In August 1998, Al-Qaeda terrorists simultaneously attacked the U.S. embassies in Nairobi, Kenya and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. In response the United States fired cruise missiles into a number of Al-Qaeda terrorist training camps in Afghanistan. The US demanded that the Taliban turn over Osama Bin Laden but they refused to hand over the leader of Al-Qaeda. Osama Bin Laden pledged his loyalty to Mullah Omar, the leader of the Taliban. The Taliban under Mullah Omar provided sanctuary in Afghanistan for Al-Qaeda and Osama Bin Laden.
After the September 11th attacks, Abdul Salam Zaeef, the Taliban’s Ambassador to Pakistan stated that the Taliban would not hand over Bin Laden to the United States. With the defeat of Taliban and Al-Qaeda fighters in 2001 by the US military and the Northern Alliance fighters, both Al-Qaeda and the Taliban fled to Pakistan. Instead of closing their escape avenues into Pakistan many of the enemy fighters escaped to fight another day. Pakistan became the new sanctuary for this alliance of terror.
It should surprise no one that Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri, the current leader of Al-Qaeda has pledged bayat (Oath of Loyalty) to Mullah Akhtar Mansour, the new leader of the Taliban. In an audio message, Zawahiri stated that “As emir of Al-Qaeda, I pledge to you our allegiance, following the path of Sheikh Bin Laden and his martyred brothers in their allegiance to Mullah Omar.
The significance of Zawahiri’s pledge of allegiance is two-fold. With the recent announced death of Mullah Omar there are elements within the Taliban that are at odds with Mullah Mansour being the new leader. Also, ISIS has been seeking to recruit Taliban fighters and establish a presence in Afghanistan. Mullah Mansour can claim legitimacy with the Al-Qaeda leader’s allegiance and support. Mullah Mansour wil be able to say he was Mullah Omar’s deputy and has the support of Al-Qaeda and the Haqqani Network, the two most powerful terrorist groups in Pakistan. The alliance between the Taliban and Al-Qaeda seems to still be in place and strong as ever.