Taliban ‘will likely loosen’ al Qaeda restrictions in Afghanistan, US predicts
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A new Department of Defense Inspector General report reveals that despite State Department beliefs that the Taliban is working to curb al Qaeda‘s capabilities in accordance with a 2020 agreement, military officials do not believe this will last.
The 2020 Doha Agreement, which ultimately led to the American withdrawal from Afghanistan in August 2021, called for Afghanistan to take counterterrorism measures against al Qaeda and other groups. The IG report notes that the State Department assessed “that the Taliban has taken steps to implement” much of these commitments.
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“However,” the report says, “USCENTCOM assessed that the Taliban will likely loosen these restrictions over the next 12 to 24 months, allowing al-Qaeda greater freedom of movement and the ability to train, travel, and potentially re-establish an external operations capability.”
According to the report, U.S. Central Command believes that the Taliban is currently keeping al Qaeda under control despite “longstanding relationships” between the two groups’ leaders, “due to the Taliban’s efforts to achieve international legitimacy.”
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Lead Inspector General Sean O’Donnell said in a message included with the report that he believes al Qaeda kept “a low profile” of late “likely at the behest of the Taliban.”
According to General McKenzie, al Qaeda “still maintains an aspirational desire to attack the United States,” yet the Taliban is not taking as strong of a position against them than they are against ISIS-K.
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The report says that in the Defense Intelligence Agency’s view, “al-Qaeda and al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent probably do not have the capability to conduct directed attacks in the U.S. homeland.”