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Taliban maintain ties to Al Qaeda affiliate, says Pentagon

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WASHINGTON: Al Qaeda’s regional affiliate in Afghanistan maintains close ties to the Taliban and has an “enduring interest” in attacking US and foreign troops, the Pentagon said on Wednesday.

Under a deal the Taliban signed with the United States in February, the insurgents agreed to stop Al Qaeda from using Afghanistan as a safe haven to plot attacks.

But in the months since, the Taliban have continued to work with Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS), the US Defence Department said in a report.

“AQIS routinely supports and works with low-level Taliban members in its efforts to undermine the Afghan government, and maintains an enduring interest in attacking US forces and Western targets in the region,” the Pentagon said in a security assessment compiled for the US Congress.

“Despite recent progress in the peace process, AQIS maintains close ties to the Taliban in Afghanistan, likely for protection and training.” The Pentagon report comes on the heels of a UN analysis released last month that found Al Qaeda and the Taliban “remain close” and were in regular consultations over negotiations with America.

Afghan watchers have long questioned whether Washington is being naive in thinking the Taliban would honor a pledge to restrict Al Qaeda, the jihadist group behind the September 11, 2001 attacks that led to America’s invasion of Afghanistan.

The report added that any “core” Al Qaeda members still in Afghanistan are focused mainly on survival, and have delegated regional leadership to AQIS.

Published in Dawn, July 2nd, 2020

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