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UN says Taliban, al-Qaeda remained close

AT Monitoring Desk

KABUL: The relations between the Taliban and al-Qaeda remained close, said the UN Security Council, adding the emboldened group of the Taliban is posing severe and expanding threat to the Afghan government. According to CNN, the UN Security Council underscored the remarks in a report released last Wednesday. With the last remaining U.S. troop due to leave Afghanistan in the coming months, the report compiled by the UN Monitoring Team, which is charged with tracking security threats in Afghanistan, paints a bleak picture of the security outlook. It will be uncomfortable reading for the Biden administration as it works to end the U.S. military presence in the country.Biden has pledged to withdraw all remaining U.S. forces by September 11 — the twentieth anniversary of 9/11.As part of last year’s agreement between the preceding Trump administration and the Taliban, the insurgents promised to instruct its members “not to cooperate with groups or individuals threatening the security of the United States and its allies” as a quid pro quo for U.S. troop withdrawal.But the UN Monitoring Team says the Taliban remains “closely aligned” with terrorist network al-Qaeda — which has threatened “war on all fronts” against the U.S..The two groups “show no indication of breaking ties,” even if they have temporarily tried to mask their connections, according to the report, although it notes that the Taliban calls this “false information,” according to the report.The departure of U.S. troops comes with violence in Afghanistan at its highest level in two decades. According to the UN report, 2020 was the “most violent year ever recorded by the United Nations in Afghanistan.” Security incidents have risen over 60% in the first three months of 2021 compared to the same period in 2020.The UN team says that the Taliban is “reported to be responsible for the great majority of targeted assassinations that have become a feature of the violence in Afghanistan and that appear to be undertaken with the objective of weakening the capacity of the Government and intimidating civil society.” And it contends that part of the Taliban leadership has no interest in the peace process, saying that “both deputy leaders of the Taliban, Mullah Mohammad Yaqub Omari and Sirajuddin Haqqani are reported by Member States to oppose peace talks and favour a military solution.”Haqqani is the commander of the Haqqani network, a powerful semi-autonomous force within the Taliban structure. According to the UN, Mullah Yaqub (also spelled Yaqoob), son of the late Taliban founder Mullah Omar, was appointed as head of the Taliban’s Military Commission in May 2020.The UN Monitors assess that the “security situation in Afghanistan remains as tense and challenging as at any time in recent history,” with member states reporting that the “Taliban have been emboldened to sustain attacks for longer periods while also exercising greater freedom of movement. This has allowed the Taliban to mass forces around key provincial capitals and district centres, enabling them to remain poised to launch attacks.”They add that many believe the Taliban are “seeking to shape future military operations when levels of departing foreign troops are no longer able to effectively respond.”According to the UN report, member states assess that the Taliban “contest or control an estimated 50 to 70 per cent of Afghan territory outside of urban centers, while also exerting direct control over 57 per cent of district administrative centers.”

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