Homeland Security

Former CIA Leader: Deal to Pull Out of Afghanistan Would Empower al-Qaeda

In this photo released by the Afghan Presidential Palace, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani speaks to U.S. peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad at the presidential palace in Kabul on Jan. 28, 2019. (Afghan Presidential Palace via AP)

The former acting director of the CIA who was with President Bush on 9/11 warned that a deal the Trump administration is forging with the Taliban could result in an even stronger al-Qaeda.

The U.S. envoy, native Afghan and former Bush administration UN Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, has been meeting with the Taliban in Qatar.

Despite the Taliban’s continuing attacks including January’s Intercontinental Hotel siege, nefarious alliances and training relationships, killings of Americans and, just three months ago, an assassination attempt on U.S. Gen. Austin “Scott” Miller, the Trump administration, like the Obama administration, has declined to list the group as a terrorist organization so that talks could be conducted without technically negotiating with a terrorist group.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in a statement late last week that the group’s negotiating team had met with Khalilzad’s team in Doha over the past six days.

“In accordance with the agenda, this round of negotiations revolving around the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan and other vital issues saw progress; but since issues are of critical nature and need comprehensive discussions therefore it was decided that talks about unsolved matters will resume in similar future meetings in order to find an appropriate and effective solution and also to share details of the meetings and receive guidance from their respective leaderships,” Mujahid said. “The policy of the Islamic Emirate during talks was very clear – until the issue of withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan is agreed upon, progress in other issues is impossible.”

Though U.S. negotiators have remained tight-lipped about talks, the U.S. and Taliban reportedly agree to an American troop withdrawal if the Taliban promise Afghanistan won’t be used again to harbor terrorists.

At the Pentagon today, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told reporters that the world body supports Khalilzad’s efforts for a “peaceful solution to make sure that Afghanistan never again becomes a safe haven for international terrorists and to send a message to Taliban that they will not win on the battlefield, so they have to sit down at the negotiating table, and therefore we are encouraged by what we see now, the progress and talks with Taliban.”

Former Deputy CIA Director Mike Morell told CBS News today that when President Trump announced in August 2017 that U.S. troops were staying in Afghanistan indefinitely because of the risk of the Taliban and their al-Qaeda allies growing stronger, “he was right then and this agreement doesn’t change that at all, because the Taliban will not live up to it.”

“The Taliban will not negotiate in good faith with the Afghan government, they want a one-party state, they want to rule it, and they will allow al-Qaeda safe haven because they have fought together for 17 years, and they have intermarriages — they are very close,” Morell said.

He said Trump essentially has two choices: stay in Afghanistan for the long term, or leave with eyes wide open about what’s going to happen after pullout. “Put U.S. military bases nearby, somewhere in central Asia for example, where they can reach out and keep al-Qaeda from becoming strong again,” he added.

“There are no good choices,” Morell said.