A senior U.S. official says the Biden administration is "working tirelessly every day" to ensure the Taliban stick to their pledges to prevent Afghanistan from becoming a haven for transnational terrorists.
White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan discussed the matter with reporters aboard Air Force One when asked by VOA if Washington is working with the Taliban to hunt down terrorist targets on Afghan soil. Sullivan traveled to London, where President Joe Biden met with British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.
"What I could say is that we are holding the Taliban to their commitments under the Doha agreement, which is that Afghanistan cannot be used as a safe haven to plot terrorist attacks against anyone and especially, from our purposes, against the United States of America, our homeland, our allies, and our partners," Sullivan said.
He referred to the February 2020 deal the Trump administration negotiated with the then-insurgent Taliban in Doha, the capital of Qatar. The deal paved the way for all U.S.-led NATO troops to depart Afghanistan in mid-August 2021 after two decades of involvement in the war. The insurgents, in turn, pledged they would not allow terrorist groups, including al-Qaida, to threaten other countries from Afghan soil.
Sullivan spoke days after President Joe Biden defended the chaotic troop withdrawal and suggested that the Taliban are helping Washington to push out al-Qaida from the war-torn South Asian country.
"We are working tirelessly every day to ensure that that set of commitments is fulfilled," Sullivan said. "And beyond that, I won't say anything further," he added.
The Taliban reclaimed control of Afghanistan just days before the last group of U.S. soldiers left the country.
While the U.S. and the Taliban have declined to acknowledge publicly any counterterrorism cooperation, regional diplomatic and Taliban sources say the two former adversaries are working together to deal with the threat of terrorism.
The reported collaboration stemmed from a meeting between top Biden administration and Taliban officials in Doha last October.
The CIA deputy director, David Cohen, and the Taliban spy chief, Abdul Haq Wasiq, also attended the talks, underscoring the emphasis on counterterrorism. Both sides confirmed the meeting but would not say whether Cohen and Wasiq, who heads the Taliban's General Directorate of Intelligence or GDI, participated in the talks.
The meeting came several months after the United States announced its drone missiles killed al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in his hiding place in the Afghan capital, Kabul. Washington said the terror mastermind lived in the safehouse as a Taliban guest and accused the de facto Taliban authorities of violating the Doha agreement.
Taliban authorities have maintained they were unaware of al-Zawahiri's presence in Kabul, and the incident was under investigation.
Wasiq has established an exclusive cell in the GDI for counterterrorism collaboration with U.S. authorities and oversees its work, VOA learned through reliable sources.
VOA contacted chief Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid for comments on whether Kabul and Washington are jointly working to combat terrorism but did not receive a response immediately.
Regional sources also attribute the Taliban's recent successes against Islamic State-Khorasan, the Afghan affiliate of the Islamic State terrorist network, to their counterterrorism collaboration with the U.S.
The United States has denied working with the Taliban on operations against Islamic State-Khorasan. U.S. military officials have publicly doubted the Taliban’s ability to go after high-value IS-K targets.
The Taliban, however, maintain they are conducting operations against IS-K on their own, saying the group is a threat to Afghanistan and regional stability.
VOA White House Bureau Chief Patsy Widakuswara contributed to this story.