The Taliban and the Jihadis: Where the enemy of my enemy is still not my friend

So the big news from Afghanistan is that the Taliban has a new leader.

Hibatullah Akhundzada is his name, and he’s from Panjwaii District in Kandahar Province, a place very familiar to any Canadians who served in southern Afghanistan during our mission there.

Hibatullah_Akhundzada
Hibatullah Akhundzada

He’s been a high-ranking member of the Taliban since 1996 (how did he stay alive?) and was appointed to his new post after his predecessor was killed in a U.S. drone strike a few weeks ago. Akhtar Mansour was killed in southern Pakistan, on his way back from visiting his family in Iran.

Though the U.S. has, in theory, ended its war against the Taliban, it obviously made an exception in this case. “Mansour has been an obstacle to peace and reconciliation between the government of Afghanistan and the Taliban, prohibiting Taliban leaders from participating in peace talks with the Afghan government that could lead to an end to the conflict,” said Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook.

Afghan Veteran
Canadian soldier goes on patrol in Afghanistan in 2010.
Adam Day
While assassinating a group’s leader as an overture to peace talks is an interesting approach, it has led to something: a combined group of al-Qaida affiliates just released a statement lamenting Mansour’s death. Which means that Al-Qaida and the Taliban are still allies.

And that’s good, possibly, because ISIS is their sworn enemy, and ISIS is our sworn enemy.

So while the Taliban are fighting ISIS, and al-Qaida is fighting ISIS, and the West is fighting ISIS, the West is also still fighting the Taliban.

The situation is complicated. But as Afghanistan heats up for another fighting season and the Taliban take over more and more territory, all signs point toward an eventual peace deal in Afghanistan.

Well, if only the Taliban would stop being friends with al-Qaida.

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