Al-Qaeda Leader May Still Be In Afghanistan, But US Achieved Its Main Goal - Khalilzad

Al-Qaeda Leader May Still Be in Afghanistan, But US Achieved Its Main Goal - Khalilzad

WASHINGTON (UrduPoint News / Sputnik - 25th October, 2021) The leader of al-Qaeda (terrorist group, banned in Russia), Ayman al-Zawahiri, may still be in Afghanistan or in the neighboring territories, but despite that, the United States has largely achieved its counterterrorist objective in the country, former US special envoy for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad said on Sunday.

"Well, the report that I have seen indicates he (al-Zawahiri) could be in Afghanistan or adjacent territories," Khalilzad said in an interview with the CBS broadcaster.

However, the former envoy doubted whether the Taliban (banned in Russia) knew about his whereabouts.

"I don't know whether the Taliban know it. The Taliban that I dealt with, they told me they did not know where he was," he noted.

The US has an agreement with the Taliban on countering terrorism, under which the movement pledged to deny shelter to terrorists in Afghanistan, prevent their financing, training and recruitment, Khalilzad said. Making sure they fulfill these obligations is a "critical mission," according to the ex-envoy.

Despite remaining challenges and past failures, Khalilzad believes that the US counterterrorist mission in the country succeeded as "the terrorist threat from Afghanistan is not what it used to be" and al-Qaeda was "devastated."

At the same time, the ex-envoy admitted that in the 20 years of American military presence in Afghanistan, the country did not become a democracy.

"On the issue of building a democratic Afghanistan, I think that did not succeed. The struggle goes on. The Talibs are a reality of Afghanistan. We did not defeat them," he said, noting that the Taliban have a different vision for the country, but there are hopes the more moderate views will prevail since the movement is fractured.

On October 18, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced that Khalilzad stepped down as special Afghanistan envoy. Khalilzad said that he made the decision to resign at a time when Washington is beginning a new phase of policy toward Kabul following the withdrawal from Afghanistan in August.