Al Qaeda is regaining strength and its members receive Taliban welfare payments

Al Qaeda is seeking to strengthen its operational capabilities in Afghanistan, a recently released report by the Un Security Council’s Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team says.

The number of senior Al Qaeda figures in Afghanistan, the report says, is estimated between 30 to 60, located in Kabul, Kandahar, Helmand and Kunar provinces. The number of fighters is estimated to be 400, rising to up to 2,000 with family members.

Under the protection and patronage of the Taliban, Al Qaeda members have been given “advisory roles in the Taliban security and administrative structures” in the group’s government. And Al Qaeda members also receive monthly “welfare payments” from the Taliban.

Al Qaeda fighters use the Taliban’s Ministry of Defence facilities for training and have been granted Afghan citizenship documents, the report says.

The report also states the the Taliban has “strong” ties with Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), which the latter uses to launch attacks inside Pakistan.

The Afghan rulers, according to the report, have maintained their “traditional ties” to other regional terrorist organisations, including the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement, Jamaat Ansarullah and others.

In July 2022, the US announced that it had killed Al Qaeda leader, Ayman Al Zawahiri, with a drone strike in Kabul. And a UN report in February said that Al Qaeda had appointed Iran-based Egyptian, Saif al-Adel, as Al Zawahiri’s successor.

With Afghanistan deep in humanitarian and economic crisis, the Taliban, according to the report, has created a “sophisticated system of taxation” to finance its government. But drug trafficking also remains a source of funding for the group, with senior members of the Haqqani Network being “heavily involved” in drug trafficking.