Reactions have been pouring in after the United States killed al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in a drone strike in the capital Kabul, on Sunday.
Many former Afghan diplomats and government officials have highlighted how the reports showcase Taliban’s links with al-Qaeda.
Amrullah Saleh, former vice-president of Afghanistan, tweeted, “Osama Bin Laden was killed in Pakistan and Zawahiri killed in GHQ occupied Kabul.”
Masoud Andarabi, former minister of Interior, said that the killing of al-Zawahiri in Kabul shows the deep relationship between the Taliban and regional and international terrorists. “There is a serious need to form a global consensus against the current rulers in Kabul, who have hosted these terrorists since the past, to curb the threat of terrorism and extremism, and to save the Afghan people from their captivity,” he added.
Former army general of the Republic era, Sayed Sami Sadat, cautioned that al-Zawahiri’s presence in Kabul is only the tip of iceberg. “Like him, there are many other terror leaders in Afghanistan, central Asian terror groups, Pakistanis, Indians and many others today enjoy full security and support from Taliban in Afghanistan,” he added.
He said that the world today is at much greater risk then pre-9/11 attacks as these terrorist groups know to survive, revive and re-establish themselves and the overall umbrella organization for all these terror groups is Taliban just like in 2001. He stressed that Taliban still has ties with the al-Qeada and Afghanistan is again being used by terrorists against Middle East, Israel, Saudi, India and Central Asia along with the EU and US.
The main opposition front to the Taliban, National Resistance Front, also took the opportunity to call out the deteriorating security situation in the country under the Taliban rule. Maisam Nazary, Head of Foreign Relations for NRF, said, “Afghanistan today is once again a sanctuary for the al-Qaeda. The only group continuing the global war on terror is the NRF without any support and assistance.”
The former National Security Advisor of the country, Rangin Dadfar Spanta, also reacted to the reports and criticised the Taliban for still maintaining relations with international terrorist organisations. “Taliban rule was and is structurally and ideologically intertwined with international terrorist networks. As long as Taliban exist as a military movement, this connection will be reproduced and continued. Our strategy must not aim at refining terror, but at democratizing politics,” he said.
He called on the European Union (EU), to free itself from the illusion of the Doha Agreement and the failed diplomats.
Tamim Asey, former deputy defense minister of Afghanistan, said, “Taliban 1.0 harboured Osama Bin Laden who carried out 9/11 attacks. Taliban 2.0 harboured al-Zawahiri in the heart of Kabul who threatened US and the West. A significant number of al-Qaeda and other terror outfit members still live in their guesthouses. So, much for the Taliban changing its narrative.”
Rahmatullah Nabil, former chief of Afghanistan's intelligence, too highlighted the close proximity of Zawahiri’s hideout in Kabul with senior Taliban leaders. He wrote on his Twitter, "Al-Qaeda leaders are housed in Shirpur/Wazir Akbar Khan, near the guest houses of Taliban's interior minister and the deputy chief of intelligence." He added that the Taliban is losing out on gaining international community’s trust due to such actions.
Afghan journalists are also pointing out to the facts on ground. Bilal Sarwary wrote on his Twitter account, “As per my sources, certain Taliban ministers like minister of higher education and others are calling for a state level funeral for Zawahiri, while others like Taliban FM Muttaqi are opposing it. Taliban interior and defence ministers were not in meeting.” He also quoted a source as saying that Zawahiri was relocated to Kabul from Pakistan by Aziz Haqqani.
BBC journalist Yalda Hakim stated that locals living in the area where the air strike took place are wary of the consequences, especially after Taliban condemned the attack. She quoted a local journalist who spoke to the people on the neighbourhood and tweeted, “Over the past couple of months, we’ve seen non-Afghan residents in our neighbourhood. They don’t speak the local languages. We don’t know who they are. The neighbourhood is protected by the Taliban. We used to call this neighbourhood the green zone and apparently it is still the green zone for people like Zawahiri. We cannot believe we are living right next to the most dangerous people on earth.”