Washington, Aug. 23 (ANI): Although American officials have often said that al-Qaeda is a marginal player on the Afghan battlefield, an analysis of 76,000 classified military reports posted by WikiLeaks underscores the extent to which this terror network has become just an afterthought for the Americans in the war.
The reports, which cover the escalation of the insurgency between 2004 and the end of 2009, mention al-Qaeda only a few dozen times, and even then, just in passing.
According to the Washington Post, most are vague references to people with unspecified al-Qaeda contacts or sympathies, or as shorthand for an amorphous ideological enemy.
Bin Laden, thought to be hiding across the border in Pakistan, is scarcely mentioned in the reports. Other al-Qaeda leaders are similarly invisible figures.
There are also fleeting references to Abu Ikhlas al-Misri, the nom de guerre of an Egyptian who serves as an al-Qaeda commander in Kunar province.
CIA Director Leon Panetta estimated that, "at most," only 50 to 100 al-Qaeda operatives were present in Afghanistan.His assessment echoed those given by other senior U.S. officials.
Last October, national security adviser James L. Jones said the U.S. government's "maximum estimate" was that al-Qaeda had fewer than 100 members in Afghanistan, with no bases and "no ability to launch attacks on either us or our allies."
Although the terrorist network still considers the "liberation" of Afghanistan its primary strategic objective, it is biding its time until the infidels lose patience and leave.
Facing Afghan mistrust, al-Qaeda fighters take limited role in insurgency
"The numbers aren't large, but their ability to help local forces punch above their weight acts as a multiplier. They've learned from their previous experiences, when their foreign fighters were front and center," said Bruce Hoffman, a terrorism expert and Georgetown University professor.
A review of the leaked U.S. military reports suggests that Arab fighters-those most likely to be affiliated with al-Qaeda-generally confine their activities to a handful of Afghan provinces along the Pakistan border.
When they cross the line, the Arabs usually do so in small numbers and as part of larger Taliban units.
Analysts say there is enough evidence to confirm that al-Qaeda's presence in Afghanistan is concentrated in the east, just across the border from where the network's leadership is based in Pakistan's tribal areas. (ANI)