Under the agreement between the United States and the Taliban signed in Doha in February of 2020, the Taliban pledged to prevent terrorist groups, including al-Qaeda, from operating inside of Afghanistan.
Now, their problems with the Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISIS-K), known locally as Daesh, have gotten increasingly worse.
Since 2014, the fighting between the two groups has steadily increased. On Friday, a suicide bomber exploded a vest bomb inside of a Shia mosque in Kunduz, a city in northeastern Afghanistan. According to the state-run Bakhtar News Agency, the explosion killed at least 46 people and wounded more than 140.
ISIS-K released a statement claiming responsibility for the deadly attack, in the worst loss of life since the Taliban wrested control of the country back from the Afghan government. ISIS-K identified the bomber as an Uyghur Muslim, saying the attack targeted both Shias and the Taliban for their purported willingness to expel Uyghurs to meet Chinese demands.
A week ago, ISIS-K also bombed a mosque in Kabul. In that attack, several people were killed and about a dozen wounded.
Despite the recent attacks, on Saturday, the Taliban said it would not cooperate with the United States on eliminating extremist groups like the Islamic State from Afghanistan.
During a meeting in Doha, Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen told the Associated Press that there would be no cooperation with the U.S. in targeting the terrorist groups operating in Afghanistan. U.S. leaders were pressing the Taliban to honor their commitment to not allow terrorist groups to use Afghanistan as a base to attack the U.S. or its interests again.
“We are able to tackle [ISIS-K] independently,” Shaheen said when he was asked by the AP if the Taliban would cooperate with the United States.
The Biden administration has tried to downplay the level of terrorist activity in Afghanistan, especially that of al-Qaeda.
“There’s a greater danger from ISIS and al-Qaeda and all these affiliates in other countries – by far – than there is in Afghanistan,” President Biden said in late August.
After the chaotic withdrawal of the U.S. in August, the Taliban said they do not want U.S. anti-terrorism assistance. They warned the Biden administration against any so-called “over-the-horizon” strikes on Afghan territory from outside the country’s borders.
The Taliban’s approach is pragmatic: They can’t very well cooperate with the United States in targeting ISIS-K/Daesh because this would expose their continuing lie that al-Qaeda doesn’t have any presence in the country.
They also have turned their backs on and ignored the plight of their fellow Muslims, the Uyghurs, who have been persecuted and suffer greatly under the Chinese.
The Taliban, and Pakistanis who played both sides in the U.S.-Taliban conflict for 20 years, want the financial benefits from the projected Belt and Road Initiative that will pass through China into Central and South Asia. Pakistani Air Force aircraft conducted airstrikes on Northern Alliance fighters in the Panjshir Valley, who had continued to fight the Taliban after the government’s collapse.
While publicly rejecting the West and its ways, the Taliban have shown that they are quite willing to deal with the mass murderers of fellow Muslims when it is in their economic interests to do so. Last month, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said that the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative is the region’s most important economic venture.
In the upcoming Doha meetings, the U.S. is expected to push the Taliban to allow U.S. green-card holders and Afghans who have worked for the U.S.-led coalition to leave, allow humanitarian agencies to enter the country, and protect the rights of women.