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UN report: Afghan Taliban still maintain ties with al-Qaida

by Ace Damon
UN report: Afghan Taliban still maintain ties with al-Qaida

ISLAMABAD (AP) – The Taliban in Afghanistan still maintain close ties to the terrorist network of Al Qaeda, despite signing a peace agreement with the United States in which it has pledged to fight militant groups, said a UN report released on Tuesday. market.

The US-Taliban peace agreement, signed in Qatar in February, would allow American troops to leave Afghanistan gradually after 19 years of war and pave the way for intra-Afghan negotiations that would shape the country's political future.

Under the agreement, the Taliban pledged to fight other terrorist groups – including Al Qaeda, which they once housed – and to prevent militants from using Afghan territory to stage attacks on the United States.

But details of the Taliban's anti-terrorist pledge were never released. Zalmay Khalilzad, a Washington peace envoy and architect of the agreement, says secrecy is necessary to protect the intelligence operations involved in applying it.

Khalilzad told reporters in Washington on Monday that the Taliban's commitment was specific "in terms of presence, training, recruitment, fundraising in the territory they currently control".

He insisted that "progress has been made and our future steps in terms of reducing strength and related commitments" now depend on fulfilling the Taliban's commitment.

The UN committee behind the report said that several significant al Qaeda numbers have been killed in recent months, but several prominent leaders of the group, once led by Osama bin Laden, remain in Afghanistan. The report says they maintain links with the feared Haqqani network, a Taliban ally, and still play a significant role in Taliban operations.

Jihad, or holy war, and a shared history continue to unite the two militant groups. Several al Qaeda leaders, such as Ayman al-Zawahri, who succeeded bin Laden as leader of the terrorist network, track their involvement in Afghanistan until the 1980s war against the invasion of the Soviet Union, when Afghan mujahedeen, or holy warriors, also were financed. by the USA to expel troops from Moscow.

There were no immediate comments from the Taliban on the UN report. But critics of the US-Taliban deal expressed concern over its inaccuracy, warning that it made it difficult to monitor insurgents' compliance.

"One of the many problems with a very imperfect deal is that the Taliban's counterterrorism demands are drafted very loosely," said Michael Kugelman, deputy program director for Asia at the Washington Center, based in Washington. He said the deal did not even mention Al Qaeda by name.

"At the very least, Washington should demand that the Taliban stop all communication with key al Qaeda figures," said Kugelman.

The UN report, however, noted the Taliban's contribution to the fight against the Islamic State group's affiliate in Afghanistan. The IS has become increasingly aggressive, carrying out terrible attacks on the capital, Kabul. The group is believed to have suffered a brutal attack on a maternity hospital last month that killed 24, mostly young people and also two newborn babies.

In his telephone interview on Monday with reporters, Khalilzad also said the Taliban has been an important part of the battle between US and Afghan forces against ISIS.

"Daesh is working against peace … and they were responsible … for some of the most cowardly attacks recently," he said, using the Arabic name IS.

Still, Kugelman warned against the subversion of Taliban ties to Al Qaeda.

"If the United States simply abandoned the Taliban's continued ties to the very terrorist group that American forces entered Afghanistan to eliminate almost 19 years ago, then you will have a really bad view to say the least," he said.

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