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Friday, September 22, 2023

Could al-Qaeda strike in Europe?

By Éva Harangozó

It is feared that among the Afghan refugees arriving in Belgium, there will also be human smugglers and terrorists in the near future.

This fear is apparent from an internal police correspondence, the Belgian newspaper Het Nieuws blad present. The email is specifically addressed to the departments that run the migrant centers and asks the authorities to report any extremist statements or recruitment.

In connection with the events in Afghanistan and the rise of the Taliban to power, many experts believe that not only the immediate region but also Europe could be at risk from the increasing activity of terrorist groups. Some say the threat will not be long in coming. Hans-Jakob Schindler, director of the Counter Extremism Project, an international non-profit organization that works to fight terrorism and extremist ideology, warned that the Taliban have promised to respect women’s rights and to forgive those who oppose they have struggled but are unwilling to give up their principles:

It is the same extremists who, according to regular UN reports, have been responsible for the killing of thousands of Afghans in recent years.

Despite the Taliban’s assurances, recent reports emphasize that they are still affiliated with al-Qaeda and the numerous al-Qaeda-related terrorist groups operating in Afghanistan. According to press reports, al-Qaeda remains active in at least 15 Afghan provinces. TheFinancial Times,a British business newspaper also reports that the threat posed by extremist groups in Afghanistan has diminished but never stopped since the death of Osama bin Laden, one of the founders of al-Qaeda, ten years ago. With the return of the Taliban, Western intelligence and defense circles fear that Al-Qaeda could take advantage of the situation to regroup members of the terrorist organization, increasing the chances that Afghanistan will once again become a center for recruiting and training radical Islamists. Ken McCallum, director of UK domestic intelligence agency MI5, warned last month that while Allied military action had dismantled al-Qaeda’s infrastructure in the country,

Expect al-Qaeda and other smaller groups to strengthen, including in Afghanistan and Pakistan

– said Guido Steinberg, terrorism expert at the Institute for International Politics and Security in Berlin. Steinberg believes that at this stage it is impossible to say where these groups will arise. The expert added that the jihadists are particularly strong in Afghanistan, but also exist in the Caucasus, Africa and Yemen. John Sawers, former head of the British Secret Intelligence Service (SIS), said more cautiously: In his view, the Taliban are now focused on consolidating their position in the country and, given their important connections, particularly with Pakistan, have Iran and China, no interest in the country becoming a base for international terrorism. The Belgian public prosecutor Frédéric Van Leeuw had previously stated that the change in power in Afghanistan did not imply a new terrorist threat immediately, since, in his opinion, the Taliban “were initially concentrating on local conflicts”. He added, however, that a threat should be expected in two to three years and that some Taliban supporters could already be in Belgium.

Georg Spöttle, analyst at the Hungarian Nézőpont Institute, confirmed that the experts are divided on this issue and can only make limited predictions:

The Taliban have promised everything to prevent people from leaving Afghanistan, as that would also drive the capital out of the country.

At the same time, it is important to note that the European Union and the United States are not prepared to negotiate with the Taliban leaders at diplomatic level, while the governments of Afghanistan’s neighboring countries – Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Iran – are waiting. The expert added:

It is too early to predict whether the Taliban will show their inhumane face and try to form a new unity government.

Source: Magyar Nemzet


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