Taliban Still Backing Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan Despite Trump Deal: UN Report

Newly freed Taliban prisoners greet each other at Pul-i-Charkhi prison, in Kabul, Afghanistan May 26, 2020. (Mohammad Ismail/Reuters)

The Taliban continues to maintain a close relationship with al-Qaeda in Afghanistan in violation of a preliminary peace agreement with the Trump administration, according to a United Nations report released Monday.

Al-Qaeda, which perpetrated the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, still has between 400 and 600 active members in 12 Afghanistan provinces as well as a training camp, and has cultivated ties with the Taliban, in particular the group’s Haqqani network, according to the report, which was authored by the UN Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team.

“The Taliban regularly consulted with al Qaeda during negotiations with the United States and offered guarantees that it would honor their historical ties,” read the report.

The Taliban and al-Qaeda “remain close, based on friendship, a history of shared struggle, ideological sympathy and intermarriage,” the report continued.

A condition of the peace agreement Taliban leaders signed with Trump administration officials on February 29 in Doha was that the group cut ties with al-Qaeda in exchange for the U.S. withdrawing troops gradually over the next 14 months. The Taliban also agreed to start peace talks with the Afghan government.

“Additional information suggested that discussions were held among senior Haqqani Network figures to form a new joint unit of 2,000 armed fighters in cooperation with and funded by Al-Qaida,” the report said.

Even as the U.S. and the Taliban were holding peace talks, the group was coordinating with al-Qaeda “to discuss cooperation related to operational planning, training and the provision by the Taliban of safe havens for al Qaeda members inside Afghanistan,” the report noted.

Zalmay Khalilzad, the administration’s special envoy for Afghanistan, said officials believe “there is progress” but added that as far as the Taliban extricating itself from al-Qaeda, they “have taken some steps. They have to take a lot more steps.”

President Trump has hailed the historic “Agreement for Bringing Peace to Afghanistan” with the Taliban’s leadership as a step towards ending the prolonged presence of U.S. troops in the country.

Days after the agreement was signed, however, the U.S. conducted an airstrike on Taliban fighters in Afghanistan who were “actively attacking” an Afghan security forces checkpoint, according to U.S. Forces in Afghanistan Spokesman Col. Sonny Leggett.

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