US continues to push for negotiations with Taliban despite direct ties to al Qaeda

Images of Siraj Haqqani, one of the Taliban’s two deputy emirs, from a US government wanted poster.

The US government and military continue to seek a negotiated settlement with the Afghan Taliban despite the group’s continuing support for al Qaeda and the increased leadership role the Haqqani Network plays in the Afghan insurgency.

The Department of Defense asserts in its biannual Enhancing Security and Stability in Afghanistan report, released earlier this week, that “reconciliation and a political settlement with the Taliban” is a key part of its strategy to end the conflict in Afghanistan.

“The U.S. and Afghan governments agree that the best way to ensure lasting peace and security in Afghanistan is reconciliation and a political settlement with the Taliban,” the report says in its very first section, titled US Strategy in Afghanistan.

The report then states that to achieve a political settlement, the Taliban must take the very steps the group has refused for 15 years: denounce al Qaeda and submit to Afghanistan’s constitution.

“Success of an Afghan-led peace process will require the Taliban and other armed opposition groups to end violence, break ties with international terrorist groups, and accept Afghanistan’s constitution, including its protections for the rights of women and under-represented groups.”

The Pentagon report continues to advocate for reconciliation with the Taliban despite the fact that al Qaeda’s emir, Ayman al Zawahiri, swore an oath of allegiance to the new leader of the Taliban, Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour, after he was publicly named successor to Mullah Omar over the summer. Mansour accepted Zawahiri’s oath just days after it was given.

Shockingly, the Pentagon report made no mention of Zawahiri’s oath and Mansour’s acceptance. The report did note that the emir of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan swore allegiance to the Islamic State’s leader, Abu Bakr al Baghdadi.

The Pentagon also continues to press for negotiations despite the fact that Sirajuddin Haqqani, the operational commander of the Haqqani Network – a powerful Taliban subgroup that is closely tied to al Qaeda and backed by Pakistan’s military and intelligence establishment – was appointed as one of Mansour’s two deputies. Siraj is effectively the Taliban’s military commander. The US military does recognize that Siraj’s “elevation” in the Taliban leadership is problematic.

“The elevation of Haqqani Network leader Siraj Haqqani as Taliban leader Mullah Mansour’s deputy signals that the Haqqani Network will remain a critical and lethal component of the overall Taliban-led insurgency,” the report states.

“Of the groups involved in the Taliban-led insurgency, the Haqqani Network remains the greatest threat to U.S., coalition, and Afghan forces and continues to be the most critical enabler of al Qaeda,” the report continues. “Haqqani Network leader Siraj Haqqani’s elevation as Taliban leader Mullah Mansour’s deputy has further strengthened the Haqqani Network’s role in the Taliban-led insurgency. The Haqqani Network and affiliated groups share the goals of expelling U.S. and coalition forces, overthrowing the Afghan government, and re-establishing an Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.”

Siraj’s tight working relationship with al Qaeda has been confirmed by multiple sources. Files recovered in Osama bin Laden’s Abbottabad compound revealed the depth of the collusion. [See LWJ report, The Taliban’s new leadership is allied with al Qaeda.]

Since accepting Zawahiri’s oath of loyalty and appointing Siraj as a top deputy, the Taliban have not backed off from either party. In early September the Taliban released a video that highlighted Siraj’s importance to the group as well as Mansour’s accepting Zawahiri’s pledge. In early September, the Taliban also devoted significant space to al Qaeda leaders and pro-al Qaeda clerics eulogizing its former emir in that month’s edition of Al Sumud, the group’s official magazine.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal. Thomas Joscelyn is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Senior Editor for FDD's Long War Journal.

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  • Paddy Singh says:

    Can anyone explain why the Yanks spent 10yrs fighting the Taliban and now want to talk to them? Because they got their backsides kicked – first it was by the little men on cycles in Vietnam and now its the Taliban who they claimed they had defeated.

  • Arjuna says:

    No surprises here. But still sad. We’ve been trying to surrender ever since we let them open that Qatari office and legitimized them. WH decision. Surrender, plain and simple. To the history-erasing, child-molesting, women-harming animals who call themselves pure.
    It’s been this way since Bamiyan. Unless they are killing Westerners, it’s low priority. Well, wake up America. The Taliban and their AQ brothers-in-arms have scores to settle with you. So kill them before they kill you.
    (Nit: you meant “swore an oath”)

  • Paul D. (Pete) Speer Jr says:

    WTF are we still doing in Afghanistan, It is a no win war among the tribes. It has nothing, zip, nada to do with our national security. The Russians learned the lesson we have failed to realize. They marched out and let their communist puppet ruler there with his behind sticking out. Perhaps a Taliban ruled country might make the Shi’a Iranians look to the east and not to the west.

  • Allin Gray says:

    Continued themes of Reintegration and Negotiation? Why not? They’ve worked so well for the past 14+ years. An Einstein quote concerning the definition of insanity comes to mind.

  • Frank Dunn says:

    Interesting to read that Obama, who has little to no respect for our Constitution, wants the Tally Bon to accept the Afghan constitution as a condition for “peace”. Stipulation appears to be code for “Pretend that you accept the legal system, rights for women and protection for Afghan government & military personnel so that I can falsely claim that I end wars responsibly. After 11/16, you can then impose sharia law, execute those who supported US efforts and treat women and non-Muslims anyway you like.”

    Plus, a peace deal, no matter how meaningless, will allow Obama to pardon Bowe Bergdahl (“Time to put Bush’s war behind us”) while releasing the Qatar 5 terrorists. If you doubt prediction, review Obama’s retreat from Iraq and his unsigned, meaningless deal with Iran over its nukes.

  • Continued themes of Reintegration and Negotiation? Why not? They’ve worked so well for the past 14+ years. An Einstein quote concerning the definition of insanity comes to mind.

  • While the U.S. excoriates the Islamic State for being brutal, and extreme–while having nothing to do with Islam– it embraces the Afghan government as a partner for peace, diversity and reconciliation in the region. But wait, what exactly is the driving political force in Afghanistan that warrants such confidence and support? Adaptation of western style personal freedoms? A societal mindset that enshrines real diversity of thought and action? Would that it were so, after having expended much blood and treasure there. In truth, Afghanistan is an Islamic Republic; one based predominantly on the Koran.
    A cursory read of its constitution reveals the same penchant for Islamic supremacy as any other Muslim dictatorship.
    The Afghans [with American financial and moral support] codify the same wonderful capital punishment “laws” that other Islamic governments do: apostasy, heresy, disrespect of the prophet. Now, we’re hip-deep in this quagmire. Our leaders can’t bring themselves to call a spade a spade. God help us as we navigate the treacherous waters of appeasement and cluelessness.


Islamic state



Al shabaab

Boko Haram