Despite apparent differences with the United States on many issues, Russia, China, and Iran appear to share Washington’s concerns about terrorist threats from Afghanistan as they call on the de facto Taliban regime to make good on counterterrorism promises.
US officials said alleged terrorist groups based in Afghanistan planned and carried out attacks against Pakistan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. More than 20 armed groups now claim a presence in the Afghan state.
The leader of the Pakistani Taliban was killed in an American raid
Of particular concern is the active presence in Afghanistan of the Pakistan Taliban, an insurgent group that has claimed responsibility for several terrorist attacks in Pakistan over the past few months, according to the US VOA network.
Last week, senior diplomats from Russia, China, Iran, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan met in Tashkent to discuss the situation in Afghanistan.
“The participants, noting that all terrorist groups based in Afghanistan continue to pose a serious threat to regional and global security, strongly called on the current de facto Afghan authorities to take more effective measures to eliminate terrorist groups in the country,” said a statement by the Uzbek Foreign Ministry.
Thomas West, the US Special Representative for Afghanistan, told Tolonews last week, “Although the Taliban have committed themselves not to host terrorists who want to harm other countries and not to allow training, recruitment or fund-raising on their soil, all of that is happening.”
And when negotiating the US military withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2019-2020, the Taliban committed themselves to taking swift action, in the areas under its control, against groups and individuals who threaten the security of any country.
The Pakistani Taliban pledge allegiance to ISIS – archive
Experts say the Taliban now runs a country with porous borders with six neighbours, no standing army, under international sanctions and unable to meet US and regional anti-terrorism expectations. “Everyone can see the Pakistani Taliban taking shelter in Afghanistan and attacking Pakistan,” said Graeme Smith, an expert on international crises in the ICG.
The Taliban denies harboring terrorist groups inside Afghanistan and stresses its commitment to preventing security threats to other countries. Despite downplaying the ongoing threats from the so-called Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP) and other armed opposition groups as insignificant and manageable, the Taliban have largely failed to prevent terrorist attacks inside Afghanistan.
Last week, the Taliban governor in the northern province of Balkh was killed in a suicide attack claimed by ISIS. In December, ISIS announced the killing of a district policy official in the northeastern province of Badakhshan, and both the Taliban and ISIS say they are at war with each other.
The United Nations reported that under the Taliban, Islamic State targeted religious minorities and other vulnerable groups, killing hundreds of people across Afghanistan last year.
The UN chief said in a report to the Security Council that between November 14 and January 31, “the United Nations recorded 1,201 maternal-related incidents, an increase of 10% over the 1,088 incidents recorded during the same period in 2021-2022” on March 8.
For nearly three decades, the United States has expressed concerns about the presence of al Qaeda militants and its leaders in Afghanistan, where they have plotted attacks against American interests around the world.
In search of al-Qaeda leaders, the United States invaded Afghanistan after the September 11 attacks and engaged there in what is referred to as the longest foreign war in US history. Last year, a US drone strike killed al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in Kabul.
Dodging blame for harboring al-Zawahiri in violation of their promises to fight terrorism, the Taliban refuse to confirm that the al-Qaeda leader has indeed been found and killed in Kabul.
Even al Qaeda has yet to announce its new leader due to “sensitivity to the Afghan Taliban’s fears of not acknowledging Zawahiri’s death in Kabul,” according to a United Nations report in February.
US officials say the new al Qaeda leader, Saif al-Adel, a former officer in the Egyptian Special Forces, is in Iran, a claim Tehran denies.
While the United States and the Taliban accuse each other of violating certain parts of the agreement that their representatives signed in February 2020 in Doha, Qatar, it is unclear how the two parties should handle the differences and the consequences that could result from violations of the deal.