13.09.2021 Author: Veniamin Popov

Taliban Victory Potentially Strengthening Extremist Movements in the Region


September 11 marked exactly 20 years since the horrific terrorist attack that killed nearly 3,000 people in America. The US leaders of that time, in order to demonstrate to the world that they were the masters of the planet, decided to urgently strike in Afghanistan to show the world their power and might. A year and a half later, they invaded Iraq. It was all done under the pretext of fighting global terrorism.

The groundless cruelty of destroying two countries in retaliation for the 9/11 attacks has seriously undermined the influence of the US, and the collective West in general, in the world. Although the material forces of Western civilization remain substantial, Afghanistan has nevertheless become a new milestone in the process of its moral and psychological decline. One manifestation of this decline is the growth of terrorist and extremist movements around the world.

On August 31, the last US military plane left Afghanistan. Extremist groups exchanged congratulations on social media, hailing the victory of the Taliban.

Members of the extremist group Tahrir al-Sham (banned in Russia) organized celebrations and parades in Syria: hundreds of elements affiliated with the organization, loyal to al-Qaeda (banned in Russia), took to the streets of Idlib to celebrate what they call “the victory of the Taliban over the Americans.”

It cannot be overlooked that the failure of the US in Afghanistan has given strong impetus to the Islamists to act against the authorities, which they regard as apostate.

Before the Taliban (banned in Russia) took over Afghanistan, extremist movements, most notably in the Middle East, grew increasingly weaker, particularly following Russia’s successful counter-terrorist operation in Syria. Some al-Qaeda (banned in Russia) and DAESH (also banned in Russia) units shifted their activities to sub-Saharan Africa, Afghanistan and South Asia.

US National Public Radio recently quoted former US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta saying that “the Taliban are terrorists who will support terrorists.”

According to Vision Of Humanity, Afghanistan ranked first in terms of terrorist activity in 2019. It is followed by Iraq, Nigeria, Syria, Somalia, Yemen, Pakistan and India. According to the Global Terrorism Index 2020 prepared by the Institute for Economics and Peace, Libya ranked 16th out of 163 countries, although that figure does not reflect how events in Libya have directly contributed to the rise of terrorism in Chad, Niger, Mali, Burkina Faso and Mauritania. All of these countries have already announced their fears about the Afghan events.

There is increasing evidence that extremist organizations which do not hide their ties to DAESH are stepping up their activities.

As the Libyan political scientist Abdel Rahim Al-Tarhouni pointed out, some of the extremist groups in the Sahel, having seized Libyan weapons, have used them to expand their sphere of activity.

Tunisian journalist Ahmed Abdel-Hakim emphasizes that Tunisia was the largest source of foreign recruits for DAESH: Western sources estimate that between 15,000 and 18,000 Tunisians went to Syria to join this terrorist group.

According to the newspaper Al-Ahram dated September 1, 2021, terrorist organizations in Somalia, southern Mozambique, Nigeria, and Cameroon will benefit from the victory of the Taliban in Afghanistan, as the terrorist networks are inextricably linked.

While some observers argue that al-Qaeda and DAESH are rivals and the Taliban is a tribal Islamist organization, the competition between them is nothing more than sibling rivalry. They share the same ideology, creed, and worldview.

Islamists as DAESH, the Haqqani network (banned in Russia), also marked this 20th anniversary with a terrorist attack that killed dozens of Afghans and 13 US servicemen.

In early September, the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan Movement (banned in Russia), which operates in the north of the country, carried out an attack in Baluchistan province, killing and injuring several people.

It should be noted that Amin al-Haq, the former head of Osama bin Laden’s security service, returned to Afghanistan.

Sirajuddin Haqqani, deputy leader of the Taliban and leader of the Haqqani network, is now in charge of security in Kabul (the FBI has set a $5 million reward for his capture). In 2001, President George W. Bush, and it is well worth noting, said when he invaded Afghanistan that the purpose of the operation was to “prevent the country from being used for terrorist activities.”

The Taliban made no changes to their ideology, so all radical Islamist groups publicly welcomed its triumph “as a victory of Allah for Islam” and look to the current Afghanistan as the driving force of their revival. As a leading Egyptian newspaper wrote, if this catastrophic scenario materializes, it will undo all the efforts made in the fight against extremism, and the region will once again be trapped in political Islamism.

Taliban leaders have repeatedly stated that minority and women’s rights will be protected, but it remains to be seen whether the leaders will actually manage to keep their fighters under control. In addition, it will be exceptionally difficult for the Taliban to curb the supporters of DAESH, the Haqqani network, and deprive them of their appeal to the more radical elements of Afghan society and their own ranks.

Some Arab political analysts believe that the main sponsor and ally of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan may be Pakistan, whose prime minister described the capture of Kabul as Afghanistan “breaking the shackles of slavery.”  As we know, Islamabad played a crucial, if not decisive, role in the formation of the Taliban movement. In Pakistan, a country of over two hundred million people, there are many organizations affiliated with or sympathetic to the Taliban. The fact that the Afghan movement is largely driven by Pashtuns, who are twice as numerous in Pakistan, could be very important in the future. This is especially important to consider in view of the fact that this state has a nuclear capability of 160 warheads.

Veniamin Popov, Director of the Center for Partnership of Civilizations at MGIMO (Moscow State Institute of International Relations) of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary, Candidate of Historical Sciences, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.



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