In order to hasten the American withdrawal from Afghanistan, Ashraf Ghani and his allies have resorted to conspiracy theories. Their new claim is that the Taliban and ISIS are allies. Never mind that the beliefs, ideologies, and goals of the two groups are quite different, at times opposite. They also have a long history of battlefield clashes. The Taliban’s DNA is nationalistic. They want a free Afghanistan. ISIS wants to include Afghanistan in their Khorasan province. Speaking about ISIS, Zabiullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, said, “They call us infidels and polytheists, God forbid. And we consider them… expelled from Islam.”
Late last month, a UN report was released conveniently concluding that there are active links between the Taliban and Al Qaeda, putting a huge question mark over the peace deal between the United States and the Taliban. Let us examine that one.
The report says, “The Monitoring Team [that wrote the report] remained in regular contact and close cooperation with the Government of Afghanistan.” I am not surprised at the report’s finding after closely working with Ghani’s government. The team gathered information for the report by “consultations with intelligence and security services of member states”. I wonder what intelligence agencies did they consult: NDS and RAW. Again, it is not unexpected that the information given to the team would discredit the Taliban and raise questions about their commitment to the peace deal. Corrupted intelligence was used to sell the American people on the Iraq war. Has nothing been learnt?
More importantly, almost all newspapers are trying to argue how these links between the Taliban and Al Qaeda represent a breach of the peace deal signed between the US and the Taliban. Time magazine said that the report “shows the Islamist militant group has failed to fulfill one of the central tenets of the agreement”. The problem is that even if we believe the report’s questionable finding, severing ties was never the “central tenet of the agreement”. The peace deal talks about not allowing any foreign terrorist group to use Afghanistan’s soil, which the Taliban control, to plan and execute attacks against the US and its allies.
The text of the deal pertaining to this fact says, “The Taliban will not allow any of its members, other individuals or groups, including Al Qaeda, to use the soil of Afghanistan to threaten the security of the US and its allies.” That the Taliban must not “cooperate with groups or individuals threatening the security of the US and its allies.” That “the Taliban will prevent any group or individual in Afghanistan from threatening the security of the US and its allies, and will prevent them from recruiting, training, and fundraising and will not host them.”
That asylum requests would be handled “according to international migration law and the commitments of this agreement, so that such persons do not pose a threat to the security of the United States and its allies”. Finally, the deal says that “the Taliban will not provide visas, passports, travel permits, or other legal documents to those who pose a threat to the security of the United States and its allies to enter Afghanistan”.
In the entire text of the deal, I have not found anywhere where it says the Taliban must end its ties with Al Qaeda. It talks about not letting them, or anyone else, use Afghan land to plan and execute attacks against the US and its allies. There is a difference between severing relations with an ally and not allowing it to use your land to attack another country. So, the spin doctors writing for major daily newspapers omitting disturbing facts that go against their spin is textbook propaganda. It is third class journalism. If they want to make money, I suggest they sell their fiction rights to Netflix.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 11th, 2020.
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