The Taliban have not only retained their ties with Al-Qaeda but have also assured its leaders personally that their ties will remain unaffected by their peace agreement with the United States, says a UN report released Monday, casting serious doubt on the future of the Trump administration’s key foreign policy achievement.
The report also details the presence of 1,020 Lashkar-e-Taiba fighters in Afghanistan working with the Taliban forces and 230 belonging to the Jaish-e-Mohammed. The two Pakistan-based terrorist outfits have carried out multiple attacks in India. There are in all 6,500 foreign terrorists from Pakistan in Afghanistan.
In an agreement signed by US and Taliban representatives in Doha on February 29, the Americans have undertaken to draw down their troops in Afghanistan in exchange for the Taliban committing to certain anti-terrorism measures, chiefly cutting ties with terrorist groups threatening the security of the United States or its allies, and not allow them to operate from Afghanistan. Exchange of prisoners, removal of sanctions on the Taliban and the launch of intra-Afghan talks were the other elements.
“The Taliban regularly consulted with Al-Qaida during negotiations with the United States and offered guarantees that it would honour their historical ties,” a UN-appointed Monitoring Team said in its annual report to the UN Security Council.
It added: “Al-Qaida has reacted positively to the agreement, with statements from its acolytes celebrating it as a victory for the Taliban’s cause and thus for global militancy.”
The report refers, as evidence, to a reported meeting that took place in the spring of 2019 between senior Taliban officials and Hamza bin Laden, son and successor of Osama bin Laden, “to reassure him personally that the Islamic Emirate would not break its historical ties with Al-Qaida for any price”. The Al-Qaeda leader’s death was announced by President Trump in September.
The monitoring team cited Afghan officials to detail the continued presence of LeT and JeM, who, the report said, had 1,020 and 230 fighters in Afghanistan respectively, “co-located” with Taliban forces. JeM did not figure int he team’s 2019 report. These groups, the repot added, “facilitate the trafficking of terrorist fighters into Afghanistan, who act as advisers, trainers and specialists in improvised explosive devices”.