The U.S. Is about to Secure a Bad Deal with the Taliban

March 25 2019

Eager to withdraw American troops from Afghanistan, the U.S. has been conducting negotiations with the Taliban, and may be close to finalizing an agreement. Although the details are not yet known, the impending agreement extracts a promise from the Taliban not to allow the territory under its control once again to become a home base for terrorists who will attack the U.S. Thomas Joscelyn and Bill Roggio argue that, on the contrary, the deal will lead to a resurgent al-Qaeda and Islamic State (IS).

Afghanistan is, today, already home to international terrorist groups. Both Islamic State and al-Qaeda fight and train throughout the country. The Taliban have no control over Islamic State’s regional arm, which operates across the Afghan-Pakistani border and has ties to the self-declared caliphate’s mothership in Iraq and Syria. Although there may be some episodic cooperation between the two sides, IS loyalists clash regularly with their jihadist counterparts in the Taliban. And IS rejects the Taliban’s legitimacy, so it will not abide by any agreement struck with the U.S. Thus, the Taliban cannot guarantee that they will hold Islamic State’s global ambitions in check.

More important, there is no reason to think the Taliban want to hold al-Qaeda’s global agenda in check. And this is where [the U.S. diplomat Zalmay] Khalilzad’s credulity becomes especially problematic. . . . As the United Nations Security Council found in two recent reports, al-Qaeda and the Taliban remain “closely allied” and their “long-standing” relationship “remains firm.” Al-Qaeda’s leaders still view Afghanistan as a “safe haven,” and their men act like a force multiplier for the insurgency, offering military and religious instruction to Taliban fighters. Indeed, al-Qaeda is operating across multiple Afghan provinces, including in areas dominated by the Taliban.

Read more at Politico

More about: Afghanistan, Al Qaeda, ISIS, Politics & Current Affairs, Taliban, U.S. Foreign policy


Leaked Emails Point to an Iranian Influence Operation That Reaches into the U.S. Government

Sept. 27 2023

As the negotiations leading up to the 2015 nuclear deal began in earnest, Tehran launched a major effort to cultivate support abroad for its positions, according to a report by Jay Solomon:

In the spring of 2014, senior Iranian Foreign Ministry officials initiated a quiet effort to bolster Tehran’s image and positions on global security issues—particularly its nuclear program—by building ties with a network of influential overseas academics and researchers. They called it the Iran Experts Initiative. The scope and scale of the IEI project has emerged in a large cache of Iranian government correspondence and emails.

The officials, working under the moderate President Hassan Rouhani, congratulated themselves on the impact of the initiative: at least three of the people on the Foreign Ministry’s list were, or became, top aides to Robert Malley, the Biden administration’s special envoy on Iran, who was placed on leave this June following the suspension of his security clearance.

In March of that year, writes Solomon, one of these officials reported that “he had gained support for the IEI from two young academics—Ariane Tabatabai and Dina Esfandiary—following a meeting with them in Prague.” And here the story becomes particularly worrisome:

Tabatabai currently serves in the Pentagon as the chief of staff for the assistant secretary of defense for special operations, a position that requires a U.S. government security clearance. She previously served as a diplomat on Malley’s Iran nuclear negotiating team after the Biden administration took office in 2021. Esfandiary is a senior advisor on the Middle East and North Africa at the International Crisis Group, a think tank that Malley headed from 2018 to 2021.

Tabatabai . . . on at least two occasions checked in with Iran’s Foreign Ministry before attending policy events, according to the emails. She wrote to Mostafa Zahrani, [an Iranian scholar in close contact with the Foreign Ministry and involved in the IEI], in Farsi on June 27, 2014, to say she’d met Saudi Prince Turki al-Faisal—a former ambassador to the U.S.—who expressed interest in working together and invited her to Saudi Arabia. She also said she’d been invited to attend a workshop on Iran’s nuclear program at Ben-Gurion University in Israel. . . .

Elissa Jobson, Crisis Group’s chief of advocacy, said the IEI was an “informal platform” that gave researchers from different organizations an opportunity to meet with IPIS and Iranian officials, and that it was supported financially by European institutions and one European government. She declined to name them.

Read more at Semafor

More about: Iran nuclear deal, U.S. Foreign policy