The imminent withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan is breathing new life into the relationship between the Taliban and al Qaeda, according to several Afghan intelligence officials and members of both militant groups who spoke to The Daily Beast.
“The Taliban gained huge respect amongst Islamists worldwide by surviving the U.S.’s longest war,” one intelligence officer and undercover diplomat based in Afghanistan told The Daily Beast. “[The Taliban and al Qaeda] respect each other. If there is no peace and stability in Afghanistan, [they] could be each other’s darlings once again.”
The diplomat isn’t alone in his assessment. Several Afghan officials confirmed to The Daily Beast that al Qaeda is continuing to foster close relations with the Taliban insurgency, despite a U.S.-Taliban deal last year which required the militant group to break all ties with Bin Laden’s insurgency.
Sohail Shaheen, a senior member of the Taliban negotiations team, told The Daily Beast that the Biden administration’s failure to meet the original May 1 withdrawal deadline meant that all bets were off: “The U.S. violated the accord. Now, the Taliban reserves the right to attack.” Shaheen added that the Taliban now has “big numbers of volunteers on the waiting list to join Jihad.”
One al Qaeda member who lives in Peshawar referred to a “shared global agenda” with the Taliban. “We have a long struggle ahead against the U.S. and the infidels,” he told The Daily Beast. “Al Qaeda and Bin Laden’s mission will never end. If the Taliban is winning the war against the U.S. in Afghanistan, it is sharing the goals of al Qaeda and Bin Laden’s long last vision.”
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