On Thursday, the Taliban claimed that it was unaware of al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri’s presence in the city of Kabul before he was killed by a CIA drone strike.
After releasing comments on Tuesday condemning the action, the Taliban, which overthrew Afghanistan’s government after the U.S. left the country last year, tried to walk back their comments with another release, claiming it had ordered “investigative and intelligence agencies to conduct serious and comprehensive investigations on various aspects of the mentioned event.”
The Taliban’s Tuesday comments claimed that the attack was a “clear violation of … the Doha Agreement.” However, under the 2020 Doha Agreement signed by the U.S. and the insurgent group, the Taliban pledged not to allow safe haven for members of al Qaeda or anyone seeking to attack the U.S.
Al-Zawahiri was killed in a safe house at Kabul tied to the deputy leader of the Taliban. He had stayed at the home of an aide to Sirajuddin Haqqani, top deputy of the Taliban’s supreme leader Mullah Haibatallah Akhundzada, for several months.
According to the CIA, he stepped out onto the balcony and was killed by the strike.
The Taliban claimed it “has no knowledge of the arrival and residence” of al-Zawahiri in Afghanistan. The statement was issued after Taliban leaders reportedly had a high-level meeting on Wednesday.
Al-Zawahiri’s presence in Kabul and the subsequent killing of the al Qaeda leader have further strained Washington-Kabul relations as Taliban leaders are attempting to secure international funding to assist Afghanistan’s crippling economy.
The U.S. and the Taliban have also reportedly engaged in recent talks over $3.5 billion worth of Afghan assets the U.S. froze after leaving the country and the Ashraf Ghani presidency collapsing in August 2021.
It is estimated that over $7 billion dollars worth of equipment was left behind in the hands of the Taliban which quickly overthrew the U.S.-backed government. Additionally, at least several hundred U.S. citizens were left behind with no way to return to their home country.
The Taliban also attempted to assure Washington in its Thursday statement by saying “there is no danger from the territory of Afghanistan to any country, including America.”
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