Afghan officials said Wednesday they had stopped an al Qaeda-affiliated terrorist cell in Kabul University in their plot to assassinate President Hamid Karzai and carry out attacks in New York and Washington.
The cell’s six member, said to include a member of Karzai’s presidential guard, a medical professor at the university and four engineering students, had met with al Qaeda as well as members of the Haqqani network in Waziristan in Pakistan and recently received $150,000 from “foreign organizations outside Afghanistan” to carry out its attacks.
“This is not a small Taliban group,” Latifullah Mashal, a spokesman for Afghanistan’s National Security Directorate, told a news conference in Kabul. “It is a transnational, al Qaida-affiliated terrorist group that was planning to hit some targets in New York and Washington. An uneducated teenage suicide bomber who comes from the mountains of Waziristan cannot easily determine his target, while the members of this group are doctors and engineers, who knew how to use the Internet and computers.”
The cell was said to have been broken up by Afghan authorities, although they are unlikely to have foiled the plots alone given the over-reliance they have on US help. The news that the six individuals had met with members of the Haqqani network could intensify tensions that have been rising in US-Pakistani relations, after accusations that Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence had ties to the militant insurgent group.
The news also comes after the US boasted of capturing a senior Haqqani network leader in Afghanistan last week and killing one of his associates in a coalition airstrike on Wednesday.
What seems like a success is actually a sign of worsening conditions for America in the war in Afghanistan. The fact that the Kabul cell was planning strikes on American soil, got support from al Qaeda, and were highly educated unlike most Afghan insurgents was an illustration of the ongoing blowback after ten years of war and occupation. The Bush and Obama administrations have done everything to exacerbate the threat of terrorism and encourage more blowback, and this was a sign that it had reached a new level in Afghanistan.