US: Al-Qaeda in Indian Subcontinent believed to be working with Taliban

WASHINGTON, May 5 (KUNA) — The “newest” branch of the militant group Al-Qaeda, located in the Indian Subcontinent and dubbed AQIS, is estimated to have up to 300 members and is believed to be working with the Taliban, the Pentagon revealed Thursday.
Brigadier General Charles Cleveland, spokesperson for the NATO-led Operation Resolute Support in Afghanistan, explained that while AQIS has a presence in the country, it is different from the “core Al-Qaeda, someplace in the Pakistan-Afghanistan region, with Ayman Zawahiri still really running their global operation.” AQIS has “some type of presence up in Kunar,” and “occasionally are in Ghazni,” he told reporters.
“At times, we’ve seen them down in Kandahar as well, and a few other isolated locations,” he said.
However on its own, AQIS does not “pose a real threat,” he added. “But because we think that they are beginning to work more with the Taliban, they can present a bit of an accelerant for the Taliban. So they can provide capabilities and skills and those types of things,” Cleveland noted.
“I think as we’ve all seen before, although [AQ] has been significantly diminished, they do have the ability to regenerate very quickly, and they still do have the ability to pose a threat … what we want to do is be able to keep a very close eye on them and put constant pressure on that network,” he affirmed. As to whether the US can distinguish between Al-Qaeda, Taliban, or other fighters before launching an attack in Afghanistan, Cleveland indicated that only members of AQ are targeted.
“It can be a challenge to, you know, put your finger on exactly what you’re looking at a given time, but before we take any type of unilateral or US counterterrorism strike, we do confirm, we do make sure that those are Al-Qaeda targets,” he said. “The fact of the matter is we are not necessarily in direct combat with the Taliban.” (end)

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