Late last month, Afghan and U.S. forces targeted Umar, chief of al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS), at a Taliban compound in Afghanistan’s Helmand province. While the fate of Umar is unknown, several militants were reportedly killed during the operation, including the Taliban’s local explosives expert and Umar’s courier, who transported messages to al-Qaeda’s leader Ayman al-Zawahiri.
This development raises serious questions about the Taliban’s promises, made during the now-frozen U.S.-Taliban talks, to break ties with its longtime partner al-Qaeda. It suggests that the American hope of detaching the Taliban from its al-Qaeda allies, before making a deal with the Taliban, is nowhere near to being fulfilled.
The unvarnished reality on the ground is that al-Qaeda remains an important factor in the Taliban insurgency. The two terrorist groups are codependent allies, and their partnership endured for nearly 23 years. Currently, the Taliban serves as the primary partner for AQIS, al-Qaeda’s regional affiliate, and almost all other terrorist groups operating in Afghanistan.
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