Local officials in Helmand province, in southern Afghanistan, have said that Al Qaeda has a strong presence in the province’s districts alongside the Durand Line and in border areas between Afghanistan and Iran.
Helmand’s governor said that their information indicates that Al Qaeda and other foreign fighters have established camps and are training the Taliban fighters in those districts in Helmand which have border with Pakistan and Iran.
The Helmand governor said that it was worrying that the Taliban would not cut ties with al-Qaeda and other foreign fighters.
In the past, there was a strong Taliban presence in Helmand.
According to local officials, there is a presence of Al Qaeda and other foreign fighters ranging from Disho district of Helmand towards some districts in Herat–across an area spanning hundreds of kilometers.
According to Helmand governor Yasin Khan, the Al Qaeda network is providing military and financial support to the Taliban.
“Currently Al Qaeda has a presence in Bahramcha region of Disho district of Helmand towards Herat province, and they are providing training and support to the Taliban. They cooperate with the Taliban and supply them with materials. In all wars, there are contributions from Al Qaeda, other foreign insurgents such as Lashkar-e-Taiba (Pakistan based militant group) and Punjabis,” said Yasin Khan, the governor of Helmand.
In the meantime, general Wali Mohammad Ahmadzai, the commander of 215 Maiwand Army Corps, has said that in recent weeks the Taliban has changed its tactics, such as bringing in the material from outside the country, as well as the making of mines and projectiles.
“The Taliban, in defiance of their commitments to the Doha agreement, have kept their ties with other groups,” said General Wali Mohammad Ahmadzai, the commander of 215 Maiwand Army Corps.
“In the peace process, we are only talking with the Taliban, we are not talking to the foreign nationals who are fighting here, we also call on the Taliban to put them aside,” said Attaullah Afghan, the head of Helmand’s provincial council.
The Taliban have denied having ties with Al Qaeda.
Based on the US-Taliban agreement, which was signed in Doha on February 29, the Taliban as part of the agreement pledged to cut all ties with Al Qaeda and other foreign terror groups.
UN Report on Al Qaeda presence:
A recent report submitted to the United Nations Security Council indicates that the total number of “Pakistani foreign terrorist fighters” in Afghanistan is estimated at “between 6,000 and 6,500, most of them with Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).”
The report says the TTP fighters in Afghanistan are led by Amir Noor Wali Mehsud, supported by his deputy Qari Amjad and TTP spokesperson Mohammad Khorasani.
The report says that according to UN member states, “Al Qaeda is covertly active in 12 Afghan provinces and Aiman al-Zawahiri remains based in the country.”
The report says that the UN Monitoring Team estimates the total number of Al Qaeda fighters in Afghanistan at “between 400 and 600 and that the leadership maintains close contact with the Haqqani network.”