A senior UN official has said that al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri has maintained close ties with the Taliban despite the Taliban’s assurance to the United States to cut ties with the group.
“Senior figures remain in Afghanistan, as well as hundreds of armed operatives,” the coordinator of the United Nations monitoring team for Daesh, al-Qaida and the Taliban, Edmund Fitton-Brown, said Friday during a webinar on the future of Afghanistan as quoted by VOA.
According to the UN official, the Taliban consulted on regular basis with al-Qaeda during the peace negotiations with the US.
“[Al-Qaida leader] Ayman al-Zawahiri remains close to the Taliban,” he said. “The Taliban regularly consulted with al-Qaida during the negotiations with the United States and they offered informal guarantees that would honor their historic ties with al-Qaeda.”
Taliban in a message to TOLOnews rejected the claims, saying certain intelligence groups are trying to disrupt peace in Afghanistan.
Meanwhile, US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad in a conversation with US Institute of Peacesaid Iran wants the US to remain engaged in the Afghan war and is not supporting the peace process in Afghanistan.
Under the US-Taliban peace agreement signed between the two in Doha on February 29, the Taliban committed to halt all kinds of ties with terrorist organizations including Al Qaeda.
“I think it’s difficult to speak about Iran because there isn’t one Iran, there are two Irans. There is foreign ministry Iran which says positive things and expresses ideas or makes statements that could be construed as supportive of a peace process, but there is another Iran that would like to keep the US entangled in a war that they would like to be unwinnable,” said Khalilzad.
Although Khalilzad described Pakistan’s role in the Afghan peace process as positive, but the Indian Foreign Minister accused Pakistan of harboring terrorism in the region.
“Terrorism from Pakistan continues, terrorism from Pakistan remains publicly acknowledged by their government as a policy that they are justifying so it makes it very hard to conduct normal relations with them,” said India’s External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar in a conversation with Asia Society.
Iranian and Pakistani embassies in the past have rejected such claims.