News & Politics

UN Report: Taliban and Al-Qaeda Maintain Close Ties Despite Treaty

FILE - In this Jan. 5, 2009, file photo, then-U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Zalmay Khalilzad, speaks to reporters at United Nations headquarters. The Trump administration, which initially steered away from appointing high-level diplomats to focus on particular world trouble spots, is now embracing special envoys. It announced Tuesday that Bush-era ambassador Khalilzad will run U.S. efforts for an Afghan-Taliban peace process to end the 17-year war. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)

The Taliban signed a preliminary peace agreement with the U.S., promising to break ties with the Al-Qaeda terrorist group. It’s the one element of the deal that Trump and the previous administration insisted upon.

But according to a new study by the UN, the Taliban is honoring that promise in the breach.

NBCNews:

Relations between the Taliban, including its partners in the Haqqani network, and al Qaeda “remain close, based on friendship, a history of shared struggle, ideological sympathy and intermarriage,” the U.N. report said.

“The Taliban regularly consulted with al Qaeda during negotiations with the United States and offered guarantees that it would honor their historical ties,” said the report by the U.N. Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team.

The U.N. report suggests the Taliban have failed to keep their word on a provision seen as central to the U.S-Taliban agreement signed on Feb. 29 in Doha. President Donald Trump has portrayed the deal as a success story.

If true, and most observers were dubious about the Taliban separating itself entirely from terrorists, it would make the peace treaty signed by the U.S. a worthless scrap of paper. We didn’t spend 19 years fighting so that the Taliban and al-Qaeda could take over when we left. But that’s what’s going to happen if the Taliban maintains a relationship with the terrorists despite their promises.

The U.N. report, however, said al Qaeda “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.”

While the U.S. was holding talks with Taliban representatives in Doha in 2019 and 2020, al Qaeda and the Taliban also held meetings “to discuss cooperation related to operational planning, training and the provision by the Taliban of safe havens for al Qaeda members inside Afghanistan,” according to the report.

Asked about the U.N. findings, U.S. special representative Zalmay Khalilzad, who led the negotiations with the Taliban, told reporters on Monday the insurgents had taken some steps toward severing ties with al Qaeda and other terrorist groups but that more action was needed.

In truth, the Taliban already controls 40 percent of the country, so it would be no surprise if they ended up kicking out the current government and taking over. But the understanding was that al-Qaeda would not be in the picture and that the Taliban wouldn’t allow AQ to conduct terrorist attacks from its soil.

That still may happen, according to Khalilzad. But what incentive does the Taliban have to do anything once the Americans leave? Without a gun aimed at their head, they can make friends with anyone they choose.

We are counting on the Taliban’s code of honor to keep their word. They don’t care about “honor.” They care about victory and al-Qaeda assistance.