Al-Qaeda's regional affiliate in Afghanistan maintains “close ties” to the Taliban and has an "enduring interest" in attacking US troops, the Pentagon said in a new report released on Wednesday.
Al-Qaeda poses a "limited threat to US personnel and our partners in Afghanistan," the report said, adding that the Al-Qaeda affiliate in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS)—"poses the greatest threat to those elements.”
“Al-Qaeda routinely supports and works with low-level Taliban members in its efforts to undermine the Afghan government and maintains an enduring interest in attacking US forces and Western targets in the region,” it said.
The report also said that Al-Qaeda "assists local Taliban in some attacks," according to Al-Qaeda statements, the report said.
Al-Qaeda will focus on ensuring “its safe haven remains viable. The few remaining Al-Qaeda Core members focus largely on survival, while delegating leadership of AQ’s regional presence to AQIS leaders," according to the report.
Additionality, the report said that Al-Qaeda's interest in attacking US forces and other Western targets in Afghanistan and the region persists, but continuing "Coalition CT (counter -terrorism) pressure has reduced AQIS’s ability to conduct operations in Afghanistan without the support of the Taliban.
The report also said that the Taliban and Haqqani Network “very likely maintain the capability to conduct explosive and other offensive operations against Afghan and Coalition forces. At the beginning of the reporting period, Taliban offensive operations briefly decreased during the weeklong RIV in February 2020.”
Since the US-Taliban Agreement was signed, the Taliban has reduced violence against US and other foreign forces, but has continued its offensive operations against the ANDSF and Afghan government officials.
“The Taliban is calibrating its use of violence to harass and undermine the ANDSF and GIRoA, but remain at a level it perceives is within the bounds of the agreement, probably to encourage a US troop withdrawal and set favorable conditions for a post-withdrawal Afghanistan,” according to the report.
The US government expects the Taliban to fulfill its commitments under the agreement, which specifically states that withdrawal of troops below 8,600 will happen “with the commitment and action on the obligations” by the Taliban of their part of the agreement, the report said.