Engage Taliban to isolate al-Qaeda

NYU (US) — Engaging older-generation Taliban leaders before they become marginalized by escalating warfare, may be an effective way to separate them from al-Qaeda.

“Many officials believe that the Taliban and al-Qaeda share the same ideology,” says Tom Gregg, head of the Center on International Cooperation at New York University.

“However, it is not an ideology they share; it is more a pragmatic political alliance. And therefore a political approach to the Taliban ultimately could deliver a more practical separation between the two groups.”

Among the study’s conclusions are:

  • The Taliban and al-Qaeda remain two separate groups with different goals, ideologies, and sources of recruitment. There has been friction between these two groups before the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and it remains today.
  • Certain practices by the U.S. military, including night raids and attempts to fragment the Taliban, are helping to create new opportunities for al-Qaeda to reach its objectives to the detriment of U.S. core goals.
  • Engagement of the Taliban in a political process has the potential to create conditions under which the Taliban would renounce al-Qaeda and agree to guarantees against the use of Afghanistan by terrorists, which the U.S. has defined as its core goal.

The older generation of Taliban, who presently still represent the movement, are potential partners for political negotiation, say the study’s authors, Alex Strick van Linschoten and Felix Kuehn.

But there is potential risk of the younger generation to gain momentum within the leadership—and the shift could represent a new stronger bond between the Taliban and al-Qaeda, that could pose an even stronger potential threat to the U.S. and the international community.

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