09.09.2021 Author: Yuriy Zinin

Middle East and the Shadow of Events in Afghanistan

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After the complete evacuation of the US and NATO military from Afghanistan, the possibility of a return of Al-Qaeda (a terrorist group banned in Russia) is causing concern. Al Qaeda carried out the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States, and they are now receiving a safe haven in Afghanistan, as it did before the tragedy. Taliban morale is now higher than ever before in light of the US defeat and the mass of weapons left behind by the Yankees. These words of an article in the Emirati newspaper Al-Ittihad, dedicated to the 20th anniversary of the Western military contingent’s stay here, reflect the Arab media’s concern against the backdrop of recent heated events in Afghanistan.

The Saudi newspaper sums up the reaction to the Taliban’s arrival as three things. The first is about the success of the Taliban and the American withdrawal, reflecting the failure of the US as a great power.  The second highlights the attitudes of US allies toward their ability to deliver on their promises. The third is related to the effect of the establishment of Taliban power on the surrounding countries and region.

The chorus of reactions includes opinions that it is a triumph of resistance to the Americans and a victory for Islam in general. In contrast to such views, others recall the nature of the Taliban, which has become a natural extension of the alliance of jihadist, obscurantist forces in Afghanistan.

Since the late 1970s, they have been fostered and financed by the US and the West, plus the Gulf states have not been stingy with huge funds. All this in the name of overthrowing the previous regime and expelling the USSR from Afghanistan. The Taliban (banned in the Russian Federation) and Al-Qaeda emerged from the bowels of this conflict.

In the end, the events boomeranged upon the US and its allies. The 9/11 terrorist attack in the United States was a pretext for Yankee intervention in Afghanistan and war with the Taliban.

These historical facts come to mind now, according to the Saudi author.  In the events of the 80s in Afghanistan, the Western camp wanted to fight communism at the hands of Muslims. The outcome became devastating when some people went to jihad and then returned home with their heads full of ideas of terrorism, from which the kingdom suffered greatly. These are the fruits of Afghanistan.  Therefore, the peripeteia of the Taliban, their return should not be of concern to Saudi Arabia.

Among the disbelievers of the Taliban’s victory are those who call it a give-and-take deal between Washington and the Taliban. After this deal with America, one wonders why so many thousands of Afghans want to flee their homeland because they clearly do not believe in their safety.

There have been warnings that a new Afghanistan is being molded by an organization notorious for violence in the past. In just a few days, it has become a state – the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan – capable of “nightmarizing” its neighbors and the rest of the world, especially if it ends up being a haven or an incubator for a variety of terrorists.

Some analysts say that the Taliban’s religious ideology and their approach to building an emirate of Muslims has not changed. A mullah who carries the title of Amir al-Mu’minin, “Commander of the Faithful”, has no power to disrupt this order, which has nothing to do with democracy and modern civil society.

The Taliban will continue to provide a safe haven for Al-Qaeda. The connection between them goes beyond the purely ideological framework and is often reinforced by blood and blood relations: marriages and the creation of mixed families.  The Taliban will remain an umbrella for Al-Qaeda after their “victory,” which will inspire other pro-jihadist Islamic communities.

Such a hasty withdrawal by the US and NATO was met with wariness in the Arab world. According to Palestinian publicist K. Nasir, Washington, which has thrown its crucial allies to the mercy of fate in Afghanistan and forgotten its slogans of support for democracy and human rights, will inevitably abandon its Arab proteges as well.

Several commentators in the Middle East media agree with him. American policy in Afghanistan epitomizes their message to their allies and has raised many questions about what fate awaits them. In fact, US military interventions abroad have most often ended in strategic failure. Washington has turned its back on its allies and abandoned them, as it did to Iranian Shah Reza Pahlavi in 1978, the former “American gendarme” in the Gulf, notes a Kuwaiti newspaper.

According to analysts in the Middle East, the course of events may turn into unexpected twists and turns, shifting positions of certain players with unpredictable consequences. The headlines of their articles show this: “Do Arabs understand the American lesson in Afghanistan?”, “Lessons from American and NATO defeat in Afghanistan,” etc.

They reflect the views of local experts who believe it is relevant for the authorities to diversify engagement and diplomacy with other powers, not just with the US.

Yuri Zinin, a senior researcher at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies, Institute of International Studies of the Moscow State Institute for International Relations, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.


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