Taliban maintains relations with al Qaeda despite promising to cut ties with the terror group under US-Taliban agreement signed early this year, the Pentagon said in a report.
According to a congressionally mandated Pentagon report released on Wednesday, since the Trump administration's signing of the US-Taliban agreement in February, the Taliban increased violence levels "above historical norms," targetting Afghan military and police convoys and outposts while refraining from attacking major cities or US and coalition personnel, CNN reported.
The Al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) "routinely supports and works with low-level Taliban members in its efforts to undermine the Afghan government and maintains an enduring interest in attacking US forces and Western targets in the region," the report said, adding "despite recent progress in the peace process, AQIS maintains close ties to the Taliban in Afghanistan.
In February, the Trump administration had pledged to cut down US troop level in Afghanistan to 8,600 by mid-July, a reduction that has already been achieved. In return, the Taliban promised to cut ties with al Qaeda and enter into infra-Afghan negotiations with the Afghan government.
According to CNN, despite the apparent Taliban failures to fully adhere to the agreement, US officials said last week that the Trump administration is finalising plans to further substantially reduce the number of American troops in Afghanistan, likely constraining the US military's ability to train and advice its local Afghan allies.
The report also said that Russia has been actively working with the Taliban and other groups inside Afghanistan in order to expedite the withdrawal of US troops from that country.
"As of February, the Russian government was working with the central government, regional countries, and the Taliban to gain increased influence in Afghanistan, expedite a US military withdrawal and address security challenges that might arise from a withdrawal," the report said, which covers the period of December 2019 to May 2020."Russia has politically supported the Taliban to cultivate influence with the group, limit the Western military presence, and encourage counter-ISIS operations, although Russia publicly denies their involvement," the report said, adding that Moscow supports the US-Taliban agreement "in the hope that reconciliation will prevent a long-term US military presence."
Last week, The New York Times cited unnamed government sources who said that Trump was presented with an intelligence report that alleged that Moscow may have offered bounties to the Taliban for the killing of US soldiers.
Trump on Sunday denied ever being briefed on this matter, adding that Vice President Mike Pence and Chief of Staff Mark Meadows were also not given information about the allegations. The President slammed the newspaper for spreading what he called fake news.
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