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WASHINGTON– The Afghan Taliban have actually kept up a close relationship with Al Qaeda in spite of having pledged to stop working together with terrorist groups, allowing the militants to perform training in Afghanistan and release fighters along with its forces, according to the head of a U.N. panel monitoring the insurgency.

The Taliban’s association with Al Qaeda has continued even though the revolt signed an agreement with the U.S. a year ago that bans cooperation with or hosting of terrorist groups– and despite a public statement by Trump administration Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that the Taliban had actually “made the break” with terrorist groups.

” There is still clearly a close relationship in between Al Qaeda and the Taliban,” stated Edmund Fitton-Brown, the organizer of the U.N. panel responsible for tracking the Taliban and terrorist groups in Afghanistan. The reports of the U.N. Analytical Assistance and Sanctions Monitoring Group are based in part on information shared by foreign governments’ intelligence services.

” We believe that the leading management of Al Qaeda is still under Taliban security,” he said.

According to the U.N. monitoring team’s last report in January, there are 200 to 500 Al Qaeda fighters throughout about 11 Afghan provinces. Professionals say untangling 2 groups that have actually lived and combated alongside each other for decades– and have actually even intermarried– will be challenging.

The Taliban’s long-established alliance with Al Qaeda will be on the program when NATO defense ministers meet Wednesday and Thursday to weigh a May due date for a troop withdrawal as required by the U.S.-Taliban offer. European allies will seek to President Joe Biden’s defense secretary, Lloyd Austin, for signals about the administration’s strategies and how it means to ensure that the insurgency lives up to the offer.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg stated Monday that the Taliban required to make great on its commitments under the 2020 contract to open the way for a full withdrawal of foreign soldiers.

” We see that there is still a need for the Taliban to do more when it comes to providing on their dedications … to make certain that they break all ties with global terrorists,” Stoltenberg said.

Members of the Taliban’s peace settlement team participate in a conference with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in the Qatari capital, Doha, on Nov. 21. Patrick Semansky/ Pool/AFP by means of Getty Images file

The U.S. has about 2,500 troops in Afghanistan, and its NATO-led partners have 9,600 soldiers on the ground. Under the regards to the 2020 offer, the U.S. pledged to take out its staying forces by Might. The Biden administration has actually stated that it has actually not made any choice about troop levels and that officials are examining whether the Taliban have actually fulfilled their dedications.

U.S. intelligence officials said Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups stay active dangers inside Afghanistan. They declined to comment about the Taliban’s relationship with Al Qaeda.

The Taliban insist that they are following the accord with the U.S., in which they consented to enter into peace talks with their opponents in the Afghan federal government in return for a withdrawal of U.S. and other NATO soldiers.

The arrangement needs the Taliban to “send out a clear message” that those who posture a danger to the security of the U.S. and its allies have no place in Afghanistan, and it forbids cooperation with groups that threaten the security of the U.S. The Taliban are obliged to prevent terrorist groups from “recruiting, training, and fundraising,” and the insurgents are banned from hosting such groups.

The Taliban contend that there are no foreign fighters in Afghanistan which members of Al Qaeda left the nation after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and the subsequent U.S.-led intervention. Foreign governments and local experts reject the claim as patently false.

Al Qaeda performs training in Taliban-controlled areas, although there is no clear proof of significant recruitment or fundraising efforts, Fitton-Brown said.

Al Qaeda militants also sometimes battle with their Taliban equivalents in Afghanistan, supporting the insurgency’s war versus the U.S.-backed Afghan government.

” We understand that they do release together with Taliban troops in particular theaters. Whether they make any definitive difference in those theaters, I might not examine,” Fitton-Brown said.

There are both working-level contacts and senior-level contacts between the Taliban and Al Qaeda, and the revolt routinely seeks to reassure Al Qaeda that it will stay faithful to the militants, he said. The U.S.-Taliban settlements in 2019 triggered stress and anxiety within Al Qaeda that the Afghan insurgents were all set to desert it, causing some tense discussions, the U.N. panel reported in 2015.

Al Qaeda is a smaller group with less resources, based on its hosts to offer an umbrella of defense and under consistent pressure from the U.S. and Western federal governments. It is plainly the weaker partner in the relationship, Fitton-Brown stated.

” You can see that the account is very much in the Taliban’s favor. They’re the ones who are providing nearly all of the favors. They’re much, much the more powerful group. Al Qaeda need the Taliban much more than the Taliban requirement Al Qaeda,” Fitton-Brown said.

Yet the Taliban leadership has actually appeared hesitant to participate in a conflict with Al Qaeda that might trigger bitterness within the insurgency, he stated.

” There’s a strong impulse for the Taliban leading leadership, for as long as they can, to hold people together on this. Simply put, not to go down a track that would be horrible or divisive to some possibly defiant components within the Taliban,” he stated.

The Taliban, who are hedging their bets when it comes to Al Qaeda, can cut their relationship with the group if they pick to, he stated.

On March 1, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stated the Taliban “have actually now made the break” with terrorist groups and “concurred that they would break that relationship and that they would work alongside of us to ruin, reject resources to and have Al Qaeda depart from that place.”

Former U.S. authorities state ties between the Taliban and Al Qaeda are deep, going back 3 years, with Al Qaeda militants marrying into Pashtun tribes in Taliban-controlled locations.

” Any expectation that the Taliban’s leadership can determine their fighters’ department from Al Qaeda dismisses cultural and useful realities,” said Douglas London, who served for more than 30 years in the CIA’s private service and has experience in South and Central Asia.

By design, Al Qaeda trainers, fighters and leaders have actually constructed intimate, local ties to their Taliban counterparts, and the 2 organizations have actually created familial ties that ensure shared loyalty and commitment based upon Pashtun cultural norms, stated London, author of the forthcoming book “The Employer: Spying and the Lost Art of American Intelligence.”

” Even if Taliban leaders wish to turn the page on Al Qaeda, and my experience managing CIA’s counterterrorist operations in the area suggests they don’t, it would be a practical impossibility to expect Taliban fighters to abandon daughters, grandchildren and son-in-laws,” said London, a nonresident scholar at the Middle East Institute think tank.

” Now, 30 years in, some second-generation children from these marital relationships have themselves presumed positions in both Al Qaeda and the Taliban,” he stated.

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