WASHINGTON: US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad said on Friday that the ISIS-Khorasan had conducted this week’s horrific attacks on a maternity ward and a funeral in Afghanistan and there was no link between this group and the Taliban.
“ISIS has demonstrated a pattern for favouring these types of heinous attacks against civilians and is a threat to the Afghan people and to the world,” Mr Khalilzad said at a news briefing in Washington.
Asked to comment on the Afghan intelligence agency’s claim that there were links between ISIS-K and the Haqqani Network, the US envoy said: “We believe that ISIS and the Taliban are mortal enemies, and in the war against ISIS, Taliban have played an important role.”
Ruling out the possibility of the Haqqani Network or any other Taliban group’s involvement in this week’s attacks in Afghanistan, he said: “Our assessment currently is that the attacks that took place against the hospital and the attack in Nangarhar on a funeral procession was the work of ISIS, which, as I said before, is the enemy of the peace process.”
That’s why, he said, the United States was urging the Taliban and the government to cooperate against the so-called Islamic State group. “The appropriate response (to these attacks) is to accelerate the peace process, not to delay it,” he said.
Asked if he had seen reports suggesting that disaffected Taliban members were joining ISIS-K and they might have been involved in this week’s attacks, he said: “We have been aware of that possibility, but I don’t have any numbers at this point to share with you.”
Asked to define the difference between the Taliban and ISIS, Ambassador Khalilzad said the difference between the Taliban and ISIS was ideological, and the two were at war with each other, “one supports a peace process; the other opposes it”.
Asked if he had proofs to support the assessment that ISIS was behind the attacks, the US envoy said: “One is that ISIS has claimed responsibility for the attack in Nangarhar already, and based on the information we have … this is our assessment that ISIS is responsible for the attack on the hospital as well.”
Reminded that the Afghan government had strongly opposed the US assessment of ISIS-K’s involvement in the attacks, Mr Khalilzad said: “We understand the strong feeling among the Afghan people about this dastardly attack, but our assessment is that it was ISIS that did it.”
Reminded that two missing US citizens — Mark Frerichs and Paul Overby — were presumed hostages of the Haqqani Network, the US envoy said: “The Talibs are saying that they do not have him (Mark). … I have asked them to look again and to talk to their sub-commanders. This is of the highest importance and it would be, if they did hold him, a violation of the commitments they have made to us.”
Published in Dawn, May 16th, 2020