This would tend to throw a monkey wrench in the works for attempts at peace negotiations with the Taliban. “Al Qaeda ‘operates in Afghanistan under the flag of the Islamic Emirate’: Taliban spokesman,” by Bill Roggio for the Long War Journal, February 18:
A Taliban spokesman who identified himself as an “Authorized Correspondent by the Media Committee of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan” said that the Taliban will not renounce al Qaeda and that the terror group operates under the command of the “Military Command of the Islamic Emirate.”
The Taliban official, Abdullah al Wazir, made the statement yesterday in response to a posting at Shumukh al Islam, a jihadist Internet forum linked to al Qaeda. Wazir was replying to a question from a forum member who thought “that by agreeing to negotiations with the United States, the Afghan Taliban has taken the ‘first step’ to abandon al Qaeda,” said the SITE Intelligence Group, which translated the statement.
“They [al Qaeda] are among the first groups and banners that pledged allegiance to the Emir of the Believers [Mullah Omar, the leader of the Afghan Taliban], and they operate in Afghanistan under the flag of the Islamic Emirate,” Wazir said.
“They are an example of discipline and accuracy in the execution of missions and operations entrusted to them by the Military Command of the Islamic Emirate,” Wazir continued, calling al Qaeda “lions in war.”
Wazir said he was an “Authorized Correspondent by the Media Committee of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.” SITE described Wazir as “the “Afghan Taliban’s correspondent on jihadist forums.”
A US intelligence official who follows the Taliban said that Wazir is a member of the Haqqani Network, the powerful Taliban sub-group that operates in eastern Afghanistan and in Pakistan’s tribal areas. The Haqqanis are closely tied to al Qaeda; Siraj Haqqani, the network’s operational commander, has a seat on al Qaeda’s council, and he and five other members of the network have been added to the US’s list of Specially Designated Global Terrorists for their close ties to al Qaeda.
The Haqqanis routinely conduct join operations with al Qaeda in eastern Afghanistan, and provide shelter, support, and training facilities to leaders and operatives in Pakistan’s Taliban-controlled tribal agency of North Waziristan.
Last fall, Siraj released a training manual which included portions that praised al Qaeda and urged Haqqani Network members to support al Qaeda both locally and in its international operations.
Wazir’s statement was made just two days after the Taliban released an interview with Zahibullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, by CNN. During the interview, Mujahid refused to renounce “international terrorism” or al Qaeda. Mujahid also insisted that as an initial “confidence building measure” the US must take steps including the “exchange of Guantanamo prisoners.” The five Taliban detainees currently under discussion all have been instrumental in forging ties between the Taliban and al Qaeda.