The United States has told the Taliban it will “take action” including precision drone strikes if it allows terrorist organisations to regroup in Afghanistan.
It is the strongest warning to the group since it seized power last August, amid concerns about a rise in militant activity following the Islamic State's unsuccessful attempt to assassinate Pakistan's Head of Mission in Kabul last week.
“We also have capabilities when it comes to counterterrorism in the region that does not leave us entirely beholden to the Taliban,” said US State Department Spokesperson, Ned Price, on Thursday. “We demonstrated those capabilities in recent months with the killing of the now-deceased al-Qaeda emir, Ayman al-Zawahiri.”
“We will take action if we see international terrorists regrouping in Afghanistan. We will take action in a way that protects our interests.”
In July, a precision US drone strike killed Mr al-Zawahiri, 71, who had taken over as leader of al-Qaeda after the death of Osama bin Laden in 2011, as he stood on the balcony of a safehouse in an upmarket Kabul neighbourhood.
Senior Taliban leaders are said to have permitted the emir to have lived in Kabul for several months by the time he was killed, causing consternation in Washington.
A peace deal agreed between the US and the Taliban in 2020, known as the Doha Agreement, led to NATO troops being withdrawn from Afghanistan under the condition the Taliban did not let the country become a safe haven for terrorists.
However, the Taliban has failed to impose rule of law across the vast country, allowing the emergence of the IS in Afghanistan’s power vacuum.
IS has carried out at least 220 attacks in Afghanistan since the Taliban returned to power last August and the Pentagon has warned that the group will be ready to launch international strikes by April 2023.
Attacks on Pakistan
In his address, Mr Price added that Washington would also work alongside Islamabad to curb a growing threat posed by the Tehreek-e-Taliban (TTP), a militant group allied with the Afghan Taliban, which is launching deadly attacks almost daily against the Pakistani authorities.
Last week, the TTP officially declared an end to its shaky ceasefire with Islamabad, ordering its members to carry out attacks “wherever you can” in Pakistan.
Islamabad has expressed concern that the Afghan Taliban is again permitting the TTP to cross the border and use its territory to launch attacks against Pakistan.
The Afghan Taliban is known to have provided logistical support to the TTP in the past – having the TTP de facto rule swathes of the Afghan-Pakistan border provides Kabul with a buffer zone against any potential military action from the Pakistani government.
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