As a 9/11 20th Anniversary Present, Joe Biden Made al Qaeda a Global Military Power
We've been hearing a lot about "the fall of Afghanistan." But it would be more to the point to talk about the formation of Afghanistan -- its new government, and who its generals might target with their newfound might.
A few days ago, I interviewed an anonymous intelligence officer about the situation in Afghanistan. I'll call him John.
Everything he had to say was worthwhile, but a few stark pieces of information he provided struck me as so important that they just had to be put in writing.
Who is in Charge in Afghanistan Now?
John provided a rundown of the highest-ranking officers of the newly-formed regime. U.S. intelligence officers would be familiar with these names … they're all men the U.S. has kept tabs on in order to protect the world from acts of terror.
Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada, the Emir (head) of the Taliban. After wresting power in Afghanistan, he chose a member of Al-Qaeda as his Number 2. John pointed out that Akhundzada is "a specially Designated Global Terrorist for whom the FBI is offering up to $5,000,000 in reward for information leading to his capture."
Minister of Defense
Mullah Yaquob is the son of Mullah Omar, the former Emir of the Taliban, who befriended Osama Bin Laden, gave refuge to him and Al-Qaeda, and allowed them to train for and plan the 9/11 attacks," John said. "Until his death in 2013, Mullah Omar was one of the most sought-after terrorists in the world."
Deputy Defense Minister
Mullah Mohammad Fazl. According to documents from the Joint Task Force Guantanamo, Fazl is “wanted by the UN for possible War crimes including the murder of thousands of Afghan Shiites." He was one of the "Taliban 5" exchanged from Guantanamo in order to free Army deserter Bowe Bergdahl.
Minister of the Interior
Sirajuddin Haqqani. Formerly the Taliban's second-in-command, Haqqani is a "Specially Designated Global Terrorist and the FBI is offering up to $5,000,000 million in reward for information leading to his capture," John said.
Mullah Mohammed Hassan Akhund, who "green-lighted" the destruction of the unique and priceless 6th Century giant Buddahs of Bamiyan. "He is on a UN designated terrorist sanctions list," said John.
Deputy Prime Minister
Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, whom John identified as a "co-founder of the Taliban and leader of the Quetta Shura in Pakistan, which the leadership of the U.S. Military said was directing the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan and was the greatest threat to American troops."
Director of Intelligence
Abdul Haq Wasiq, another Guantanamo detainee exchanged for Bergdahl under the Obama-Biden administration, and a known ally to fundamentalist Jihadist militant groups.
Deputy Director of Intelligence
Mullah Taj Mir Jawad; a "top commander in a U.S.-designated terrorist organization, the Haqqani Network," who "led what used to be called the Kabul Attack Network, which organized the various jihadist groups, including Al Qaeda, in and around Kabul. He was also said to be the head of the Taliban’s martyrdom-seekers battalion," John explained.
Minister for Information and Culture
Mullah Khairullah Khairkhwah, the third Guantanamo detainee released under the Obama-Biden administration to now hold power in Afghanistan's new government, is an opium lord who "probably used profits from drugs to promote Taliban interests," John said. U.S. intelligence has found ties between Khairkhwah and Al-Qaeda.
Minister of Borders and Tribal Affairs
Mullah Noorullah Noori, yet another former Guantanamo detainee freed in exchange for Bergdahl. Noori is wanted by the U.N. for possible war crimes, including the murder of Shiite Muslims. According to one on-the-ground Afghan expert whom John consulted, Noori was “responsible for ethno-sectarian massacres in northern Afghanistan." U.S. intelligence also found ties between Noori and Al-Qaeda.
How Powerful are These New Rulers? What Threat do they Pose?
We've all heard of the loss of U.S. equipment to the Taliban during the Biden administration's disastrous and chaotic withdrawal. But despite all I know, I was dumbstruck when John outlined just how serious these losses were, as well as the terrible consequences that might follow as a result.
“This is the greatest loss of military equipment in the history of warfare by one power," he said, and cited an Israeli assessment: "What America has just given to the Taliban is equivalent to 85% of all the military aid Washington has given to Israel since 1948."
The U.S. Government "is so used to burning and wasting American taxpayers’ hard-earned money that no one from our government can be even bothered to address the fact that 85-90 billion [dollars] in military equipment has been left to the Taliban and Al-Qaeda," John said:
This is larger than the annual military budget for every nation around the world except the U.S. and China. So Jason, the Taliban, thanks to the U.S. Government, this year has a larger military budget than Russia, the U.K., India, France, and I could go on and on -- I just mentioned the major ones.
