Al Qaeda has recaptured its base in southern Afghanistan and is plotting major attacks against the West, 15 years after being subdued by U.S.-led NATO forces following the 9/11 attacks, according to a report by Fox News.
The Daily Telegraph reported that the terrorist organisation has moved back to its long-time base in the Afghan heartland following the withdrawal of British and American forces at the end of 2014. The extremists had reportedly fled the country and had been hiding in Pakistan's lawless tribal belts.
Express News has quoted security officials as claiming that the extremists are using their old stomping ground to plan attacks against the West.
A senior Afghan defence official was quoted by the Daily Telegraph as saying: "Al Qaeda has taken advantage of the withdrawal of Western troops to re-establish its headquarters in southern Afghanistan. Now they are back they will be determined to use Afghanistan as a base to prepare new attacks against Western targets."
Afghan security officials reportedly said al Qaeda is operating in and around the city of Kandahar. The city is reportedly considered to be the spiritual home of the Taliban, the group's closest ally and supporter.
This report comes days after Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Akhtar Mansour was reportedly killed in a U.S. drone strike in southwest Pakistan.
Al Qaeda's return to Afghanistan is reportedly being seen as a major embarrassment to the U.S. and British governments, who waged war for over a decade to prevent the country from becoming an asylum for terrorists.
Former British commander in Afghanistan Colonel Richard Kemp was quoted by the Daily Telegraph as saying: "The return of al Qaeda to southern Afghanistan is deeply embarrassing for the governments of America and Britain... It was a grave misjudgment to order the withdrawal of Western troops before the job had been finished... Al Qaeda has been desperate to get back into Afghanistan ever since it was ejected after 9/11. Now they are back they will be desperate to launch a high-profile attack against the West."
The British and U.S. militaries suffered hundreds of deaths, with thousands sustaining serious injuries, during the mission which began after the 9/11 attacks. The governments spent tens of billions of dollars to defeat the Taliban, which allowed al Qaeda to use Afghanistan as a base to plot the 9/11 attacks.
But U.S. President Barack Obama deciding to end all combat operations by 2014-end led to the withdrawal of most of the U.S. and British forces without the Taliban being defeated, the Daily Telegraph reported.