That 100 estimate is kind of a fascinating thing. Although they would repeat the number, a lot of senior military and IC folks, when asked, will say they don't really know what there were supposedly 100 of/how "AQ fighters" was defined: Arab AQ fighters? Non-Afghan AQ fighters?
Here are three comments different counterterrorism officials made to me about the longstanding "100 AQ in Afghanistan" (now supposedly 200) estimate for my Pech book: a senior CIA official, an Obama NSC CT official, and a senior JSOC officer
A 2015 unclassified military report suggested that 100 was the number of AQ fighters (however defined) who stayed year-round in Kunar/Nuristan with Farouq al-Qahtani, and didn't count others who came into other eastern provinces for the warmer months.
These al-Qaida numbers are also only as good as USG's ability to accurately/consistently detect members of a clandestine group actively hiding from them in remote areas of rural Afghanistan: very bad then and still very bad now, that is.
An example—a 2010 AQ tribute video to slain fighters named 3 Saudis who, acc. to their bios, had been fighting in Zabul/Paktika/Khost in 2006.

In 2006, US mil was only aware of AQ fighters in Kunar/Nuristan—which drove troop deployments, as this senior US commander recalled:
Abu Ikhlas al-Masri was a shiny object for US mil in Afg in 2002-7, drawing them deeper into Kunar.

But the very fact that he was so visible in HUMINT reporting should have been a red flag: he wasn't actually a key AQ figure. Those guys were staying farther below the radar.
Another Egyptian, Abu Ubaydah al-Masri, turns out to have been making visits into eastern Afg at the time. Unlike Abu Ikhlas, whose job was to liaise w/ Taliban, he was a senior AQ figure involved in overseas attack plots—& his OPSEC was therefore better & visits went undetected.
This is in hindsight (which still isn't 20/20 when it comes to Afg). But it's worth remembering that at the very time US mil was fruitlessly chasing Abu Ikhlas around eastern Afg, Osama bin Laden was talking about how AQ could deceive US in very much this way. Here's UBL in 2004:

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More from @wesleysmorgan

17 Aug
Today I learned that during the 1970 NYC postal strike, the Nixon administration deployed 18,000 troops for a few days to replace strikers in New York—mostly sorting mail.

Here's the Department of the Army's after-action report on Operation Graphic Hand: governmentattic.org/2docs/Army-AAR… Image
As the strike heated up, the Pentagon drew on a standing contingency plan to prepare to deploy troops to post offices in as many as 35 cities to take over for striking postal workers.

They came close to deploying to Boston and Philadelphia, but wound up just going to NYC. Image
It wasn't just the National Guard, either. The 18,000 troops in NYC post offices at the peak of Graphic Hand included over 2,000 active-duty troops from across the services and about 9,500 Army, Navy, and Marine Reservists. Image
Read 7 tweets
5 Apr 19
This morning @USAfricaCommand's director of operations, MajGen Gregg Olson, did a call with reporters explaining how AFRICOM learned it killed a woman and child in a 2018 drone strike. These are the first civilians AFRICOM has admitted its strikes have killed in Somalia.
After @amnesty released a report last month alleging civilian casualties in 5 US strikes in Somalia (this wasn't one of the 5), AFRICOM publicly pushed back, saying Amnesty was falling for Shabab propaganda & couldn't get to the scene of the strikes (which AFRICOM also couldn't).
But on March 22, three days after @amnesty released its Somalia report, AFRICOM commander Gen. Waldhauser initiated an internal review of potential civilian casualties in Somalia, according to Olson.
Read 14 tweets
16 Aug 18
Going to do a thread here with some background/history on the 17-year-old US military hunt for al-Qaida operatives in Afghanistan, the latest evolution of which I have a new story about (spoiler: US forces are now more focused on IS-K): politico.com/story/2018/08/…
Military says it has killed 65 AQ members in Afg this year. "We've been actively hunting AQ from the lowest rifleman up to their emir and everyone in between," Gen. Nicholson told me. But majority of CT strikes now are against IS-K.
Over the past 17 years, AQ, the group that brought the US to Afg, has always been a high priority for the CT folks, meaning the JSOC task force and the intel community (IC). But, just as it's not the priority today, it's often gotten pushed behind bigger Taliban fight.
Read 63 tweets
13 Jul 18
The battle of Wanat took place 10 years ago today, costing the lives of nine paratroopers from TF Rock, 2-503 Infantry. I've spent a lot of time digging into this battle for a book so here is a thread on its significance w/ a decade of hindsight.
First, an aside: we call it "Wanat" because that's the way it wound up being transliterated on US military maps via a game of linguistic telephone, from a Waygali name to a written Pashto/Dari form to Russian to English. The town's real, native name is Want, short for Want-Sor.
The fact that Americans shed blood there has basically given the town a new name as far as English-language history is concerned, kind of like how in a US context we know what's actually the Jhangjin Lake only as the Chosin Reservoir.
Read 27 tweets

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