A senior al-Qaeda commander who was Osama bin Laden’s security chief has apparently returned to Afghanistan after two decades living in Pakistan, according to videos posted to social media.
Amin ul-Haq arrived back in his hometown in Nangarhar province, east of Kabul, video purports to show, a day before the US withdrawal from the war-torn country was set to end and less than two weeks after the Taliban seized control.
Videos circulating on Twitter appear to show ul-Haq being driven through a Taliban checkpoint in a convoy of SUVs as a small crowd gathered nearby.
At one point in the video, ul-Haq can be seen rolling down the window of the vehicle to shake hands and pose for selfies with some men.
His SUV was followed by a number of other vehicles, including some brandishing the Taliban flag.
Ul-Haq was the leader of bin Laden’s so-called Black Guard when the terror leader was hauled up in his Tora Bora hideout 20 years ago.
He reportedly helped bin Laden and others flee to Pakistan in December 2001 when US forces were hunting him down in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.
Ul-Haq then fled to Pakistan several years later when US forces targeted Tora Bora again in 2007.
After initially being detained by Pakistani forces, ul-Haq was released because his al Qaeda connections couldn’t be proven, according to Mother Jones, citing local news reports.
It isn’t clear if ul-Haq has visited Afghanistan over the years since he fled.
His purported arrival back in Afghanistan came two weeks after the Taliban seized control of the country amid the withdrawal of US troops.
President Biden had previously claimed that al-Qaeda was “gone” from Afghanistan before Pentagon leaders quickly contradicted the commander in chief.
Back on Aug 20. during a briefing, Biden had said: “What interest do we have in Afghanistan at this point with al Qaeda gone?”
But just 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 that the terror network is present in at least 15 of 34 Afghan provinces.
The videos of ul-Haq’s arrival started circulating as a steady stream of US military jets were taking off and landing in Kabul ahead of President Biden’s Tuesday deadline to leave.
So far, more than 122,000 people have been evacuated from Afghanistan by the US and its allies amid the botched process that saw 13 US service members and dozens of Afghans killed last week by an ISIS suicide bomber.