By: Salman Rafi Sheikh
The sudden killing of al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri could be a second of satisfaction for the US ‘battle on terror’. However the drone strike that killed him in Afghanistan’s capital has raised extra questions than solutions as regards to the potential for the tip of the battle.
As an example, the truth that he was dwelling in Kabul underneath the Taliban’s safety means their safety in all probability extends to many different teams as properly – teams that haven’t any intentions about ending their jihad. The strike exhibits that Afghanistan stays a territorial sanctuary for transnational jihadi networks keen, as al-Zawahiri’s latest video messages shared on social media have proven, to export jihad worldwide.
Whereas al-Qaeda itself could not even have the capability for such a enterprise, it does have pals in Afghanistan, which al-Qaeda’s pals just lately succeeded in capturing – and al-Qaeda helped them – signifies that the group’s assets have multiplied.
Certainly, as a July 2022 report of the United Nations Safety Council exhibits, “Al-Qaida management reportedly performs an advisory function with the Taliban, and the teams stay shut.” The report additionally mentions al-Qaeda’s plans to develop from the south and east of Afghanistan to northern Afghanistan.
That aligns firmly with the Afghan Taliban’s personal goal to defeat an rising counter-movement within the north led by Ahmad Masoud, the UK-educated son of Ahmad Shah Masoud, who was killed by al Qaeda brokers posing as journalists in 2001. Coalesced across the Nationwide Resistance Entrance, the northerners intention to take again Kabul, though their precise capability to take action stays uncertain at greatest.
Al-Qaeda, nevertheless, doesn’t have the capability to “mount direct assaults” exterior of Afghanistan, the UN report says. Due to this fact, concentrating on Afghanistan and mobilizing assets to strengthen the Taliban and defeat their equally dogmatic ideological rival i.e., the Islamic State in Khorasan (IS-Okay) is sensible, which signifies that the group has a future in Afghanistan.
The lack of al-Zawahiri may, nevertheless, trigger inner fragmentation, particularly given the truth that, because the UNSC report additionally mentions, the group “doesn’t seem to have a transparent management succession plan.” Given, nevertheless, that it relies on a “secure haven, improved communications and assets to distribute,” its relationship with the Afghan Taliban will stay unchanged even after al-Zawahiri’s dying.
A key issue strengthening the potential for Taliban-al-Qaeda cooperation is Kabul’s personal unending fascination with jihad, together with worldwide. A working example could be the Afghan Taliban’s ‘mediation’ of talks between the outlawed Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and Islamabad.
Noor Wali Mehsud, TTP’s chief, can be based mostly in Afghanistan. Pakistan’s air strikes in April in two japanese provinces did not eradicate him, not to mention do any significant harm to the TTP itself.
Within the ongoing talks between the TTP and Pakistan, the previous has positioned a listing of non-negotiable calls for that Pakistan should meet for ‘peace’ to prevail within the area. These embody a) de-merging the previous Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) province, b) retaining arms and ammunitions, and c) whole amnesty for its commanders and fighters.
The Afghan Taliban help these calls for for guaranteeing ‘peace.’ Whereas the truth that the Afghan Taliban, as a substitute of taking motion in opposition to the TTP and eliminating its leaders in keeping with their promise to not enable their territory for use in opposition to any neighbor, are mediating these talks exhibits that Kabul doesn’t intend to behave upon its varied guarantees of moderation.
The Afghan Taliban’s reversal of girls’s rights apart, their help for the TTP’s jihad exhibits the group’s rising urge for food for a territorial and ideological growth of their very own jihad, as accepting the TTP calls for is tantamount to permitting the group to ascertain a mini-Islamic Emirate in a area bordering Afghanistan.
The UNSC report exhibits that the TTP has “the biggest” element of “international fighters” (3,000 to 4,000) in Afghanistan and that it presents the best “risk within the area.”
Once more, the Afghan Taliban facilitated the TTP’s power. After taking on Kabul in August 2021, they launched a whole bunch of TTP fighters captured and imprisoned by the Ghani regime. This launch allowed Noor Wali Mehsud to re-group and re-organize the TTP, making it “extra cohesive” than ever, the report stated including that the TTP is well-connected with different transnational jihadi teams, together with al-Qaeda and the anti-China East Turkestan Islamic Motion (ETIM) – a gaggle looking for to liberate Xinjiang from China.
The TTP chief has, up to now, additionally hinted at the potential for becoming a member of the IS-Okay in case the Afghan Taliban places an excessive amount of stress on them to just accept Pakistan’s calls for. However the truth that Kabul is brazenly siding with the TTP signifies that the Afghan Taliban has no intention of shedding a key ally.
Can, subsequently, the Afghan Taliban be trusted? It is a query that has acquired renewed significance within the wake of al-Zawahiri’s killing.
For Pakistan, there’s a key lesson. Permitting the TTP to create an autonomous territory inside Pakistan the place the group can implement its personal model of Shariah rule signifies that FATA will develop into an extra, official secure haven for all of the teams energetic in Afghanistan.
Concerning the Afghan Taliban, there’s a lot for Beijing to study and mirror upon, on condition that China’s international minister stated in a gathering in March together with his Afghan counterpart that China is not going to intrude in Afghanistan and can respect Afghan i.e., the Taliban, traditions, and way of life in alternate for Kabul’s assure that the Afghan territory is not going to be used to assault Chinese language pursuits wherever.