US President Joe Biden once again defended his decision to go ahead with the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan; by saying the country has no interest since al Qaeda is gone.
But the Pentagon contradicted that statement by saying the terror group still has presence in Afghanistan.
However, Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said that the presence of al Qaeda is not significant enough to merit a threat to the US as it used to be 20 years ago.
Biden, while interacting with reporters on Friday; said there is a need to put things in perspective (about US troops’ withdrawal from Afghanistan).
“What interest do we have in Afghanistan at this point, with al Qaeda gone?” the President said.
“We went to Afghanistan for the express purpose of getting rid of al Qaeda as well as getting Osama bin Laden. And we did,” he added.
Hours later, the Pentagon acknowledged the presence of the terror group in Afghanistan; amid its large-scale evacuation from the war-torn country.
“We know that al Qaeda is a presence as well as ISIS in Afghanistan and we’ve talked about that for quite some time;” John Kirby said during a press briefing.
Kirby said they do not believe the number of al Qaeda terrorists in the country; “is exorbitantly high but we don’t have an exact figure for you.”
He said their “intelligence gathering ability in Afghanistan isn’t what it used to be”.
The issue about the presence of al Qaeda has gained prominence; since the Taliban ousted a civilian government and took control of the power by force.
The United Nations has raised concern about the threat from terror group like al Qaeda in Afghanistan in the wake of Taliban takeover saying the security situation remain fragile.
However, as per the US-Taliban deal signed in Doha last year, the Taliban vowed to cut ties to al Qaeda.
This is an attempt by the insurgent group to present a moderate face; they ruled with an iron fist from 1996 to 2001, before being toppled by US-led forces for sheltering al Qaeda militants behind the September 11 attacks.