We Just Made al Qaeda Into NATO
The Taliban now has more Black Hawk helicopters "than almost all of America’s allies," John continued. They own nearly "one-tenth of all humvees on the planet," as well as "150,000 military radios, and around 20,000 night vision goggles." And those last items aren't unimportant pieces of gear, either. As John pointed out, they're "basically what our special forces use to conduct raids."
Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby has tried to downplay the gravity of the situation, claiming all the equipment the Biden administration left in Afghanistan was "demilitarized" and rendered inoperable before the final withdrawal.
"Well apparently not, Admiral Kirby," John said. The Taliban have already "taken to the skies in our Black Hawks," and "ridden into battle against the last holdouts to the Taliban in the Panjshir Valley on [American] humvees, with American and NATO weapons."
Intelligence Losses and Personnel Put at Risk
"People aren’t talking about it," John said, "but the Taliban highly likely got access to the remnants ... of incredibly sensitive, sophisticated intelligence communications systems that cost hundreds of millions of dollars [and] which I’m sure the Chinese and Russians will pay a pretty penny to study, dissect and use against us.”
That's right. Given the Taliban's connections with Al-Qaeda, as well as other powers -- including national adversaries of the United States -- this isn't only about what the Taliban might do with the information we've put in their hands.
"Maybe they’ll give Pakistan a free look at it," John said, "because Pakistan has been a patron of the Taliban since its inception. And Pakistan will probably in turn share elements of it with Iran … and possibly Turkey."
“The U.S. spent hundreds of millions of dollars towards building data surveillance tools for the Afghan people," he explained. "But we left the databases … . And now they’ve fallen into Taliban hands, who have information, including biometrics for verifying Afghans."
Biden Gave al Qaeda Kill Lists of US Allies
By way of example, John mentioned something called the "Afghan Personnel and Pay System," which "has data on more than 70,000 security forces members." It has "more than 40 data fields, which include phone numbers, birth dates, fathers' and grandfathers' names, fingerprints, and iris- and face-scans."
Even if the Taliban has trouble hacking into the system, John pointed out, "Pakistan's intelligence service, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), which it can be argued [are] the official founder and supporter and long-term patron of the Taliban, I think could easily provide that kind of technical assistance … ."
And besides Pakistan:
China, Russia, and Iranian intelligence services could certainly and probably will lend a hand, which … intelligence professionals expect to happen because this will give them a direct look at U.S. technology and cyber security architecture.
Afghans Betrayed by US, Then 'Summoned' by Taliban Leaders
The topic of the data systems we left behind led us to the darkest point in our long conversation. John has learned of a disturbing development on the ground, which shouldn't surprise us, but could spell disaster either for the U.S., for the friends our government abandoned in Afghanistan, or for both.
The Taliban "may not even have to hack the Personnel and Pay System," John said, "because the Afghans who we failed to get out," the ones who "helped us develop the database," have already "surreptitiously communicated that they're being summoned by Taliban leadership" to "provide access to these systems."
That's where I stopped him. "Think about this," I said. "If you abandon me and my wife and my children and my daughters" after years of service, and then "the Taliban summons me and says, 'Listen, you have something we need, and we'll let your family live and we'll leave your daughter alone if you just help us get access ... .'"
What do you think they would do?
"Yeah," John said. And for that reason, "wouldn't you think it would be our top priority to get these Afghans out of the country?"
You would think -- if only for the purposes of our own national security.
But John had another, more empathetic point to make. The data we left in Afghanistan doesn't only leave the U.S. vulnerable, but countless others -- innocent people whose information puts them at the mercy of the new terrorist government.
"There's another database that was used to vet Afghan Security Forces members that has 8.5 million records," John said. And another "that has iris scans and fingerprints for 9 million Afghans," and another "with over 400,000 government employees' information on it."
"And the point with all of these things," John concluded, summing up:
Not only will the Taliban be interested in exploiting this information. Pakistan, China, Russia, Iran, and transnational terrorist organizations will want to know who worked with the Americans. And then they’ll seek brutal retribution against them and their families. That's the point.
Jason Jones is a senior contributor to The Stream. He is a film producer, author, activist and human rights worker.
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