On May 31, the Taliban issued an official statement denying any involvement in the May 29 suicide assault on an office run by the International Committee of the Red Cross in Jalalabad in Nangarhar province, Afghanistan. The full statement, published at Voice of Jihad, is reproduced below:
Everybody is aware that the Islamic Emirate began and is continuing its struggle and Jihad in light of Islamic principles and humanitarian values. The Islamic Emirate has never not only targeted civilians and those who truly work for the benefit of the people without having ties with intelligence organizations but it has always helped them to the best of its ability for the sake of the relief of its nation, an example of which is a recent statement in which it declared its full support for polio vaccination campaign.
Therefore the Islamic Emirate wants to make it clear to everyone that it had no hand in the attack on 8th May [sic] on the ICRC office in Jalalabad city and neither does it support such attacks.
There certainly is a lot to dissect in that short statement, but this article will focus on two points. If not the Taliban, then who? And, the Taliban has indeed conducted “such attacks” in the past.
First, the Taliban claimed “that it had no hand in the attack,” and yet the attack mirrors many other suicide assaults carried out by the group and its allies in both Afghanistan and Pakistan over the past several years. The Taliban (and by definition the Haqqani Network) often carries out such attacks in conjunction with al Qaeda and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan. For instance, the same day that the Red Cross office was attacked, a joint Taliban-IMU suicide assault team struck the governor’s office in Panjshir. Both the Taliban and the IMU claimed credit for the attack; the IMU noted that it was indeed a joint operation executed under the banner of the Taliban’s spring offensive.
So are we to believe that the Taliban had absolutely no involvement, or even knowledge, of the attack in Jalalabad? Given that the Taliban conducts joint suicide assaults with other terror groups, perhaps it will use its contacts and get to the bottom of just who actually conducted this unsanctioned attack?
Second, the Taliban has indeed targeted the Red Cross and other NGOs in the past. In 2003, a Taliban commander known as Abdul Hafiz was involved in the kidnapping and murder of Ricardo Munguía, an employee of the International Committee of the Red Cross. Hafiz was captured, detained at Guantanamo Bay, and inexplicably, released to Afghan custody and promptly freed. Upon his release, Hafiz quickly rejoined the Taliban and took over a committee that deals with ransoms and engagement with nongovernmental organizations. Those would be the same nongovernmental organizations “who truly work for the benefit of the people.”
Numerous other attacks against doctors and others who are seeking to “truly work for the benefit of the people” by the Taliban have been documented. For instance, in August 2010, both the Taliban and the Hizb-i-Islami Gulbuddin claimed credit for executing 10 medical personnel, including eight foreigners, during an ambush in the remote northeastern province of Badakhshan. And the Taliban claimed credit for its suicide assault against the office of the International Organization for Migration in Kabul on May 26, 2013.
Are you a dedicated reader of FDD's Long War Journal? Has our research benefitted you or your team over the years? Support our independent reporting and analysis today by considering a one-time or monthly donation. Thanks for reading! You can make a tax-deductible donation here.