In a clear indication of the direction in which the Taliban-ruled Afghanistan is headed, a senior al Qaeda commander who was the security chief of slain terrorist Osama bin Laden has reportedly returned to Afghanistan after two decades living in Pakistan, according to videos posted on social media. Amin ul Haq returned to his hometown in the Nangarhar province, east of Kabul, the video shows, a day before the US withdrawal from the war-ravaged country was set to end and less than two weeks after the Taliban seized control.
Amin ul Haq was the leader of bin Laden’s so-called Black Guard when the terror leader was holed up in his Tora Bora hideout 20 years ago.
Videos circulating on Twitter appear to show Amin ul Haq riding an SUV through a Taliban checkpoint in a convoy of SUVs, as a small crowd gathers nearby.
At one point in the video, Amin ul Haq can be seen rolling down the window of the vehicle, shaking hands with the onlookers and posing for selfies with some men. A number of other vehicles, including some bearing the Taliban flag, follow his car in a cavalcade. He reportedly helped Osama bin Laden and others flee to Pakistan in December 2001 when US forces were hunting him in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.
Amin ul Haq fled to Pakistan several years later when US forces targeted Tora Bora again in 2007.
After Pakistani forces initially detained him, Amin ul Haq was released because his al Qaeda connections could not be proven, according to Mother Jones that cited local news reports.
It is not clear if Amin ul Haq has visited Afghanistan over the years since he fled. Just two weeks ago, the Taliban seized control of the country amid the withdrawal of US troops.
US President Joe Biden had previously claimed that al Qaeda was “gone” from Afghanistan before Pentagon leaders quickly contradicted the commander-in-chief.
In August 2020. during a briefing, Biden had said, “What interest do we have in Afghanistan at this point with al Qaeda gone?” However, hours later, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said, “We know that al Qaeda is a presence, as well as ISIS, in Afghanistan and we’ve talked about that for quite some time.”
A recent United Nations report said the terror network was present in at least 15 of 34 Afghan provinces.
The videos of Amin ul Haq’s arrival started circulating as a steady stream of US military jets were taking off and landing in Kabul ahead of Biden’s Tuesday deadline to leave.
So far, more than 1,22,000 people have been evacuated from Afghanistan by the US and its allies amid the botched process that saw 13 US service members and scores of Afghans killed last week by an Isis suicide bomber.