Could Al-Qaeda Terrorist Organization Become an International Threat Again?

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During the first Taliban period, Afghanistan was isolated by the international community and the Taliban government was not recognized by any state. During this period, the Taliban turned to cooperation with the terrorist organization al-Qaeda and allowed the organization to use Afghanistan’s territory as a base. Consequently, following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the United States of America (USA) and its allies overthrew the Taliban regime on October 7, 2001 by carrying out what they called “Operation Enduring Freedom”. However, in 20 years of occupation, the US and its allies have failed to destroy the Taliban and to establish a healthy regime in Afghanistan.

Under the influence of this situation, the US and its allies gradually came to the conclusion that it was necessary to negotiate with the Taliban and signed the Doha Agreement on February 29, 2020. In the course of the agreement, the Taliban pledged to the United States that they would not allow the use of Afghan territory by terrorist organizations, that they would fight terrorism and that Afghanistan would not be used against foreign states. This is why, on the one hand, the Taliban is resolutely fighting the terrorist organization State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) and, on the other hand, rejects the presence of the al-Qaeda terrorist organization in Afghanistan. However, the neutralization of al-Qaeda terrorist organization leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in Kabul on August 1, 2022 as a result of an air operation organized by the US led to increased criticism of the Taliban administration. This has deepened the Taliban’s recognition problem.

The main point to note here is that the United States has sanctioned some Taliban leaders, particularly the Haqqani Network, on the grounds of links to the al-Qaeda terrorist organization. Therefore, the West has the idea that the Taliban is linked to terrorism. In fact, this idea is one of the main reasons why the Taliban faced recognition problems in its second term.

Undoubtedly, this is also used by Taliban opponents. Indeed, from time to time, the most powerful resistance group against the Taliban, the Panshir Movement, makes statements drawing attention to the risk of terrorism and criticizes the Taliban regime for allegedly maintaining relations with al-Qaeda and demands support from the international community.

However, allegations that the Taliban is in contact with the al-Qaeda terrorist organization are not only voiced by the Panshir Movement, but also by other Taliban opposition figures. Most recently, former Balkh Governor Ata Mohammad Nur claimed that the al-Qaeda terrorist organization was training terrorists inside Afghanistan and preparing to carry out international attacks.[1] This indicates that anti-Taliban groups want to wear down the Taliban through the al-Qaeda factor.

The possibility that such a scenario could come true is undeniable. The main concern about the second Taliban era, especially among Afghanistan’s neighboring states, is the possibility of terrorism spreading to their geography. This is because groups that many states consider terrorist organizations are affiliated with al-Qaeda or DAESH.

In fact, it is claimed that one of the reasons for the US withdrawal from Afghanistan was to plunge the region into chaos. This is because Afghanistan is located in a geographical location where instability can destabilize US rivals. There is a possibility that terrorism and conflicts could spread to China through the Wahan Corridor and to Russia through Central Asia. In other words, while withdrawing from a geography where it could not ensure stability, the US may have preferred to concentrate on a scenario where it could destabilize its rivals by paving the way for radicalization.

Moreover, the pressure from the United States and its allies on other states not to recognize the Taliban may also stem from this. Because a Taliban that is isolated from the international community may eventually radicalize. Similarly, the possibility that the al-Qaeda terrorist organization may turn to the Taliban for financial support to meet its basing needs and to use its old relations is not a scenario that can be denied.

As a result, Nur’s statements have once again brought to the agenda the discussions about al-Qaeda’s presence in Afghanistan, which were voiced by the leaders of the Panshir Movement in the past. While it is unclear to what extent these allegations reflect reality, it is clear that the rise of radicalization and terrorism in Afghanistan will serve regional chaos scenarios. This would mean the destabilization of US rivals.

[1] “عطا‌محمد نور: القاعده در حال نقشه‌کشی برای عملیات‌ بین‌المللی از داخل افغانستان است”, AFINTL,, (Date of Accession: 10.07.2023).

Dr. Doğacan BAŞARAN
Dr. Doğacan BAŞARAN
Dr. Doğacan BAŞARAN, 2014 yılında Gazi Üniversitesi İktisadi ve İdari Bilimler Fakültesi Uluslararası İlişkiler Bölümü’nden mezun olmuştur. Yüksek lisans derecesini, 2017 yılında Giresun Üniversitesi Sosyal Bilimler Enstitüsü Uluslararası İlişkiler Anabilim Dalı’nda sunduğu ‘’Uluslararası Güç İlişkileri Bağlamında İkinci Dünya Savaşı Sonrası Hegemonik Mücadelelerin İncelenmesi’’ başlıklı teziyle almıştır. Doktora derecesini ise 2021 yılında Trakya Üniversitesi Sosyal Bilimler Enstitüsü Uluslararası İlişkiler Anabilim Dalı‘nda hazırladığı “İmparatorluk Düşüncesinin İran Dış Politikasına Yansımaları ve Milliyetçilik” başlıklı teziyle alan Başaran’ın başlıca çalışma alanları Uluslararası ilişkiler kuramları, Amerikan dış politikası, İran araştırmaları ve Afganistan çalışmalarıdır. Başaran iyi derecede İngilizce ve temel düzeyde Farsça bilmektedir.