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The U.S. war on terror is a game of whack-a-mole.


Not long after the Sept. 11 attacks, American forces invaded Afghanistan to smoke Al Qaeda out of their holes and overthrow the Taliban for harboring the terrorist group. Fourteen years later, the Taliban is resurgent and—as The New York Times reports on Tuesday—Al Qaeda has re-emerged.

Even as the Obama administration scrambles to confront the Islamic State and resurgent Taliban, an old enemy seems to be reappearing in Afghanistan: Qaeda training camps are sprouting up there, forcing the Pentagon and American intelligence agencies to assess whether they could again become a breeding ground for attacks on the United States.

The Times says “the scope of Al Qaeda’s deadly resilience in Afghanistan appears to have caught American and Afghan officials by surprise,” which is unbelievable—whether literally or figuratively, it’s hard to say.

The U.S. military has been concerned about an Al Qaeda comeback since at least 2012, when President Barack Obama claimed a defeat of the group was “within reach” but his top commander in Afghanistan, Gen. John Allen, “said al-Qaida has re-emerged, and although its numbers are small, he says the group doesn’t need a large presence to be influential,” the Associated Press reported at the time.

Moreover, a Department of Defense report released earlier this month states, “Al Qaeda activities remain focused on survival, regeneration, and planning and facilitating future attacks; they remain a threat to the United States and its interests. The organization has a sustained presence in Afghanistan primarily concentrated in the east and northeast.”

Expect to read an article in 10 years about the Islamic State’s surprising resilience in Syria.