Taliban comments US claim of killing Al Qaeda chief — Analysis

According to the Taliban government, Afghanistan’s Wednesday statement stated that the Taliban still does not have any information about the fate Al Qaeda leader Ayman Al Zawahiri. This was reportedly after a US drone strike hit Kabul on Saturday.

While the Taliban has not been able to confirm the terrorist leader’s death, Abdul Salam Hanafi, the second deputy Taliban prime minister, condemned Washington’s strike, arguing that it violated Afghanistan’s “sovereignty, international laws and the Doha agreement,”Referring to the 2020 agreement between Washington and the Taliban, that required US-led foreign forces to leave Afghanistan. This is now called the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.

“We still are not aware of these details. All that we know is that an aerial attack has taken place here and our Islamic Emirate strongly condemns it,” Hanafi told reporters in the Afghan capital in what is the Taliban’s first official comment on the alleged killing of al-Zawahiri.

Hanafi went on to reiterate his government’s commitment to not allowing anyone to use the territory of Afghanistan to carry out or plan attacks against neighboring or other countries. “The Islamic Emirate firmly stands by this policy,”He declared.

This statement follows the announcement by Joe Biden, the US president, that the CIA carried out a successful drone attack in Kabul on Monday. The strike eliminated Zawahiri (71 years old), who was believed to be the right-hand man for Osama Bin Laden, one of the main conspirators behind the 2001 attacks.

US officials have in turn accused the Taliban of violating the Doha agreement, claiming that Zawahiri had been hosted in Kabul by senior members of the so-called Haqqani Network – a militant faction within the Taliban believed to have deep ties with Al Qaeda. 

“The Haqqani Taliban members acted quickly to remove Zawahiri’s wife, his daughter and her children to another location, consistent with a broader effort to cover up that they had been living in the safe house,”Voice of America quoted a US State Department official as saying the following:

US issues warning to Americans abroad

The EU’s special envoy for Afghanistan Tomas Niklasson also stated on Twitter on Wednesday that the killing of Zawahiri in central Kabul had “reinforced previous doubts” on the Taliban’s commitment to not allow the country to become a safe haven for terrorists.

According to Suhail Shaheen (head of Doha’s Taliban political office), the Taliban have denied these allegations and insisted that they were unaware of Western claims. 

“IEA is committed to Doha Agreement. To verify the validity of this claim, investigation is currently underway. In this respect, the leadership continues to meet. Findings will be shared with all,”Shaheen spoke to reporters on Wednesday.

The Taliban returned to power in Afghanistan following the US’s sudden withdrawal of its forces in 2019. The Taliban’s rule in Afghanistan has been recognized by the international community, but only if it removes all restrictions on women’s rights or upholds its anti-terrorism promises.

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