Washington: More than two months after the killing of al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in Kabul, top US officials met with the Taliban on Saturday. This is the first in-person meeting between the two sides following the drone strike in July this year that led to the killing of al-Zawahiri, CNN reported citing two officials familiar with the talks.
The key Biden administration included the CIA`s deputy director David Cohen and the State Department`s Special Representative for Afghanistan, Tom West. Whereas the Taliban delegation was represented by the head of intelligence Abdul Haq Wasiq.
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The presence of the CIA Deputy Director and the Taliban intelligence head at the meeting signals an emphasis on counterterrorism, the American broadcaster said. This comes after the White House last month called cooperation with the Taliban on counterterrorism “a work in progress,” according to CNN.
In the months after the Taliban seized control of Afghanistan, the Islamic State-Khorasan (ISIS-K) has managed to expand its reach to nearly all of Afghanistan`s provinces. The terrorist group has also stepped up the tempo of its attacks, carrying out suicide bombings, ambushes and assassinations.
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“The Taliban are struggling to prevent ISIS-K attacks, making them look feckless, particularly in Kabul,” Beth Sanner, a former Deputy Director of National Intelligence, was quoted as saying by CNN.
“[Cohen] is likely to deliver a firm message that we will conduct more strikes as we did against Zawahiri if we find that al Qaeda members in Afghanistan are supporting operations that threaten the US or its allies,” he added.
“ISIS-K now poses an internal Afghan threat, to the Taliban and to sectarian stability given ISIS-K`s focus on killing Shias, but there is some reasonable concern that ISIS-K could ultimately turn its sights on external plotting if the Taliban is unable to contain them.”
Last month, the United Nations raised growing security concerns in Afghanistan while highlighting worrisome trends witnessed in recent months, particularly the continuing presence of foreign terrorist groups in the country.
The concerns were raised in the latest quarterly Afghanistan report of the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to the Security Council.
“The security situation reveals a worrisome trend in recent months, particularly the series of attacks by ISIL-K, recurring armed opposition clashes with Taliban de facto security forces and the continuing presence of foreign terrorist groups in Afghanistan,” the report said.
It said the Taliban`s commitment to ensuring that no group or individual will use the soil of Afghanistan to threaten the security of other countries must be sustained through concrete actions.