U.S. Coordination With Taliban Against ISIS-K ‘Possible,’ Pentagon Says

Senior U.S. military officers on Wednesday said they would not rule out working with the Taliban to consolidate its control over Afghanistan after 20 years of war. This is the Islamic States affiliate in Afghanistan known as IS-K (or ISIS-K). The Biden administration had previously pledged to attack the organization following the suicide bombing that killed dozens last week.

On Wednesday, Lloyd Austin, Secretary of Defense, and Gen. Mark Milley (Chief of the Joint Chiefs of Staff) delivered... [+] remarks to the Pentagon. Getty Images

The Key Facts

General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, stated that it was possible for the military to coordinate with the Taliban in fighting IS-K (shorthand for Islamic State-Khorasan). This group considers the United States and the Taliban enemies. Milley described the Taliban as ruthless, and it is unclear if the group will change. Lloyd Austin, Secretary of Defense, was less confident. He stated that U.S. officials and Taliban officials had worked on a narrow set of issues last month during military evacuation flights from Taliban-run Kabul. He also said that he cannot predict how the United States will engage with the Taliban in the future.

Important Quote

While we don't know the future of Taliban, Milley stated that he can confirm from personal experience that they are a ruthless organization from the past. It remains to be seen if they will change.

Important Background

In retaliation to last week's suicide bombing at Kabul's airport gates that killed 13 U.S. military personnel and more than 100 civilians, President Joe Biden promised to pursue IS-K fighters. This is the latest attack by IS-K terrorist group, which was founded six years ago by ex-members of the Afghan Taliban and Pakistani Taliban. This group, an offshoot from the Syria-based Islamic State, has been under heavy attack by the United States, former U.S.-backed Afghan government, and the Taliban for many years. Recently, the U.S. military launched airstrikes in Afghanistan against IS-K members. The strikes were carried out in Kabul on Sunday and Friday. This resulted in civilian deaths. However, the Biden administration pledged that it will continue to be able to carry out more counterterrorism attacks in Afghanistan, even though there are no troops there. It is still unclear how the Taliban will be involved in future strikes against ISK. A Taliban spokesperson criticized recent airstrikes by the United States in comments to Reuters, the Washington Post.


On Monday, the United States announced that it was withdrawing its last troops from Afghanistan. This ended its nearly two-decade-long presence there with the Taliban in control of Kabul. Unusual partnerships between the United States of America and the Taliban marked the last weeks of U.S. military operations in Afghanistan. The U.S. military took control of Kabul's airport and attempted to evacuate more than 120,000 Americans and at-risk Afghans. Since the Taliban controlled checkpoints close to the airport, the Taliban coordinated security and access. This arrangement was required by the United States due to its territorial control.

Surprising Fact

According to the Washington Post, in tacit and unofficial collaboration, the United States and Taliban worked against IS-K prior to the fall of the U.S.-backed Afghan government. Wesley Morgan, a Post reporter, wrote that U.S. personnel were able to listen to radio communications from the Taliban and carried out anti-ISK airstrikes in areas of use during some Taliban battles against ISK.

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