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Last update: November 2021
*Minor updates added: April 2022

Al Qaeda is a transnational extremist Salafi jihadist organisation and UN-designated terrorist group. Sources indicate that it maintained a limited presence in Afghanistan, carrying out its activities mostly under the umbrella of other armed groups, particularly the Taliban [Anti-government elements, 4.2]. Sources reported in mid-2021 that the Taliban and Al Qaeda remained closely aligned and showed no indication of breaking ties, despite expectations created by the Doha agreement. Following the Taliban takeover, sources referred to reported relations between al-Qaeda and the Haqqani Network. It is also reported that a significant part of the leadership of Al Qaeda is based in the border region of Afghanistan and Pakistan [Security September 2021, 1.3.6; Country Focus 2022, 3.1.2].

Prior to the takeover, UNAMA had reported that Al Qaeda was mainly engaged in the provision of training, including weapons and explosives, and mentoring, and they have been cited as being engaged in internal Taliban discussions over the movement’s relationship with other jihadist entities. The organisation also claimed responsibility for a number of attacks in Afghanistan, leading to ANSF casualties [Anti-government elements, 4.2]. According to some sources, al-Qaeda remained a threat in Afghanistan. However, it was also stated that al-Qaeda did not have the organisational capability to capitalise on the Taliban’s win. The human capacity of al-Qaeda in Afghanistan was estimated as ranging from several dozen to 500 people [Country Focus 2022, 1.1.2, 3.1.2].

It has been previously reported that Al Qaeda was present in at least 15 provinces of Afghanistan and covertly active in different parts of the country, including in the provinces of Badakhshan, Ghazni, Helmand, Khost, Kunar, Kunduz, Logar, Nangarhar, Nimroz, Nuristan, Paktya and Zabul [Security September 2021, 1.3.6; Anti-government elements, 4.2; Security June 2021, 1.2.2, 2.24].

For further information on human rights violations committed by the Al Qaeda and their relevance as potential exclusion grounds, see 6. Exclusion.