As the war-torn Afghanistan awaits peace while US-Taliban deal to end the conflict remains underway, a report by The Washington Post has revealed that the US has been providing covert help to the Taliban in Afghanistan.
As per the report, soon after the deal was finalised, the United States’ Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) began carrying out a mission (jokingly known as ‘Taliban Air Force’), which helps the old foes Taliban with air support in its fight against ISIS in Afghanistan’s northeastern Kunar Province by listening to their communication.
The tools such as reaper drones which were earlier used to spy on the Taliban were being used to figure out where they needed help.
“By using such signals intelligence, members of the task force told me, they could tell when and where in the mountains the Taliban was preparing thrusts against the Islamic State, then plan airstrikes where they would be most useful,” the report by Wesley Morgan says.
The US, as per the report, was helping the Taliban even when warplanes undertook strikes against the terror group in different parts of Afghanistan. The target is to help the Taliban weaken the Islamic State in Konar.
Morgan has shared that both Taliban and the ISIS are trying to gain control in the Korengal and its lucrative timber business, but US has been intervening in the region by undertaking strikes from drones and other aircraft only against ISIS in the region.
“What we’re doing with the strikes against ISIS is helping the Taliban move,” a member of the elite Joint Special Operations Command counterterrorism task force based at Bagram airbase has been quoted in the report as saying.
The report has come at a time when the US is 10 days away from the Presidential elections, scheduled for 3rd November. US President Donald Trump, ever since coming to power, has committed to bringing US troops back home following the peace deal with the Taliban.
The US will be reducing its troops in Afghanistan from 13,000 to 8,600 in the next 130 days and withdraw all its soldiers in 14 months, as per the Doha peace deal signed in February this year.
President Trump on Wednesday, during his election rally in Gastonia, in the battleground state of North Carolina, said the US has had enough of 19 years in Afghanistan and the country will reduce the number of its troops in Afghanistan to 4,000 in a very short period of time.
While the US troops may be returning home after America’s longest war, the operation like the one in Konar signals that CIA presence may remain. After the signing of the deal earlier this year, US officials had revealed that they may consider pulling back front-line CIA personnel from bases in Afghanistan as an effort to reduce violence in the country.
The American negotiators had long resisted the Taliban demand. The agency is said to have the largest presence outside the Washington area with the presence of several hundred CIA officers. Their operations had begun as an effort to hunt terror group Al Qaeda, which has associations with the Taliban.
The veterans quoted in the report have expressed disdain over the association between the two groups as Al Qaeda was responsible for 9/11 bombing and the deal doesn’t ask the Taliban to break its ties anyway.
The report also divulges how in 2016-2019 US military had provided similar air support to the Taliban when it refrained from bombing its units preparing for attacks against the ISIS. It also mentions the role of the Afghan military, which often maintains distance from Taliban, which sought help from them in an offensive against the ISIS in Konar’s Pech Valley.