After a campaign cycle endorsement the Taliban issued the group’s first reaction to the results of the presidential election, stating that the deal leading to pullout of U.S. troops from Afghanistan should continue despite high levels of terrorist violence.
Since inking a deal with the United States in a Doha ceremony on Feb. 29, the Taliban have touted the agreement “ending the occupation,” as the pact is described in their propaganda, as a victory for not just their jihadists but all who have fought in the name of Islam. Monitors have reported that a key cog of the deal — the Taliban vow to cut ties with al-Qaeda — has not occurred; Edmund Fitton-Brown, coordinator of the United Nations monitoring team for ISIS, al-Qaeda and the Taliban, said last month that not only do senior al-Qaeda figures remain in Afghanistan “as well as hundreds of armed operatives,” but the Taliban regularly consulted with their longtime terror allies during negotiations with the U.S.
And the Special Inspector General for SIGAR Afghanistan Reconstruction’s 49th Quarterly Report to Congress, released last week, stated that “U.S. officials have recently indicated that the Taliban is not fully meeting other commitments stipulated in or broadly part of the U.S.-Taliban agreement — in particular those regarding counterterrorism guarantees and reduced Taliban violence — whose importance U.S. officials have stressed repeatedly.”
Trump told reporters in September, ahead of the initiation of talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban to craft a peace deal, that “we’re getting along very, very well with the Taliban.” A senior Taliban leader told CBS News shortly before the election that the group hoped President Trump would win “and wind up U.S. military presence in Afghanistan.” The Trump campaign swiftly rejected the Taliban endorsement.
In a new statement issued on the group’s website today, three days after news organizations declared that former Vice President Joe Biden secured the electoral votes to become president in January, the Taliban said, “American elections and transition of administration is an internal issue of the United States.”
“The Islamic Emirate would like to stress to the new American president-elect and future administration that implementation of the agreement is the most reasonable and effective tool for ending the conflict between both our countries,” the Taliban continued. “Withdrawal of all U.S. forces from Afghanistan, non-interference in our country and not allowing the use of Afghanistan to threaten America is in the interest of both our peoples and our nations.”
The Taliban added that the group seeks “positive relations with all countries of the world including America in the future,” and declared that “the future American president and administration need to be vigilant of war-mongering circles, individuals and groups that seek to perpetuate the war and to keep America mired in conflict in order to pursue their own personal interests and hold over power.”
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told CBS News in October that they believed Trump would win the election “because he has proved himself a politician who accomplished all the major promises he had made to American people, although he might have missed some small things, but did accomplish the bigger promises, so it is possible that the U.S. people who experienced deceptions in the past will once again trust Trump for his decisive actions.”
“We think the majority of the American population is tired of instability, economic failures and politicians’ lies and will trust again on Trump because Trump is decisive, could control the situation inside the country. Other politicians, including Biden, chant unrealistic slogans,” Mujahid continued. “Some other groups, which are smaller in size but are involved in the military business including weapons manufacturing companies’ owners and others who somehow get the benefit of war extension, they might be against Trump and support Biden, but their numbers among voters is low.”
The SIGAR report said that Taliban adherence to the deal — including reducing violence — would impact whether the U.S. would fully withdraw forces from Afghanistan in May 2021 as planned. “The uptick in Taliban violence in October continued the high enemy violence trends seen this quarter. According to USFOR-A, average daily enemy-initiated attacks were 50% higher this quarter (July–September) than last quarter (April–June),” the report said. “Overall enemy-initiated attacks this quarter were also characterized as ‘above seasonal norms.’”
SIGAR said the Defense Department said, “The Taliban is calibrating its use of violence to harass and undermine the ANDSF and [the Afghan government], but [to] remain at a level it perceives is within the bounds of the agreement, probably to encourage a U.S. troop withdrawal and set favorable conditions for a post-withdrawal Afghanistan.”
“DOD also told SIGAR on October 13 that if Taliban violence continues at its ‘unacceptably high’ rate, ‘it could undermine the agreement,'” the IG noted.
Helmand province officials reported in July that al-Qaeda was training Taliban fighters, while a report from the United Nation’s Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team found that al-Qaeda and the Taliban had held a series of meetings on “cooperation related to operational planning, training and the provision by the Taliban of safe havens for al-Qaeda members inside Afghanistan,” with al-Qaeda covertly active in 12 provinces as “the Taliban appear to have strengthened their relationship with al-Qaeda rather than the opposite.”
Jane’s Terrorism and Insurgency Centre reported in February that the Taliban drove up the overall terror death toll in 2019 even as global terror attacks were on the decline. Taliban attacks increased by almost 90 percent with their fatalities up by more than 60 percent (more deaths than the next nine deadliest terror groups combined) as they surpassed ISIS to become the world’s deadliest non-state armed group.