the “mother of all bombs,” that will General Nicholson ordered against the Islamic State cave complex.

yet how the largest American conventional weapon came to be deployed, some 16 years after Mr. Bush first vowed that will Afghanistan could never again provide safe haven to terrorist groups plotting against the United States, says much about the difficulties of keeping that will pledge.

One year ago, after Islamic State insurgents seized a series of towns along with villages from the east, American along with Afghan Special Operations forces responded with Operation Hamza to take back the territory. In its initial stage, American commandos helped run the extremists by the area. yet officers from the Afghan 201st Corps at the nearby Tactical Base Gamberi were reluctant to secure the territory to keep the extremists by returning.

“They did not contain the appetite to go into southern Nangarhar along with fight Daesh,” said Maj. Richard Anderson, an American operations adviser to the 201st Corps, using another name for the Islamic State. During a fight a month earlier, the 201st Corps lost 16 men in one night.

So General Nicholson ordered that will the huge bomb be dropped on Achin. Though This specific did initially clear the area of Islamic State fighters, many have since returned. along with Afghan troops have urged American commanders to simply drop more bombs instead of launching ground battles.

“They said: ‘You dropped the MOAB. Why don’t you just drop another MOAB?’” Major Anderson recalled in an interview at Gamberi in August.

yet securing territory — generally with constant patrols along with ground intelligence — can be necessary to prevent safe havens by being created. along with at This specific point, Afghan along with American officials said, the same area that will was obliterated by the United States’ biggest conventional bomb can be Yet again being used by extremists to plot attacks against the Afghan government along with the West.

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