Leadership turmoil within the Taliban since the death of the militant group’s founder has fueled closer links with foreign groups like al Qaeda, the new commander of international forces in Afghanistan said, complicating counter-terrorism efforts.
In an interview with Reuters, General John Nicholson pointed to what U.S. officials saw as a shift in the Taliban’s relationship with groups that Washington considers terrorist organizations.
That could influence his assessment of plans to cut U.S. troop numbers next year, because if al Qaeda, which carried out the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the United States, can operate in Afghanistan with increasing freedom, it may pose a greater security threat inside the country and beyond.
That was the very reason NATO forces went into Afghanistan in the first place: to prevent al Qaeda functioning freely while the Taliban, which ruled the country until its ouster at the end of 2001, looked on.
“You see a more overt cooperation between the Taliban and these designated terrorist organizations,” Nicholson said.
“Our concern is that if the Taliban were to return, that because of their close relationships with these groups, that they would offer sanctuary to these groups.”
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