The Taliban promises China it won’t allow terrorists to use Afghanistan as launching pad

Yet again, the Taliban has promised that it will not allow foreign terrorist groups to use Afghan soil to as a launching pad to plot and execute attacks on foreign countries. The Taliban has made this false promise in the past, even before the Sept. 11, 2001 attack on the United States.

Wang Wenbin, China’s foreign ministry spokesman, hailed an agreement signed by the Taliban at the 5th China-Afghanistan-Pakistan Foreign Ministers’ Dialogue in Islamabad, Pakistan on May 7 as “of great significance to the future development of China-Afghanistan relations and to counter-terrorism and security cooperation in the region,” according to Amu News.

The agreement is “the first multilateral document that has the participation of the Afghan interim government, and also the first time that Afghan Taliban made a written pledge of not allowing the ETIM and other forces to conduct terrorist actions and activities,” Wang stated.

Wang’s optimism and willingness to trust the Taliban to rein in the East Turkistan Islamic Party (ETIM, which is also Known as the Turkistan Islamic Party), is misplaced, as the Taliban has issued similar promises in the past, only to be caught red-handed in supporting or providing a permissive envirornment for Al Qaeda and other allied terror groups. The emir of the Turkistan Islamic Party, Abdulah Haq al Turkistani, is a member of Al Qaeda’s central shura and is known to be sheltering in Afghanistan. In May 2022, he openly celebrated the Taliban’s victory over the Afghan government and the U.S. during an Eid commemoration in northern Afghanistan.

Taliban emir Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada said on July 7, 2022 that “We assure our neighbors, the region and the world that we will not allow anyone to use our territory to threaten the security of other countries.”  Less than three weeks later, the U.S. killed Ayman al Zawahiri, the emir of Al Qaeda, in a drone strike in Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan. Zawahiri was living in a posh mansion run by an associate of Taliban deputy emir and interior minister Sirajuddin Haqqani, who is listed by the U.S. as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist for his close ties to Al Qaeda.

Long before Haibatullah’s empty promise in July 2022, the Taliban again made numerous similar claims that it would not permit Al Qaeda and other foreign terror groups to operate on its soil. The so-called promise stretches back to before 9/11.

As the 9/11 Commission found, the Taliban told an American diplomat in April 1998 that it didn’t know where Osama bin Laden was and, in any event, he wasn’t a threat to the United States. Four months later, on Aug. 7, 1998, Al Qaeda operatives drove two truck bombs into the American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

From the 9/11 Commission Report:

“Though Secretary Albright made no secret of thinking the Taliban “despicable,” the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Bill Richardson, led a delegation to South Asia—including Afghanistan—in April 1998. No U.S. official of such rank had been to Kabul in decades. Ambassador Richardson went primarily to urge negotiations to end the civil war. In view of Bin Ladin’s recent public call for all Muslims to kill Americans, Richardson asked the Taliban to expel Bin Ladin. They answered that they did not know his whereabouts. In any case, the Taliban said, Bin Ladin was not a threat to the United States.”

The 9/11 Commission Report, Page 111

Post 9/11, the Taliban repeatedly stated that it won’t allow territory it controls to be used as a base for terror groups. The Taliban issued numerous statements claiming this, and in the Feb. 29, 2020 deal between the Taliban and the U.S., the Taliban gave vague and unenforceable counterterrorism assurances to the U.S. However, it was later discovered that “the Taliban regularly consulted with Al Qaeda during negotiations with the United States and offered guarantees that it would honor their historical ties.” [See LWJ reports, Taliban leader declares victory after U.S. agrees to withdrawal deal and U.N.: Taliban “regularly consulted” with Al Qaeda throughout negotiations with U.S.]

At the same time, the Taliban lied about Al Qaeda’s presence in Afghanistan, and claimed Al Qaeda and allied terror group leaders and operatives left Afghanistan after the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in late 2001.

This, of course, is demonstrably false. Multiple international and regional terrorist organizations have fought alongside the Taliban in Afghanistan since 9/11. Al Qaeda leaders such as Farouq al-Qahtani, who plotted attacks against the West, operated with the Taliban’s permission and support. Still today, the Taliban shelters and supports groups such as the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, which is an enemy of the Pakistani state, even as Pakistan supported the Taliban’s return to power.

The Taliban has peddled the same lies about foreign terrorists operating in Afghanistan for more than 25 years, making China’s trust in the Taliban’s counterterrorism assurances all the more curious.

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

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