Even as several Afghan ministers are set to visit Islamabad to push leaders there to rein in the Taliban after the recent wave of deadly attacks in Kabul, Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri has pledged loyalty to the new Taliban chief Mullah Akhtar Mansoor.
Kabul says Taliban attacks have become more powerful and deadlier after Mansoor was recently named the group’s leader.
In an audio message posted online, Zawahiri said: “As emir of al-Qaeda, I pledge to you our allegiance, following the path of Sheikh (Osama) bin Laden and his martyred brothers in their allegiance to Mullah Omar.”
He also offered his condolences over the death of Omar to whom Mansoor was very loyal.
Zawahiri pledge of loyalty will makes Mansoor’s legitimacy stronger.
Mullah Yacoob, Mullah Omar’s oldest son, has questioned Masoor’s choice and walked out of a meeting called to elect a new leader.
Kabul bid to rein in Taliban
The Afghan delegation, consisting of the foreign minister, acting defence minister and head of the National Directorate of Security (NDS), during their visit to Pakistan, would ask Islamabad for “concrete action” against the Taliban, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s spokesman Zafar Hashemi said.
Kabul has long blamed Pakistan for supporting and funding militant groups active in Afghanistan.
On Wednesday, the NDS accused the Pakistani military of being involved in terrorist attacks in Kabul over the past week that killed more than 50 people.
“The Afghan delegation will meet Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his security advisor Sartaj Aziz,” said Shekib Mostaghni, the Foreign Ministry spokesman.
He said the delegation will present documents that prove Pakistan’s involvement in the recent deadly attacks, and its support to the insurgent groups.
The delegation will not meet the Pakistani military leadership, which observers say controls foreign policy on Afghanistan.
The news of the visit comes after Ghani called on Pakistan to crack down on the Taliban for the terror strikes the group unleashed on Afghanistan.
In a rare public rebuke of Afghanistan’s nuclear-armed neighbor, Ghani in a televised address August 10 blamed Pakistan for supporting the insurgents in their 14-year war against Kabul.
“The last few days have shown that suicide-bomber training camps and bomb-producing factories that are killing our people are as active as before in Pakistan,” Ghani said. “We want action against the organizers.”
“We know they have sanctuaries there, we know they are active there,” Ghani said, referring to Taliban leaders living in tribal-governed regions of Pakistan. “We need all those activities to be stopped.”
Since assuming office a year ago, Ghani has pursued closer relations with Pakistan, which wields influence over the insurgent group, hoping that it could use that influence to bring the Taliban into peace negotiations.
But in a sign that he is no longer giving top priority to peace talks, Ghani said: “We hoped for peace, but we are receiving messages of war from Pakistani territory…. We don’t want Pakistan to bring the Taliban to peace talks, but to stop the Taliban’s activities on their soil.”
Lamenting the more than 50 Afghans killed in Taliban attacks in recent days, Ghani said: “We will make peace only with those who believe in the meaning of being a human, Muslim and Afghan, and who do not destroy their own country on orders from foreign masters.”
Ghani warned that the recent warming of relations with Pakistan could end.
“Our relations with Pakistan are based on our national interests, on top of which comes security and the safety of our people,” he said. “If our people continue to be killed, relations lose meaning…. I hope it will not happen.”
Pakistan sought to calm Ghani’s anger, saying it remains committed to maintaining good relations with Kabul. A statement from Islamabad’s Foreign Ministry said that after losing tens of thousands of its own people to terrorist attacks, Pakistan can feel the “pain and anguish of the brotherly people” of Afghanistan over the latest attacks there.
“Pakistan condemns these deadly attacks in Afghanistan in the strongest terms,” the ministry said, adding that Pakistan will continue to support and facilitate an “Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace and reconciliation process” with the Taliban.