The Taliban recently claimed it does not allow its territory to be used to “harm others,” a patently false statement considering they recently permitted al Qaeda to run large training camps on their Afghanistan property and the Taliban’s leader accepted an oath of allegiance from al Qaeda’s emir.
The Taliban made the claim in a news release on its propaganda website entitled “Summary of the Statement by Representatives of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan” reportedly given at the Pagwash Conference in Doha, Qatar, over the weekend. Pagwash is an international non-governmental organization that seeks to facilitate the resolution of local conflicts.
“Our Jihad is focused on ending the occupation and bringing about Islamic system,” the Taliban statement claimed. “We do not want to interfere in others affairs, nor do we use our soil to harm others, nor allow others to interfere in our affairs.”
The Taliban has maintained close ties to al Qaeda, even after the jihadist group launched the September 11, 2001 attack on the US and the subsequent invasion of Afghanistan. And despite repeated claims that the Taliban seeks to sever ties with al Qaeda over the past decade, in fact the opposite has happened.
Two glaring examples of the strengthening relationship between the two jihadist organization came to the fore within the past six months.
First, in August 2015 after the Taliban confirmed that its founder and first emir, Mullah Omar, had died, al Qaeda’s leader Ayman al Zawahiri pledged allegiance to Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour, Omar’s successor. Mansour accepted Zawahiri’s oath just one day after it was given.
In addition the Taliban to accepting Zawahiri’s pledge, the organization appointed Sirajuddin Haqqani as one of his two top deputies. Siraj’s dossier is filled with ties to al Qaeda. For instance, files recovered in Osama bin Laden’s Abbottabad compound show that he was working closely with bin Laden’s lieutenants in the months leading up to the al Qaeda master’s death. Siraj’s father, Jalaluddin, is a legendary jihadist figure and was one of Osama bin Laden’s most important backers in South Asia. US intelligence officials have told The Long War Journal that Siraj is a member of al Qaeda’s Shura Majlis, or top council, and has actively recruited foreign terrorists to serve in the Haqqani Network. [See LWJ reports, The Taliban’s new leadership is allied with al Qaeda and Osama Bin Laden’s Files: ‘Very strong military activity in Afghanistan.’]
Second, the Taliban has permitted al Qaeda to run at least three training camps inside Afghanistan in the past year. Knowledge of these camps was made public after US forces attacked two camps, one which was 30 square miles, in the Shorabak district in Kandahar province in October 2015. The camps were well equipped, stocked with weapons, ammunition, and supplies. US forces took four days to clear the camps, and more than 100 al Qaeda fighters were said to have been killed during the fighting. [See LWJ reports, US military strikes large al Qaeda training camps in southern Afghanistan and Al Qaeda’s Kandahar training camp ‘probably the largest’ in Afghan War.]
General John F. Campbell, the commander of US forces in Afghanistan, noted that the camps were run by al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent, or AQIS, the global jihadist organization’s newest branch.
“This was really AQIS, and probably the largest training camp-type facility that we have seen in 14 years of war,” Campbell told The Washington Post.
Campbell explained to the Post that the Shorabak camps “were discovered after a raid this summer [of 2015] on another al Qaeda facility in the Barmal district of eastern Afghanistan’s Paktika province.” Abu Khalil al Sudani, one of al Qaeda’s most senior figures, was killed in the Barmal district in July 2015.
The Taliban attempted to provide cover for al Qaeda’s activities in Shorabak. Days after US forces destroyed the Shorabak camps, the Taliban released a statement claiming that civilians were killed in “indiscriminate” attacks where “chemical weapons” were used.
In the past, the Taliban has made similar statements about wanting peaceful relations with its neighbors and not allowing Afghanistan to be used for attacks outside its borders. But the Taliban’s actions do not match its words, as it continue to shelter, support, and encourage al Qaeda.