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

March 25, 2019 | Thomas Joscelyn and Bill Roggio
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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.

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