With the third anniversary of the signing of the Doha Agreement between the Taliban and the United States, accusations continue to surround the Afghan movement of not adhering to the terms of the agreement, which stipulate that terrorist groups should not be allowed to take Afghanistan as a safe haven for their operations, whether against their regional surroundings or against the interests of the coalition countries. Among these groups is ISIS, whose relations with the movement vary between contentment with its existence at times and bloody battles at other times.
With the increase of these accusations, the Taliban’s acting Minister of Refugees and Returnees, Khalil Rahman Haqqani, appeared at the end of February during a meeting he held to celebrate the third anniversary of the signing of the Doha Agreement and said, according to the Afghan newspaper Hasht-e Subh Daily, “I swear before God that this group (meaning the Taliban) did not and will not violate the Doha Agreement.”
“We are Muslims; we believe in God. We defend our agreement, and we are committed to our agreement,” Haqqani said, adding that those who demand the movement to abide by the Doha Agreement must first abide by it themselves, calling on the United States to fulfill its pledge, as Washington has not yet recognized the Taliban regime.
Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, economic deputy to the Taliban prime minister, said during the meeting that the United States not only refuses to interact with the terrorist group, but also prevents other countries from dealing with it.
However, this defense does not negate the intertwined relations between the Taliban and terrorist organizations in Afghanistan, especially al-Qaeda and ISIS. The establishment of the ISIS Khorasan Province, which was the movement’s first human tributary to the terrorist organization, attracted dissidents from the movement, including prominent leaders, headed by the first leader of Khorasan Province, Hafiz Saeed Khan.
Before the establishment of the Khorasan Province in the region extending between Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan, there was a state of contentment with ISIS within the movement, as the Taliban movements of Afghanistan and Pakistan declared their allegiance to the organization on October 4, 2014, when Pakistani Taliban spokesman Shahidullah Shahid addressed ISIS by saying, “We, our brothers, are proud of you and your victories, and we are with you in your joys and sorrows.”
Within a year of the establishment of Khorasan Province, the relations between the two parties began to enter another stage, which is the stage of conflict. ISIS contributed to fueling the divisions within the movement after the attempt to assassinate Hafiz Saeed Khan and the assassination of his assistant, Abdul Rauf Khadim, in 2016. It also took advantage of the Taliban’s failure to announce the death of Mullah Omar, the movement’s first leader, creating new cracks within the movement so that the organization could pick up the dissidents, which it succeeded in doing.
This prompted the Taliban Shura Council to send a letter in the name of the deputy emir of the Islamic Emirate, Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour, to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi on June 16, 2015, demanding non-interference in Afghan affairs.
After the Taliban came to power
Despite the state of entanglement between the Afghan movement and the terrorist organization, ISIS declared hostility to the Taliban directly and carried out an operation to welcome the Taliban’s accession to power by targeting Kabul Airport with an armed attack that killed and injured dozens, including American soldiers. The organization also took advantage of the truce that the Taliban tried to show with the Shiites by targeting their mosques, as well as Sufi mosques that are closer to the movement’s ideological orientation.
With the increase in operations carried out by the terrorist organization in Afghanistan and some statements by Taliban officials suggested satisfaction with the situation or underestimating the dangers posed by ISIS, accusations began to besiege the movement of harboring terrorists or providing a safe haven for them. The frequency of these accusations increased after al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri was killed in a building belonging to the Minister of Interior in the Taliban government.
Fire under the ashes
Hussein Mutawea, a researcher in Islamic and Salafist groups, explained that there are no ashes without fire, and the Taliban’s attempts to disavow its ideology and its relations with armed groups do not stand firm in the face of reality, despite the differences and conflicts between them and these groups that sometimes reach the point of making takfir against the movement, as happened recently with ISIS.
Mutawea said that the statements of the movement’s leaders about adherence to the Doha Agreement may have political relevance, as it is declared that the movement is fighting ISIS, and the organization is carrying out armed operations against the movement, but it remains that the ideological tributaries between the two groups are the same, in addition to the fact that the movement was the first human contributor to the organization.
The Taliban’s current capabilities are not commensurate with the fight against ISIS, he noted, adding that this is a reality even if the movement had a political will for that, although it is not yet clear if this will exists.