by Hugh Fitzgerald
Washington has declared itself “deeply troubled” by Taliban attacks on civilians. Did it really think Taliban’s promises to leave civilians alone would be kept? More on this story of terminal naivete is here: “US ‘Deeply Troubled’ by Attacks on Civilians as Taliban Sweep Across Afghanistan,” Algemeiner, July 28, 2021:
The United States said on Wednesday it was deeply troubled by reports of escalating attacks on civilians as the Taliban sweep across Afghanistan and Washington pulls out its last remaining troops and ends its longest war.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken, on a visit to India, said the only path to peace in Afghanistan was through negotiations, which all parties must take seriously.
Taliban insurgents have captured districts across Afghanistan and seized vital border control points in recent weeks, as Washington withdraws its last troops after 20 years. The Pentagon now estimates that the fighters control more than half of Afghanistan’s district centers.
The surge has raised the prospect that the militants could return to power. Millions of people fled their extreme violence during their last period of rule from 1996-2001, when they staged public executions of their foes, banned women from work and education and hosted Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda network.
Is there any reason to doubt that within months of the last American soldiers withdrawing the Taliban, which already claims to control 85% of Afghanistan (and not the 50% the Americans suggest), will sweep the board and control the country yet again? And why should anyone believe that the Taliban will behave differently than it did from 1996 to 2001? We have already seen videos of the Taliban executing government soldiers who had just surrendered to it, trusting to the terror group’s assurances that they would not be harmed. And Afghan women and girls have expressed their great fears as to how they will be treated by the Taliban, which in areas it has recaptured has reportedly been shutting down schools for girls.
The Taliban say they will treat civilians well if they return to power, and will not allow the country to be used as a base for international terrorism.
What does the vague promise of “treating civilians well” mean? Will the Taliban refrain from imposing strict Islamic law? Will it force women to again wear the burqa that hides everything, or will girls and women be allowed to do as they have been doing for the past decade, which is to wear the chador, leaving the face uncovered? Will there again be stonings-to-death for adulterous women? Will the religious police be out in force to make sure Islamic dress codes are observed, and that single men and women keep apart? Will middle-aged Afghan men again be marrying nine-year-old girls, on the model of Muhammad with little Aisha? How can we possibly believe that Muslims such as the Taliban, fanatical in their faith, will no longer impose the strictest Sharia rules on those they will soon — again –rule over?
Describing reports of attacks on civilians as “deeply, deeply troubling”, Blinken said: “An Afghanistan that commits atrocities against its own people would become a pariah state.
A “pariah state” because it “commits atrocities against its own people”? Has Syria become a “pariah” state, shunned by all? Not to its allies Iran and Russia. What about China, with a million Uighurs in re-education camps? No one would call China a “pariah” state. Has Lebanon, where the true ruler of the country, Hezbollah, uses Lebanese civilians as hostages, storing weapons in their midst and endangering their lives so as to constrain Israeli attacks, become a “pariah” state? Of course not.
“There’s only one path, and that’s at the negotiating table, to resolve the conflict peacefully.”
Blinken hasn’t gotten the memo from the Taliban. There is another path, the one the Taliban are taking. They are on the march all over Afghanistan; they have their own way of “resolving the conflict” through violence, by defeating the government forces on almost every front. They now control 85% of the country. They have no need to negotiate. They don’t give a damn about resolving “the conflict peacefully.”
The United Nations reported this week that civilian casualties had been surging in recent weeks, with as many killed in May-June as in the previous four months. The report did not cover casualties in July, when fighting has intensified further.
Afghans in government-held areas have been alarmed by domestic media reports in recent days of abductions and killings of civilians in areas where the Taliban have advanced. The Taliban deny they are carrying out revenge killings.
Of course they deny it. And didn’t the Taliban already promise the Americans it would leave civilians alone? Yet here we have reports that wherever the Taliban has advanced Afghan civilians are being killed. Could it possibly be that the Taliban had been lying to Washington?
US President Joe Biden has ordered all US troops out of the country, fulfilling a policy pledge made by his predecessor Donald Trump, despite warnings from American generals of the potential for renewed civil war without foreign troops to protect the Kabul government.
Peace talks between the government and the Taliban in Qatar have largely stalled, with the Taliban showing little interest in negotiating while they are gaining on the battlefield.
Why should the Taliban negotiate with the Afghan government, given that it is likely to control the whole country — with the possible exception of Kabul, that may take a bit longer — within months? What does it need to negotiate with those who are being so soundly whipped?
Taliban delegations have visited neighboring countries in recent weeks, gaining international standing for a movement that had been treated as outcasts and banned as terrorists for most of the past two decades.
The latest regional power to host them was China, whose Foreign Minister Wang Yi met a nine-person delegation led by Taliban deputy leader Mullah Baradar Akhund in the northern Chinese city of Tianjin during a two-day visit.
Wang said the Taliban were expected to “play an important role in the process of peaceful reconciliation and reconstruction in Afghanistan,” according to a readout of the meeting from the Chinese Foreign Ministry.
Taliban delegations have also visited Iran and Russia in recent weeks. The group has an office in Qatar.
The Taliban has sent delegations to China, Iran, and Russia, where they have been warmly received. The group is already being treated as the de factor ruler of Afghanistan, rather than as a group of terrorists. They are winning on the diplomatic as on the military front.
