Security

'Unbreakable' links between Taliban, al-Qaeda pose quandary for peace

By Sulaiman

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Taliban co-founder Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar leaves after signing an agreement with the United States during a ceremony in Doha, Qatar, February 29. As part of the deal, the insurgents agreed to stop al-Qaeda from using Afghanistan as a safe haven to plot attacks. [Giuseppe Cacace/AFP]

KABUL -- The ongoing strong relations between the Taliban and al-Qaeda pose a troubling quandary for the prospects of peace in Afghanistan, as many observers believe the ties between the two groups are "unbreakable".

Under a peace 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 July 1.

The report came on the heels of an United Nations (UN) analysis released on May 27 that detailed the Taliban's extensive ties with al-Qaeda.

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Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri can be seen next to the Taliban's logo. The UN monitoring team was informed of six reported meetings between al-Qaida and Taliban senior leadership held over the past 12 months. [File]

Evidence shows that the Taliban, despite pledging to turn their backs on the terrorist group, have enabled al-Qaeda to gain strength under their protection, according to the UN monitors.

"The Taliban have leveraged al-Qaeda's power and resources since Osama [bin Laden] and Ayman al-Zawahiri pledged allegiance to the group [the Taliban]," said Jawed Kohistani, a military and intelligence affairs analyst in Kabul.

"Their relations are at a level that the Taliban sacrificed their entire government and themselves for al-Qaeda," he said.

"Al-Qaeda is present in Ghor, Helmand, Faryab and Badakhshan provinces, rural areas of Paktia and Kunar provinces, southern areas in Kurram District [in Pakistan] and in areas along Afghanistan–Pakistan border," Kohistani said. "Its members operate in and live on old bases of the Hezb-e-Islami and Etihad-e-Islami parties in Spina Shaga and in the outskirts of Jaji District [both in Paktia Province]."

"As al-Qaeda has old and traditional ties with Taliban leaders and commanders, it preaches to the Taliban combat commanders its religious and political rhetoric and encourages them to fight," he said.

"It trains the Taliban commanders and their fighters at the Taliban military training centres and provides them with advanced weapons," Kohistani said.

"Al-Qaeda links the Taliban to terrorist networks in the Gulf region and terrorist groups in Pakistan such as Lashkar-e-Taiba, branches of Sipah-e-Sahaba, Harkat-ul-Mujahideen and others," he added.

"Al-Qaeda has brought militants and terrorist groups to Afghanistan from various countries in order to show that the Taliban are able to give refuge to [terrorists] from around the world in Afghanistan," said Kohistani.

"The Taliban support these militants, who have considerable fighting experience, and prepare them for suicide attacks," he said.

Al-Qaeda: financier of the Taliban

Relations between the Taliban and al-Qaeda are so comprehensive that even the peace agreement with the United States cannot sever them, say a number of analysts.

"Concerns about the Taliban's ties with al-Qaeda are completely valid," said Maj. Gen. (ret.) Zahir Azimi, a military affairs analyst in Kabul and a former spokesman for the Ministry of Defence.

"The Taliban's relations with al-Qaeda are so complex and robust that signing an agreement with the US won't put an end to them," he said.

"Evidence and documents show that al-Qaeda has been financing and arming the Taliban, and the Taliban's leadership doesn't plan to break their relations with al-Qaeda," said Azimi.

"Even if the Taliban's leadership decides to discontinue their relations with al-Qaeda, it isn't possible because both the groups have shared goals, front lines and leadership, in addition to financial and military ties," he said. "More important, they have ideological and religious relations that cannot be easily stopped."

"The Taliban currently have sturdy ties with AQIS, and al-Qaeda provides financial, military, training and intelligence support to the Taliban," said Azimi.

"The Taliban have inseparable links with Al-Qaeda," he said. "They have been fighting based on their religious beliefs on one front against foreigners [international forces] for the past three decade; therefore, it isn't possible that the two groups will separate."

"The Taliban hide their relations with al-Qaeda as they don't want to hurt their agreement with the United States," added Azimi. "This group is waiting for the US forces to leave Afghanistan so that it can implement its strategy of toppling the Afghan government and taking over control of the country."

"If we pretend as an optimistic analysis that the Taliban will end their relations with al-Qaeda, it will take much longer," he said. "It will take many years for their relations to fade away and ultimately end."

Unbreakable ties

"Al-Qaeda has had a key role in creating and sustaining the Taliban," said Mirza Muhammad Yarmand, a former deputy Interior Affairs minister and a military analyst.

"The Taliban have an unbreakable ideological link with al-Qaeda, which is so lasting that Mullah [Mohammad] Omar gave away his entire rule and power but didn't surrender Osama bin Laden to the United States," he said.

"Although the Taliban have promised in their peace agreement with the United States that they would sever ties with al-Qaeda and other foreign terrorist groups... it is obvious that the Taliban have maintained their relations with al-Qaeda," he said. "They operate in a joint warfront and continue to fight against the Afghan government."

"I believe the Taliban are not able to cut their links with al-Qaeda because when the Taliban were created as a proxy force, al-Qaeda, as a strategic partner, helped the Taliban in collecting financial resources and recruiting fighters, provided them training, and equipped and armed them, and this support has continued since then."

"The report the United Nations and the US Department of Defence released about the ties between the Taliban and al-Qaeda is accurate as these relations are evident in Afghanistan," added Yarmand.

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I think some countries of the world, especially India gives false information to America as Taliban still have close relations with Al-Qaida. Because India thinks that, if the peace deal between America and Taliban succeeds, and Taliban take over power in Afghanistan, they will have good relations with Pakistan and will cut relations with India; therefore, the peace in Afghanistan has a regional aspect.

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Taliban are the mercenaries of al-Qaida. Al-Qaida has appointed them for war, and in exchange of that, they give money to Taliban. Therefore, if people fight for money, they will never be ready to make peace and cut their relations with their masters. In order to get money, Taliban work even for Russia. For killing one U.S. soldier, Russia pays them one hundred thousands dollar.

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Kabul tells lie that Taliban still have close relations with Al Qaeda. To be honest, Ashraf Ghani and his government don't want to make peace with Taliban. Even if Taliban capture all the provinces of the country and Ashraf Ghani controls only Kabul province, Ashraf Ghani will still not be ready to step down from the power and make peace. Whether we want or not, Ashraf will complete his five-year term. Before the last presidential elections, Ashraf Ghani very clearly said that peace would be made with Taliban until the next five years. It was clear from his remarks that he would complete his five-year term. And that hundreds of people who are killed every day in the country, does not have relevance before him. Afghans are power-seeking people, and all the wars in this country have been because of the power-quest of the leaders. Ashraf Ghani is also thirsty for the power. He will never make peace with Taliban. He wants from Taliban to surrender to the government the same way as Hekmatyar did and should run their political activities, while Taliban fought for the past 20 years to end colonization and the military presence of the United States. How is it possible as Taliban, who defeated America, come and surrender to the puppet government of the United States? Taliban must be on the leading role of the power. Otherwise, peace may be impossible, because if the leaders of the group surrender to the Kabul government, their fighting force will continue its fighting.

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