Zalmay Khalilzad, the Trump administration’s top envoy for talks with the Taliban, claims that he is already satisfied with the Taliban’s counterterrorism assurances. But the Taliban’s close relationship with al Qaeda stretches from the 1990s until today. The Taliban should be required to publicly renounce al Qaeda in any final deal with the US. Even then, the break would need to be verified.
According to the UN’s Jan. 2019 assessment, al Qaeda’s relationship with the Taliban is “long-standing” and “strong.” And al Qaeda “continues to see Afghanistan as a safe haven for its leadership.” The UN estimates that the Islamic State has several thousand fighters in Afghanistan as well.
The Taliban claims it does “not allow anyone to use the soil of Afghanistan against other countries including neighboring countries.” Some have uncritically accepted this claim. But it is obviously false.
President Trump’s decision to withdraw American forces from Afghanistan will have consequences. The Taliban and al Qaeda will declare victory, while the US will find it harder to hunt terrorists throughout the region.
The Taliban has a released a series of statements threatening the Afghan elections this week. The statements are attributed to three different commissions within the Taliban’s Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, which operates as a shadow government throughout much of the country.
A newly released interrogation report shows that Qayis al-Khazali identified Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis and Abu Mustafa al-Sheibani as the two individuals Iran trusted “the most with attempting to implement the Iranian agenda in Iraq.” The pair went from being marginal players shortly after the US-led invasion in 2003 to leading the Iranian-backed Popular Mobilization Forces, one of most powerful and influential military organizations in Iraq.
The Taliban has rejected a request by the Afghan government to extend its three-day ceasefire. The Taliban claims that the short-lived lull in the fighting proved that it has command-and-control over its forces throughout the country and that the mujahideen enjoy popular support.
The Taliban has announced that it will refrain from offensive operations against the Afghan government for three days during the Eid holiday. However, this is a shorter timeframe than the Afghan government’s announced ceasefire. And the jihadists say they will continue to attack the “foreign occupiers,” meaning the US and allied forces, during this brief respite. The Taliban also does not say it will participate in meaningful peace talks with the Afghan government.