By: The Kabul Times
KABUL: An emboldened Taliban poses a severe and expanding threat to the government of Afghanistan, remains close to al-Qaeda, and believes it can return to power by force if necessary, according to a United Nations Security Council report released on Wednesday.
The report compiled by the UN Monitoring Team, which is tasked with tracking security threats in Afghanistan, paints a bleak picture of the security outlook, CNN reported.
The UNSC report comes half way through the US and foreign troops withdrawal from Afghanistan – a retrograde expected to be finished by September 11.
According to the agreement, signed last year between the US and the Taliban, the insurgent group pledged to cut ties with terrorist groups including al-Qaeda.
But the UN Monitoring Team says the Taliban remains “closely aligned” with al-Qaeda — which has threatened “war on all fronts” against the US.
The two groups “show no indication of breaking ties,” even if they have temporarily tried to mask their connections, according to the report, although it notes that the Taliban calls this “false information.” According to the UN report, 2020 was the “most violent year ever recorded by the United Nations in Afghanistan.”
Security incidents have risen over 60% in the first three months of 2021 compared to the same period in 2020. The UN team says that the Taliban is “reported to be responsible for the great majority of targeted assassinations that have become a feature of the violence in Afghanistan and that appear to be undertaken with the objective of weakening the capacity of the government and intimidating civil society.” The report also indicates that part of the Taliban leadership has no interest in the peace process, saying that “both deputy leaders of the Taliban, Mullah Mohammad Yaqub Omari and Sirajuddin Haqqani are reported by Member States to oppose peace talks and favour a military solution.”
Haqqani is the commander of the Haqqani network, a powerful semi-autonomous force within the Taliban structure. According to the UN, Mullah Yaqub, son of the late Taliban founder Mullah Omar, was appointed as head of the Taliban’s Military Commission in May 2020. The UN Monitors assess that the “security situation in Afghanistan remains as tense and challenging as at any time in recent history,” with member states reporting that the “Taliban have been emboldened to sustain attacks for longer periods while also exercising greater freedom of movement. This has allowed the Taliban to mass forces around key provincial capitals and district centers, enabling them to remain poised to launch attacks,” CNN reported.
The UN monitors added that many believe the Taliban are “seeking to shape future military operations when levels of departing foreign troops are no longer able to effectively respond.”
According to the UN report, member states assess that the Taliban “contest or control an estimated 50 to 70 percent of Afghan territory outside of urban centers, while also exerting direct control over 57 percent of district administrative centers.”
The report assesses that, despite twenty years of warfare, Taliban numbers remain “robust” and “recruitment has remained steady” — with estimates of the insurgent group’s fighting strength ranging from 58,000 to 100,000, CNN reported.