The Pentagon in a new report is warning that a “robust” counterterrorism capability must remain in Afghanistan against groups including al-Qaida, even if a peace deal with the Taliban is secured.
The Afghan government, the US and coalition partners will continue to face risks from al-Qaida, the Daesh of Iraq and Syria, as well as from some in the Taliban, the report says.
“Even if a successful political settlement with the Taliban emerges from ongoing talks, AQ, ISIS-K (Daesh), and some unknown number of Taliban hardliners will constitute a substantial threat to the Afghan government and its citizens, as well as to the United States and its coalition partners,” the report says.
According to the report, this enduring terrorist threat will require the United States, the international community, and the [Afghan National Defense and Security Forces] ANDSF to maintain a robust [counterterrorism] CT capability for the foreseeable future.
The Pentagon’s assessment coincides with recent comments made by the US special peace envoy for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad, who touted recent progress made during peace negotiations this month in Doha, Qatar.
The peace agreement is based on four central pillars, including a withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan.
The discussed agreement would also bar the Taliban from allowing terrorist groups like al-Qaida and Daesh from using the country as a haven to plan future terrorist attacks.
The report also said that the Daesh has gained control of territory in Afghanistan over the last six months.
While the group's power in Afghanistan remains limited compared with organizations such as the Taliban and al Qaeda, it has continued to challenge Afghan, United States, and coalition forces, it said.
Deash wants to pose a threat to not only Afghanistan but the US, "which it continuously seeks to target for terrorist activity." Similar to other terror groups like the Haqqani network, al Qaeda, and Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, Daesh has sanctuaries on both sides of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, making it particularly difficult to counter.
Like the Taliban, Daesh seeks to stage high-profile terrorist attacks, according to the report.
One such attack occurred on April 20, when Daesh operatives attacked Afghanistan's ministry of communications in the capital of Kabul, killing 16 civilians and six Afghan security forces members.
Overall, though, the report said high-profile attacks have decreased over the past year and a half.