Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Under Obama, ISIS if formed and captures huge land swaths, Taliban resurges and al-Qaeda re-emerges

WASHINGTON (NYT) — Even as the Obama administration scrambles to confront the Islamic State and resurgent Taliban, an old enemy seems to be reappearing in Afghanistan: Qaeda training camps are sprouting up there, forcing the Pentagon and American intelligence agencies to assess whether they could again become a breeding ground for attacks on the United States.

Most of the handful of camps are not as big as those that Osama bin Laden built before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. But had they re-emerged several years ago, they would have rocketed to the top of potential threats presented to President Obama in his daily intelligence briefing. Now, they are just one of many — and perhaps, American officials say, not even the most urgent on the Pentagon’s list in Afghanistan.

The scope of Al Qaeda’s deadly resilience in Afghanistan appears to have caught American and Afghan officials by surprise. Until this fall, American officials had largely focused on targeting the last remaining senior Qaeda leaders hiding along Afghanistan’s rugged, mountainous border with Pakistan.

At least in public, the administration has said little about the new challenge or its strategy for confronting the threat from Al Qaeda, even as it rushes to help the Afghan government confront what has been viewed as the more imminent threat, the surge in violent attacks from the Taliban, the Haqqani network and a new offshoot of the Islamic State. Former administration officials have been more outspoken — especially those who were on the front lines of the original battle to destroy Al Qaeda’s central leadership.

“I do worry about the rebirth of AQ in Afghanistan because of what their target list will be — us,” said Michael Morell, the deputy director of the C.I.A. until two years ago, whose book, “The Great War of Our Time,” recounts the efforts of the Bush and Obama administrations to destroy the Qaeda leadership.

“It is why we need to worry about the resurgence of the Taliban,” Mr. Morell said, “because, just like before, the Taliban will give Al Qaeda a safe haven.”