More than a yr after the creation of that job power, sources say it hasn’t despatched a single proposed goal to the Pentagon for approval — largely as a result of and not using a presence on the bottom, it hasn’t been in a position to construct sufficient intelligence on targets to satisfy the administration’s requirements for avoiding civilian casualties.
“There’s a difference between tracking one senior high value target and dealing with the resurgence of these terrorist groups inside Afghanistan,” stated Beth Sanner, a former presidential intelligence briefer underneath President Donald Trump and senior South Asia analyst on the CIA. “It’s a just a whole different ball of wax.”
Some intelligence officials have publicly raised issues that terrorist exercise incubated in Afghanistan will unfold exterior the nation’s borders and pose a menace to the United States — and that the US will likely be blind to it.
Asked instantly by Sen. Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, if he was anxious about an assault on the homeland “emanating from places like Afghanistan,” FBI Director Chris Wray on Thursday stated, “We are. Especially now that we’re out I’m worried about the potential loss of sources and collection over there.”
“I’m worried about the possibility that we will see al Qaeda reconstitute,” he added.
Hinting at how excessive the hurdles have turn out to be, some intelligence and navy officials who weren’t concerned in the closely-held planning particulars of the Zawahiri operation have been pleasantly stunned that the US was nonetheless in a position to efficiently perform such a precision strike, in accordance with a former intelligence official nonetheless in contact with former colleagues.
Administration officials say that quite the opposite, the Zawahiri strike is proof that the US is efficiently monitoring and countering the menace with out American boots on the bottom in Afghanistan. Sources accustomed to the intelligence behind the strike say the US built-in a number of totally different nuggets of information from a number of streams of intelligence to find and goal Zawahiri.
“I think I’m more satisfied and more confident [in US intelligence in Afghanistan] than I was even a week ago because of what that collection just enabled, which was a pretty remarkable, pretty precise action,” a senior administration official informed CNN on Friday.
“The fact that there haven’t been other uses of force of that type in the past year means that we are monitoring and we are being judicious — and where we think it reaches the point of needing to act, we’re acting,” the official stated. “But I think it is a pretty powerful demonstration of what that capability can provide.”
The US now largely depends on drone flights and human networks on the bottom to assemble data about what’s going on inside Afghanistan, in accordance with a former intelligence official and the supply accustomed to the intelligence.
But drone flights from the Gulf are logistically sophisticated and have restricted loiter time in Afghanistan because of the lengthy flight, making them costly to make use of and limiting their usefulness. And and not using a US presence on the bottom, intelligence professionals anticipate human networks could degrade over time.
“I think we don’t know what we don’t know,” one former official stated.
For now, there may be broad consensus contained in the intelligence neighborhood that the instant menace that al Qaeda will have the ability to use Afghanistan as a protected haven to plan assaults on the US homeland or US pursuits stays low. But troublesome questions stay about whether or not that threat will develop over time.
Much relies on present unknowns — in specific, how the Taliban responds to the killing of Zawahiri. “Will the Taliban actually let AQ use Afghanistan?” stated one supply accustomed to the intelligence.
“There are a ton of factors that play into this debate,” this individual stated. “And all complicated.”
The intelligence neighborhood in its annual menace evaluation launched this yr charges the menace from al Qaeda associates in Yemen, Somalia and West Africa as a larger threat to US pursuits overseas than its weakened management in Afghanistan. Al Qaeda in Afghanistan, officials consider, continues to be gauging its skill to function underneath Taliban rule and can probably stay centered on sustaining its protected haven reasonably than planning exterior operations — no less than for now.
And though al Qaeda leaders have loved “increased freedom of action” underneath the Taliban, in accordance with a current UN report, there was no main inflow of latest fighters to Afghanistan for the reason that US withdrawal — a mirrored image of how al Qaeda has developed away from centrally-planned assaults, in accordance with some analysts.
But as for what occurs subsequent, one US supply described the evaluation throughout intelligence companies as “all over the place.”
“What we don’t think we have occurring is some sort of regrowth [or] regeneration of an al Qaeda operational presence — even with less famous names [than Zawahiri],” the senior administration official stated.
There is one college of thought that whereas some components of the Taliban could really feel honor-bound to uphold its oath to defend outdated guard members of al Qaeda like Zawahiri, it has no obligation or incentive to make welcome a brand new era of fighters. And in accordance with intelligence officials, there are vanishingly few members of the unique al Qaeda management who stay in Afghanistan, none of whom are more likely to exchange Zawahiri.
Meanwhile, the current strike, some analysts argue, could dissuade terrorist leaders from touring to the nation from elsewhere. They argue that the far larger threat is al Qaeda associates in Africa and elsewhere that are solely loosely linked to core leaders in Afghanistan.
“There’s some people who are very worried,” stated Sanner, who’s now a contributor at CNN. “I personally think that AQ core in Afghanistan doesn’t do a lot of operational planning.”
Others assess that it is extra probably that the Taliban — consumed with making an attempt to legitimize its authorities amid a monetary implosion and an ongoing battle with ISIS-Ok — merely could not have the bandwidth to stop Afghanistan from being utilized by al Qaeda or its associates to plan assaults on the United States. There are additionally issues that the remnants of al Qaeda could merely be absorbed into the Taliban.
The UN report discovered a “close relationship” between al Qaeda and the Taliban.
How the Taliban reply
How the Taliban responds to the loss of life of Zawahiri stays an open query — and one which intelligence and navy officials are watching carefully, a number of officials stated.
According to 1 supply accustomed to the intelligence, it isn’t clear to US intelligence how many individuals in the Taliban knew that Zawahiri was holed up in Kabul in a home owned by the highly effective Haqqani faction — a militant group that’s a part of the Taliban authorities. The Taliban has publicly denied that they have been conscious of his presence previous to the strike and analysts are carefully watching to see if his publicity ushers in any sort of rift between the Taliban and the Haqqani.
“The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan has no information about Ayman al-Zawahiri’s arrival and stay in Kabul,” a press release by the Taliban stated.
White House officials stated on Monday that senior Haqqani Taliban figures have been conscious of Zawahiri’s presence in the world and even took steps to hide his presence after Saturday’s profitable strike, proscribing entry to the protected home and quickly relocating members of his household, together with his daughter and her youngsters.
“As far as we know, many people in the Taliban didn’t know the Haqqani were sheltering Zawahiri in Kabul. “Does that create a cut up between the Taliban and the Haqqani?” the source familiar with the intelligence said.
The senior administration official said Friday that the Taliban “is scrambling a bit to determine who knew what and who did not — and furthermore, to get their story straight on what occurred.”
Some US military officials are hopeful, meanwhile, that the strike may help push the Taliban towards some sort of limited cooperation with the US to target ISIS-K, a common enemy and separate terrorist group in Afghanistan that the US military is far more concerned about than al Qaeda, according to two sources familiar with the dynamic.
“I believe this was a symbolic strike that eliminated an inspirational chief,” Sanner said. “It completes the duty of eradicating the 2 individuals who have been on the middle of 9/11. But it’s the finish of an period — it’s not about a present menace.”
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