Taliban continues to support militant organizations despite neighbors' misgivings
A UN document recently suggests that the Taliban did not honor its commitments to fight terrorism, as "a range of terrorist groups have greater freedom of maneuver."
According to a recent UN study, the Taliban continues to maintain strong and symbiotic ties with the banned armed groups, including Al-Qaeda, despite its adherence to the Doha accord.
According to the assessment published last week, "a range of terrorist groups have greater freedom of maneuver under the de facto authorities of the Taliban."
They are effectively exploiting the circumstances, and both in Afghanistan and the surrounding area, the threat of terrorism is growing, the research says. The study claims that while the Taliban forces have generally engaged in operations against ISIL-K, they have not carried out counterterrorism steps against other networks.
The findings laid bare that the Taliban did not honor its commitments made as part of the Agreement for Bringing Peace to Afghanistan and only focused on a part of the terror groups that have not been on good terms with the Taliban.
There are signs that Al-Qaeda is regaining its operational capacity; the TTP is attacking Pakistan with Taliban support; foreign terrorist fighter groups are projecting threats across the borders of Afghanistan; and ISIL-K operations are becoming more sophisticated and deadly, the statement continued.
Afghanistan censured UN findings
The study was, however, disregarded and dubbed "full of prejudice" by the Afghan Taliban.
According to a statement released by the Taliban government's spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, "The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan considers the continuation of UN Security Council sanctions and such reports as full of prejudice and in conflict with the principles of independence and non-interference, and calls for an end to it."
Mujahid referred to the claims as "baseless" and said they were the consequence of "obvious hostility" toward the Afghan people and the continuation of "baseless propaganda" from the previous 20 years.
"We vehemently reject the assessment of this report that the Islamic Emirate is assisting the adversaries of neighboring and regional nations or using the territory of Afghanistan against other nations," the statement reads.
The Taliban spokesman claimed that it appeared as though the authors of the UNSC report either lacked access to the data, "deliberately distorted" the facts, or obtained their information from the Islamic Emirate's fleeing enemies.
Tripartite security dialogue
The UN findings have come on the heels of a tripartite security conference in Beijing between China, Iran, and Pakistan—three major Afghanistan neighbors—to strategize security measures to deal with the precarious situation.
The first round of the trilateral consultation between Pakistan, China, and Iran on security and counterterrorism took place early this month in Beijing. At the meeting, which was attended by senior diplomats from the three nations, several topics were on the table, including regional anti-terrorism initiatives and cooperation against cross-border terrorists.
Though specifics are still being worked out, the three regional players have decided to institutionalize a prior Trilateral Consultation on security and counterterrorism. The meeting was attended by Bai Tian, the head of external security affairs at the Chinese Foreign Ministry, Abdul Hameed, the director-general of the Pakistani Foreign Ministry, and Seyed Rasoul Mosavi, the Iranian Foreign Ministry's assistant foreign minister and director of South Asia. China also had separate bilateral meetings on counterterrorism with each of the participants.
Earlier in April, the China-Pakistan-Afghanistan trilateral foreign ministers’ dialogue was held in Islamabad which was attended by Pakistan’s foreign minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, interim Afghan foreign minister, Amir Khan Muttaqi, and Chinese foreign minister Qin Gang.
The trilateral foreign ministers meeting took place at a time when Pakistan's 2,600-kilometer-long border with Afghanistan was experiencing an increase in militant attacks. Similarly, Iran is concerned about the militant groups that attack Iranian security forces in the province of Sistan-o-Baluchistan, and significant Central Asian militant groups have been threatening Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. All of these organizations are believed to have operated from Afghanistan, where the Taliban administration provided them with safe havens.
China, the third dialogue participant, also has interests in Afghanistan and the surrounding region. Beijing has invested approximately $60 billion in the ambitious China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) initiative, which is a component of a larger plan to improve regional connectivity.
Samarkand Ministerial Meeting
This situation has already concerned the neighbors of the war-torn country that have been at loggerheads with the Taliban, demanding action against those terror outfits that create trouble for Afghanistan’s neighbors, including Iran, China, and Pakistan.
Representatives from China, Russia, Pakistan, Iran, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan attended a ministerial meeting in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, in April of this year. The Taliban's foreign minister, Amir Khan Muttaqi, also attended despite a travel ban under the United Nations Security Council's sanctions.
Afghanistan's neighbors have decided to come up with a united strategy to fight security concerns originating from Afghanistan after becoming frustrated with the Taliban's reluctance to take action against a variety of militants, including a stronger Islamic State group. While the participants' joint Samarkand Declaration says they discussed a wide range of subjects, including the establishment of an inclusive governance system, the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, and the country's faltering economy, experts believe terrorism was the true emphasis.
According to the official statement from Samarkand, the persistent existence of multiple local and international extremist organizations in Afghanistan constitutes "a serious threat to regional and global security."
The Islamic State group and Al-Qaeda are specifically mentioned in the statement, and both organizations have used insurgencies to disrupt nearly all of the regional governments. The Turkestan Islamic Party, formerly known as the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), was also listed. China accuses this militant Uyghur group of causing turmoil in its western region of Xinjiang.
Other organizations on the list include the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and Baloch Liberation Army, which have stepped up their attacks on Pakistani security personnel and Chinese targets, as well as terrorist organizations that target Iranian security personnel in the province of Sistan-o-Baluchistan and significant militant organizations from Central Asia that pose a threat to Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.
Last month, Pakistan's defense minister, Khwaja Asif, gave a stern warning to Kabul that if the Taliban continued to shield the militant group posing a threat to Islamabad, Pakistan would have no other alternative but to hit the militant hideouts in Afghanistan.