Thu, 02 Dec 2021

Washington [US], October 25 (ANI): The leader of al-Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahiri, may still be in Afghanistan or in the neighbouring territories, former US Special envoy for Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, said on Sunday.

Khalilzad said that the US has largely achieved its counterterrorist objective in the country, Sputnik reported.

"Well, the report that I have seen indicates the [al-Zawahiri] could be in Afghanistan or adjacent territories," Khalilzad said in an interview with the CBS broadcaster.

However, the former envoy doubted whether the Taliban (banned in Russia) knew about his whereabouts.

"I don't know whether the Taliban know it. The Taliban that I dealt with, they told me they did not know where he was," he noted.

Despite remaining challenges and past failures, Khalilzad believes that the US counterterrorism mission in the country succeeded as "the terrorist threat from Afghanistan is not what it used to be" and al-Qaeda has been "devastated."At the same time, the ex-envoy admitted that in the 20 years of American military presence in Afghanistan, the country did not become a democracy.

"On the issue of building a democratic Afghanistan, I think that did not succeed. The struggle goes on. The Talibs are a reality of Afghanistan. We did not defeat them," he said, noting that the Taliban have a different vision for the country, but there are hopes the more moderate views will prevail since the movement is fractured.

On October 18, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced that Khalilzad stepped down as a special Afghanistan envoy.

Khalilzad said that he made the decision to resign at a time when Washington is beginning a new phase of policy toward Kabul following the withdrawal from Afghanistan in August. (ANI)

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