Al-Zawahiri's death: Foot soldiers apprehensive Taliban repeating 2001

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KABUL: Breaking the long slilence, the Taliban leadership has spoken up about the al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri’s killing in a US drone strike, saying the attack was against the Doha agreement and international principles; however, lower-rank Taliban voiced concern over the leadership’s ties with al-Qaeda, which they believe will set the ‘Islamic Emirate’ on the path to downfall.


President Joe Biden confirmed on Tuesday that the US had killed the leader of al-Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahiri, in a counter-terrorism operation carried out by the CIA in the Afghan capital Kabul on Sunday.


In a much-expected reaction from the Taliban, Mullah Abdul Salam Hanafi, Deputy Prime Minister of the Taliban, on Wednesday told reporters that the US drone attack in Kabul was against the Doha Agreement and international principles. Nevertheless, he expressed ignorance about having accurate information regarding the casualties in this attack.


This is the first time a high-ranking Taliban official has made such a statement regarding the latest US attack.


But the American officials said that they had already clarified to the Taliban in the past that if they noticed any Al-Qaeda activity in Afghanistan or realized there was a threat to the United States, they would carry out operations.


On the other hand, reports say that many officials, including the Taliban’s defense and interior ministers, have left Kabul for Kandahar for consultations on an official reaction and opinion regarding the US strike.


Local residents in Kabul also reported that the usual checkpoints were not manned on Wednesday.


This is while Taliban foot soldiers are surprised by the killing of the Al-Qaeda’s leader in Kabul, saying the Taliban leaders no longer kept their promises – a red flag that might further deepen rifts within the group.


Taliban soldiers in Ghazni, a province of many Taliban sympathizers and officials who hold high posts in the Taliban government, say if the Taliban have truly violated the Doha agreement in terms of not severing ties with Al-Qaeda, then “it can greatly damage and destroy the foundation of the Islamic Emirate.”


These Taliban sympathizers admitted that the Taliban leaders were not independent and that foreign intelligence circles were advising them, something that would lead to the destruction of the Islamic Emirate.


“If Taliban do not give up their stubbornness, they will witness the fate of 2001, and most of the fighters of this group will pledge allegiance to the Islamic State (IS-K) group.”