(CNSNews.com) – The Taliban, which in an agreement with the U.S. less than four months ago pledged to cut ties with al-Qaeda and other terrorists, is promoting a propaganda video showing its top leaders presiding over a passing-out parade for suicide bombers.
The video’s release this week came as a new U.N. Security Council report highlighted ongoing cooperation between the Taliban and al-Qaeda.
The video features the Taliban’s two deputy leaders as well as Abdul Ghani Baradar, the senior official who signed an agreement with the U.S. last February, and who spoke by phone to President Trump in March.
“We want to resolve issues through negotiations,” the graduating suicide bombers were told at the parade, “But politics and negotiations should not be taken to mean that we will neglect jihadi affairs.”
A Taliban commitment to sever ties with its ally that attacked the United States on 9/11 – and sparked America’s longest war – is a central element of the agreement with the U.S., which provides for the withdrawal of all American forces by next April.
The U.N. monitoring group report, based on intelligence provided by member-states, said some members have reported that the Taliban “appear to have strengthened their relationship with al-Qaeda rather than the opposite.”
“One member-state reported that the regularity of meetings between al-Qaeda seniors and the Taliban ‘made any notion of a break between the two mere fiction,’” it said.
“Information provided to the monitoring team since its previous report [published a year ago] has indicated that al-Qaeda is quietly gaining strength in Afghanistan while continuing to operate with the Taliban under their protection.”
The report also said the Taliban consulted al-Qaeda regularly as it negotiated with the U.S., and had assured the terrorist group “that it would honor their historical ties.”
“Al-Qaeda has reacted positively to the [Taliban-U.S.] agreement, with statements from its acolytes celebrating it as a victory for the Taliban’s cause and thus for global militancy.”
The sobering assessment was brought to the attention of U.S. special representative for Afghanistan reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad during a briefing at the State Department on Monday.
However Khalilzad, who led the talks, said he believes that “there is progress” in the Taliban’s meeting of its obligations – “but we will continue to monitor those activities very closely.”
He pointed out that the U.N. report covered the year up to March 15, which was just two weeks after the U.S.-Taliban agreement was signed.
“We are monitoring Taliban compliance with that agreement, which, as you know, stipulates that there will be no hosting of al-Qaeda or any other terrorist group that could threaten the security of the United States and our allies,” he said.
The agreement, signed in Qatar by Khalilzad and Baradar, states that “the Taliban will not allow any of its members, other individuals or groups, including al-Qaeda, to use the soil of Afghanistan to threaten the security of the United States and its allies.”
Entitled “Victorious Force,” the 34-minute video released this week by the Taliban’s media arm showcases a passing-out parade of various units of suicide bombers, purportedly at a training camp called Al-Fateh.
English subtitles provide a translation of statements made by an announcer and the three senior presiding officials –the Taliban’s two deputy emirs Sirajuddin Haqqani and Mohammad Yaqoob, and Baradar.
Haqqani, who has been deputy emir since 2015, is also leader of the Haqqani Network, a faction that predates the Taliban but has been effectively integrated into it. Unlike the Taliban itself, the Haqqani Network has been a U.S.-designated foreign terrorist organization since 2012.
Yaqoob, son of the late Taliban founder Mohammed Omar, was recently named as overall military commander.
Haqqani is heard telling the graduates that although the Taliban wants to resolve the conflict through talks, “negotiations should not be taken to mean that we will neglect jihadi affairs and the strengthening and development of our jihadi military force.”
“Congratulations to all the martyrdom-seeking youth who have successfully graduated from military camp and are participating in this procession,” a parade announcer intones.
The camera then pans over the different squads, each sporting distinctive uniforms and headgear. All carry rifles, and some are wearing what appear to be explosive vests.
The announcer explains the particular function of each unit:
--“Waistcoat martyrdom-seeking squad, destroys all enemy gatherings, infantry patrols and high-ranking officials.”
--“Infantry martyrdom-seeking squad, destroys enemy static and moving targets in face-to-face attacks and ambushes.”
--“Martyrdom-seekers of infiltration operations, destroy key enemy officials and individuals by conducting covert insider operations in enemy bases.”
--“Special Operations martyrdom-seekers carry out special operations that destroy key enemy military and intelligence targets.”
--“The artillery and heavy car bombs martyrdom-seeking squad destroys the enemy’s fast-moving targets, military installations, airports, oil and weapons depots and other facilities in their large and heavy attacks.”
--“Laser martyrdom-seeking units destroy the personnel and patrols of the enemy’s security belts with their precision laser strikes, and provide the mujahideen with the opportunity to carry out successful indiscriminate attacks.”
A total of 2,446 American personnel have been killed in the Afghanistan conflict since October 2001, 1,913 of them in combat, according to a tally of official Pentagon data. More than 20,700 have been wounded.