The Taliban-affiliated Haqqani Network discussed the formation of a joint unit with the Al-Qaeda, a US Treasury Department document has revealed.
It assumes significance in the light of the Joe Biden administration’s decision to review the Doha deal to see if the Afghan Taliban were keeping their promise of reducing violence.
The document dated January 4, 2021, claims there has been no change in the financial relationship between the Taliban and other terrorist groups since February 29, 2020 – the date on which the Afghan Taliban and the US had signed the deal.
According to the document, al-Qaeda maintains “close contacts with the Taliban, providing advice, guidance, and financial support”. It says, “as of May 2020, the Taliban and al-Qaeda maintained a strong relationship and continued to meet regularly”.
The document clearly says al-Qaeda was “gaining strength in Afghanistan while continuing to operate with the Taliban under the Taliban’s protection”.
The Haqqani network, which is believed to have the backing of elements within the Pakistani security establishment, maintains a safe haven in North Waziristan across Afghanistan’s southeastern border. Last year, the group had claimed responsibility for the terror attack on a Sikh place of worship in Kabul that killed almost 30 people.
The US government document answers questions from the Pentagon’s lead inspector general. It says Al-Qaeda “capitalizes on its relationship with the Taliban through its network of mentors and advisers who are embedded with the Taliban, providing advice, guidance, and financial support.”
“Senior Haqqani Network figures have discussed forming a new joint unit of armed fighters in cooperation with and funded by Al-Qaeda,” it says.
Denying these claims, a Taliban source has told The Telegraph, a UK daily: “Honestly I don’t see any on-ground cooperation and practical joint activities and contribution between Taliban and al-Qaeda at all. It might be some have an ideological understanding and sympathies still exist.”
Founded by Jalaluddin Haqqani, the Haqqani Network has been accused of targeting Indian interests in Afghanistan. It had carried out a terror attack on the Indian embassy in Kabul in 2008, killing 58 people.
Last year, eight members of a joint team of the Haqqani Network and the Islamic State in Kabul were arrested by Afghan security forces for the attack on the Sikhs.