Politics, economy and issues related to the security of both countries and the current situation of Afghanistan and the peace process were discussed in the meetings,” Taliban spokesperson Mohammed Naeem tweeted about the China visit.
“(The) delegation assured China that they will not allow anyone to use Afghan soil against China,” Naeem said. “China also reiterated its commitment of continuation of their assistance with Afghans and said they will not interfere in Afghanistan’s issues but will help to solve the problems and restoration of peace in the country.
Unlike its promises to the West, the Taliban will likely keep those it makes to China, a much more ruthless and unforgiving enemy, that if the Taliban dared to cross, would not hesitate to attack the group in Afghanistan. Unlike the U.S., which is thousands of miles from Afghanistan, the Chinese, and their military, are right on the border with Afghanistan.
Moscow, which fought for a decade in Afghanistan in the 1980s, said it was beefing up the combat capabilities at its military base in Tajikistan, a small former Soviet republic that borders Afghanistan.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, visiting Tajikistan on Wednesday, said the security situation had rapidly deteriorated in Afghanistan during a “hasty” US withdrawal.
Shoigu said Islamic State fighters were moving into Afghanistan from countries including Syria and Libya, describing their arrival as “quite seriously organized.”
“We are paying increased attention to strengthening the combat capabilities of our base and refining plans to jointly repel possible insurgent infiltration,” he said.
A senior Russian diplomat has said Moscow views Taliban gains in northern Afghanistan as having a security upside because the group is hostile to what Russia regards as more dangerous Islamist extremists.
Russia regards the Taliban’s resurgence with both apprehension and hope. The apprehension is that the Taliban’s victory will encourage Islamic insurgents in the “five stans” – the former Soviet republics of Kazakhstan, Tadjikistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Turkmenistan –where the people are Muslim but continue to be largely secular in outlook, as was encouraged during 70 years of Soviet rule. A Taliban-ruled Afghanistan might lead some Muslims in the five stans to want to emulate their success, and Moscow would be compelled to help the locals suppress such movements. On the other hand, some Russian officials believe that the Taliban is hostile to “more dangerous Islamist extremists.” It’s hard to imagine “Islamist extremists” who are even “more dangerous” to Infidels than the Taliban. Are the Russians thinking of Al Qaeda, the terrorist group which was given succor and refuge by the Taliban the last time it controlled Afghanistan? Al Qaeda was safe in 2001, when the Taliban ruled; there is no reason to think things will be different now, despite the assurances the Taliban has made of having become more moderate. And apparently the Taliban has been allowing fighters of the Islamic State to move into Afghanistan; this suggests the Taliban remains as extreme in 2021 as it was in 2001.
A Taliban takeover of Afghanistan will most threaten Iran, China, and Russia – our three greatest enemies. It will threaten Iran because the uber-Sunni Taliban are violently anti-Shi’a, considering them to be “worse than ordinary Infidels.” Taliban members were in the process of massacring the Shi’a Hazara in 2001 when the arrival of American troops put a stop to their genocidal campaign; in recent months, the Taliban has renewed its attacks on the Hazara. If these continue, Iran will be under terrific pressure to send its own troops into Afghanistan to protect its fellow Shia, the Hazara, from the Taliban, If it refuses, it looks weak; if it decides to send troops, it risks having them bogged down, just as the Americans were, in a war without end. Iran cannot decisively defeat the Taliban, but it can hold them at bay and prevent the destruction of the Hazara.
As for China, despite the Taliban visit to China, Beijing must worry about the effect of a Taliban victory on the ten million Muslim Uighurs in Xinjiang. Will such a victorious outcome stir some Uighurs to emulate their Afghan co-religionists? If armed revolt against the Chinese People’s Army is impossible, would not quiet internal resistance to the Chinese government — a determination not to be brainwashed by the Chinese against Islam — be encouraged by the spectacle of a Taliban victory? The Chinese must be uneasy to see what is now happening in Afghanistan.
Russia has to worry about the five stans – the former Soviet republics populated by Muslims who have become secular from 70 years of Soviet rule and Communist propaganda. Will a Taliban victory in nearby Afghanistan not lead Muslims in those stans to a greater “Islamic consciousness” and a desire to re-embrace a less secular, more full-throated version of Islam? That is something Moscow wants to avoid. While the Russians have put a brave face on a Taliban victory, claiming that the group is actually opposed to “more extreme” Muslims, it is hard to imagine who those “more extreme” Muslims might be. Russia, like China and Iran, stands to be unsettled by a Taliban victory. Now that we are getting out, about 19 years later than we ought to have, from Afghanistan, we shouldn’t be “deeply troubled.” The Taliban will take over, as they always would have no matter when we got out. Better now than after still more waste of American men, materiel, and money. Meanwhile, we shouldn’t be “deeply troubled.” Iran should. China should. Russia should. It’s their Tar Baby now.
First published in Jihad Watch.
Yes, “deeply troubled” in slight contrast to being “shallowly perturbed.” Fortunately none were “surprised” or “dismayed” at the turning of extermination events. It’s a good thing that this Afghanistan ally reenactment of our betrayal of the South Vietnamese has been forgotten by our ethical elite incompetents. As the saying goes, “The first time as tragedy, the second time as catastrophe.” Will the third time involve Taiwan? Wanna bet?