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Taliban denies knowing of al-Qaeda presence after Zawahiri killed in Kabul

KABUL The Taliban regime said Thursday it had been unaware that al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri was residing in the Afghan capital, four days after President Biden announced a U.S. drone strike killed Zawahiri early Sunday at a residence he was occupying in central Kabul.

Within their first formal reaction to the attack, issued on WhatsApp and Twitter, Taliban officials strongly condemned the U.S. strike. AMERICA invaded our territory and violated international principles, the Taliban said in a statement. It warned that when such action is repeated, the duty for just about any consequences will undoubtedly be on america.

Simultaneously, the Taliban insisted that there surely is no threat to any country, including America, from the soil of Afghanistan. It said the Afghan government really wants to implement the Doha pact, a peace agreement in 2020 between U.S. and Taliban officials that included a Taliban pledge never to harbor extremist groups such as for example al-Qaeda.

The statement also said that Taliban leaders have ordered several investigative agencies to conduct a thorough and serious investigation in to the incident.

The statement was issued after senior Taliban figures reportedly held high-level meetings to choose how to react to the drone strike. By saying it had been unacquainted with Zawahiris arrival or stay static in the administrative centre, the Taliban appeared to be issuing a broader denial of its ties with al-Qaeda generally. U.S. and U.N. intelligence assessments have said those ties are strong and ongoing.

The Talibans declare that it had no understanding of Zawahiris presence drew immediate skepticism. It beggars belief that Zawahiri could live where he did so long as he did and minus the Taliban knowing, said Michael Kugelman, a specialist on the spot at the Wilson Center in Washington. Not all Taliban knew, however, many Taliban will need to have known.

Administration officials in Washington have described a painstaking, months-long surveillance effort that preceded the drone strike, partly to make sure that the mark was correct and partly to avoid civilian casualties. The home where Zawahiri was reported killed is within an upscale urban district with large mansions built near one another.

The state denial of Zawahiris presence seemed aimed partly at saving face following the humiliation to be struggling to protect a senior guest and at lowering tensions with america regardless of the statements pro forma condemnation.

The Taliban, facing a humanitarian and overall economy in the united states, is desperate to win international recognition and access some $7 billion in Afghan funds frozen by the Biden administration.

Furthermore, Zawahiris death raises an awkward internal religious issue for the Taliban due to Muslim customs requiring quick burials and large formal funerals for dignitaries. Although Zawahiri didn’t wield just as much authority in al-Qaeda as his predecessor, Osama bin Laden, his relations with the Taliban were old and deep.

Previously several days, many experts have said the embarrassment of the drone strike might drive the Taliban toward a far more hard-line posture and also a closer relationship with al-Qaeda along with other extremist groups, despite its pledge in the Doha agreement to renounce them.

The Zawahiri killing, perpetrated by way of a unilateral U.S. military action, has embarrassed the Taliban and exploded their myth they dont have ties to al-Qaeda, said Kugelman, deputy director of the Wilson Centers Asia program.

Should they stay quiet concerning the raid and dont have a confrontational position toward the U.S., they risk antagonizing their rank and file and alienating militant allies, Kugelman said. The Taliban cant afford those outcomes at an instant when theyre already struggling to consolidate domestic legitimacy and manage an acute overall economy.

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