(TOLO News): Al-Qaeda is posing serious threats to the Afghan peace process and that the Taliban and al-Qaeda affiliates in Afghanistan are still bounded in close alignment and ties, a senior UN official said.
Edmund Fitton-Brown, the coordinator of the United Nations monitoring team for Daesh, al-Qaeda, and the Taliban, in an interview with TOLOnews, said that al-Qaeda will inflict devastating harms to the Afghan peace process it not controlled.  “In terms of the challenge that al-Qaeda represents to the peace process, obviously the peace process is predicated upon the fact that the Taliban should prevent any threat from emanating outside Afghanistan and that includes from al-Qaeda, and unless al-Qaeda is in some way controlled, then of course, they represent a threat to the peace process,” he said.  According to a recent UN report, 400 to 600 al-Qaeda members are still present in 12 provinces of Afghanistan. The UN also said that al-Qaeda’s branch for Indian Sub-continent was also operating under the cover of the Taliban.   “My understanding is that the Taliban’s ties with al-Qaeda go very deep,” Fitton-Brown said. Fitton-Brown said that al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri has maintained close ties with the Taliban and Haqqani network despite the Taliban’s assurance to the United States to cut ties with the group.  Recently, Taliban denied any link with al-Qaeda. The UN official said Daesh still has 2200 fighters in Afghanistan.   He said that Daesh is also trying to recruit some dissident members of the Taliban in their ranks.  “ISIS-Khorsan has been under a lot of pressure. We still think though that they have probably somewhere in the region of 2,000 to 2,200 fighters in Afghanistan. It’s still a significant number. They are very much loyal to ISIL international agenda,” said Fitton-Brown. This comes as recently Daesh took responsibility for a series of deadly attacks on several targets in Afghanistan, including the attacks on Kabul University and attack on Kawsar-e-Danish educational center that left dozens of students dead and dozens more wounded.  But the Afghan government insists that Daesh has been defeated in Afghanistan.