Editor’s Note: Peter Bergen is CNN’s national security analyst, a vice president at New America, a professor of practice at Arizona State University, and the host of the Audible podcast “In the Room” also on Apple and Spotify. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his own. View more opinion at CNN.

CNN — 

The latest United Nations report on the Taliban published Friday is a blistering indictment of the delusions that surrounded the US withdrawal agreement with the Taliban that was negotiated by Donald Trump’s administration in 2020.

President Joe Biden followed through on that agreement almost two years ago when he withdrew all US troops from Afghanistan in a chaotic evacuation that marked the end of the US’ longest war.

The withdrawal agreement was supposed to be predicated on the Taliban negotiating with the elected Afghan government about some kind of power-sharing arrangement and cutting their ties to terrorist groups like al Qaeda. But none of that happened.

After Biden announced the impending withdrawal of all US troops, the chief negotiator with the Taliban for both Biden and Trump administrations, Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, testified in May 2021 to the US House Foreign Affairs Committee that the Taliban “seek normalcy in terms of… removal from sanctions, not to remain a pariah.”

But international pariahs the Taliban have remained. Not a single country recognizes them as the legitimate Afghan government 21 months after they took over the country.

The belief by some US officials that the Taliban would become normal political actors as they attained more power was a classic case of falling into the trap of what intelligence analysts term “mirror-imaging” – which is the often erroneous assumption that American rivals will tend to act just like the United States would act.

In this case, the mirror-imaging error was the belief that as the Taliban gained power, they would abandon some of their most noxious policies, such as the exclusion of females from education after the age of 12 and their coddling of terrorist groups, so they could eventually secure recognition from countries around the world that they are the legitimate Afghan government.

But as the new 20-page UN report lays out in detail, the Taliban of today that were supposedly seeking “normalcy” are just as bad as the old Taliban, maybe worse.

The report notes that “promises made by the Taliban in August 2021 to be more inclusive, break with terrorist groups…and not pose a security threat to other countries seem increasingly hollow, if not plain false, in 2023.”

Indeed, approximately 20 terrorist groups are operating in Afghanistan, according to the UN, and “terrorist groups have greater freedom of maneuver” under the new Taliban regime. The report also indicates that the link between the Taliban and al Qaeda “remains strong and symbiotic.”

That symbiotic relationship was underlined last summer when the leader of al Qaeda, Ayman al Zawahiri, was killed in a US drone strike in downtown Kabul. Zawahiri was living in Kabul with the “awareness” of Taliban officials, according to a Biden senior administration official.

The UN estimates 400 al Qaeda fighters live in Afghanistan and says some members of the terrorist group have received appointments in the Taliban administration as well as monthly “welfare payments.”

Nothing says you are breaking with al Qaeda like providing a safe haven to their leader and giving members of the terrorist group jobs and money handouts.

Worrisomely, al Qaeda is “covertly rebuilding its external operations capability,” according to the UN, i.e., its ability to launch attacks outside of Afghanistan.

The local branch of ISIS in Afghanistan, known as ISIS-K, is estimated to consist of 4,000 to 6,000 fighters, including family members, per the report. While the Taliban and ISIS-K have sometimes clashed, the Taliban have proven incapable of removing this ISIS affiliate from their territory.

The Pakistani Taliban continue to base themselves in Afghanistan with an estimated 4,000 to 6,000 fighters and have launched over a hundred attacks against Pakistan since November 2022, according to the report.

Meanwhile, Afghanistan – until the summer of 2021, a flawed elective democracy – is now a theocratic dictatorship led by the Taliban’s clerical leader, Hibatullah Akhundzada. Known as “the Commander of the Faithful” and rarely seen in public, the Taliban leader lives in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar, where he issues “ever more conservative” edicts, the UN report explains.

Some of these edicts include banning women from working for UN organizations that provide essential services for millions of Afghans and banning girls from being educated after the age of 12.

Emphasizing the Taliban’s’ estrangement from the rest of the world, 58 Taliban officials are sanctioned by the UN. Of these, an astonishing 35 hold cabinet-level positions in the de facto Afghan government, according to the report.

Edmund Fitton-Brown, the former coordinator of the UN team that monitors the Taliban, told me that a key takeaway of the new report is the extent to which some senior Taliban remain involved in the drug trade. The Taliban’s production of opium and methamphetamine is lucrative. “Total profits made by all those involved in the drug trade are about $1.2 billion,” said Fitton-Brown. For comparison, total Taliban revenues from official sources are estimated at $2.2 billion, according to the UN report. The continuing scale of the drug trade is despite a decree last year from the Taliban’s leader that banned drug production.

Fitton-Brown, a senior fellow at the think tank New America, also told me that the report underlines that the Taliban look “worse today than they did a year ago” because they are led by an “inaccessible, inflexible, religious leader.” They are also not living up to their agreements with the US when they inked the 2020 withdrawal agreement, particularly regarding the continuing presence of multiple terrorist groups on their soil, such as al Qaeda and the Pakistani Taliban.

And the Taliban are today armed to the teeth thanks to the stockpile of arms that was left behind as the US and other NATO forces withdrew from Afghanistan. That arsenal consists of 70,000 armored vehicles, 20 assault aircraft, more than 100 helicopters and around half a million rounds of ammunition, according to the UN, and is worth an estimated $8.5 billion – more than the defense budgets of many European countries.

In sum, “debacle” seems almost too kind a word to describe the Trump-Biden legacy in Afghanistan.