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Taliban Primary Partner For All Foreign Terrorist Groups Operating in Afghanistan, Except Islamic State: UN

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Al Qaeda and the Taliban remain close allies, says a report by a United Nations Security Council monitoring team. Indeed, Al Qaeda “has grown stronger operating under the Taliban umbrella across Afghanistan and is more active than in recent years.”

While some are eager to portray the Taliban as a purely nationalist organisation, Long War Journal said, the UN notes that the Taliban are the “primary partner for all foreign terrorist groups operating in Afghanistan, with the exception of” the Islamic State’s Khorasan branch, which seeks to undermine the Taliban’s legitimacy.

Al Qaeda “members act as instructors and religious teachers for Taliban personnel and their family members.” And a “number of Al Qaeda activists have reportedly arrived in Afghanistan from Egypt,” though the UN did not identify these Egyptians or say when they arrived. 

The UN assesses that the Taliban “cooperate[s] and retain[s] strong links with” Al Qaeda, Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS), the Haqqani Network (which is an integral part of the Taliban), Lashkar-e-Tayyaba, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) and the East Turkistan Islamic Movement (also known as the Turkistan Islamic Party, or TIP), “as well as nearly 20 other regionally and globally focused groups.” 

“In return for safe havens and the ability to pursue their own business, foreign fighters continue to operate under the authority of the Taliban in multiple Afghan provinces at undiminished levels,” the UN warns.

The UN says Al Qaeda “continues to see Afghanistan as a safe haven for its leadership, based on its long-standing strong relationship with the Taliban.” Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, Hamza bin Laden and the Taliban leadership “have repeatedly emphasised the importance of the alliance between” the two groups.

According to the UN, al Qaeda “is seeking to strengthen its presence in Badakhshan Province, especially in Shighnan District, which shares a border with Tajikistan.” The Turkistan Islamic Party (TIP).

Elsewhere, al Qaeda “is eager to expand its presence in Barmal District in Paktika Province,” which is dominated by the Haqqani Network.

Al Qaeda has also been “intensifying its concentration in the Afghan-Pakistan border area in close cooperation with Lashkar-e Tayyaba and the Haqqani Network.”

The UN relays manpower estimates for al Qaeda and various other groups, saying there “are estimated to be a total of 8,000 to 10,000 foreign terrorist fighters in Afghanistan.” This figure includes approximately 2,500 to 4,000 jihadists loyal to the Islamic State, while the rest are “broadly aligned with the Taliban and Al Qaeda.”

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