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WASHINGTON – Last October, a campaigning Barack Obama said, “Today, al-Qaida is on the run and Osama bin Laden is dead.” But within days he backtracked, changing his stump speeches so that he was saying, “We have gone after al-Qaida’s leadership like never before.”

He may have to backtrack even more. In reality, as the United States prepares to leave Afghanistan after 11 years of war against al-Qaida, the terrorist organization remains a formidable force, with expanding franchises and the launch of a new strategy from Ayman al-Zawahiri,” according to Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin.

The strategy is encouraging a more decentralized network that now is seeing al-Qaida affiliates beginning to flourish in the North African Maghreb under the name Al-Qaida in the Islamic Magreb.

According to analysts, Zawahiri also is preparing a strategy to lay a foundation not only to merge with its other major affiliate, Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, but to use the Maghreb as a springboard into Europe.

All of this activity is taking place as Zawahiri maintains al-Qaida-central in Pakistan, making it what some analysts refer to as the “nerve center” for promoting global jihad.

Analysts see the effort increasing after U.S. and NATO troops withdraw at the end of next year. It has already begun with al-Qaida-associated groups expanding in Mali, Algeria, Libya and Somalia. Al-Qaida also is increasing its presence in Afghanistan along with its ally, the Taliban.

The reason for the U.S. to go into Afghanistan was to eliminate al-Qaida. But al-Qaida not only is going through a growth spurt in Afghanistan but also in a swath that spans from the Arabian Peninsula, across North Africa, facing the underbelly of Europe.

Ironically, as the U.S. prepares to depart, it has begun to pull back from isolated outposts in Afghanistan to more populated areas. Al-Qaida and Taliban, however, have filled the void.

This comes despite a plan for Afghan government troops to replace U.S. and coalition troops. The fact that al-Qaida and the Taliban have been able to reclaim much of the area once guarded by these outposts suggests that the effectiveness of Afghan forces is limited despite years of training by U.S. and coalition troops.

“Al-Qaida has since reportedly operated more training camps and other staging centers in Kunar led by Saudi Arab terrorist commanders,” according to a report by the open intelligence group Langley Intelligence Group Network, or Lignet.

“While many al-Qaida fighters have left to join other jihadist movements in Syria, Yemen and North Africa, Kunar has seen an influx of Turkmens and Uzbeks to take their place,” the report said.

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