Violence is intensifying in Afghanistan eight months after the United States’ retreat allowed the Taliban to return to power, fueling concerns that the country may again become a hub of instability and terrorism across South and Central Asia and beyond.

Afghanistan has long been a base for militants with ambitions for global jihad. Dozens of groups that have been present since the Taliban’s last turn in power from 1996 to 2001 are again operational, looking for opportunities to expand their reach, said security, diplomatic, and military sources. 
Al Qaeda, the Islamic State, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), and Lashkar-e-Taiba are the most prominent of about 20 militant groups identified by the United States and the United Nations as having an armed presence in Afghanistan throughout the 20 years of its republic.

“Afghanistan is al Qaeda and al Qaeda is Afghanistan,” said Ali Mohammad Ali, a security expert and consultant who worked with the former Kabul government. 
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