AMAC Exclusive – by Aaron Kliegman
Meet the “new Taliban.” It’s the same as the old Taliban: brutal, Islamist extremist, and allied with al Qaeda. In many cases, it’s even the same people.
In 1999, during the Taliban’s first try at ruling Afghanistan, the United Nations demanded the Taliban hand over Osama bin Laden after al Qaeda bombed two U.S. embassies the prior year. Mullah Mohammad Hassan Akhund, then a senior Taliban leader, gave the U.N. a blunt response: “We will never give up Osama at any price.”
Last week, Akhund was named the “head of state” or prime minister of the Taliban’s newly announced government. He’s been on a UN blacklist for two decades. And he’s hardly the lone “hardliner” in the new regime.
In 2001, following 9/11, Jalaluddin Haqqani helped bin Laden escape America’s manhunt for the al Qaeda leader. He warned at the time that Afghanistan would be “the graveyard of the Americans.”
Last week, Haqqani’s son, Sirajuddin, was named the Taliban’s interior minister. Like his late father, Sirajuddin has worked closely with al Qaeda. In fact, according to a U.N. report, the younger Haqqani is “a member of the wider al Qaeda leadership.” He’s also wanted by the FBI for planning an attack that killed an American citizen, and the U.S. is offering $10 million for information that will lead to his arrest. (Good luck executing that warrant now.)
Most importantly, the Taliban’s current “emir of the faithful,” or supreme leader, is Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada. In 2016, the head of al Qaeda, Ayman al Zawahiri, swore allegiance to Akhundzada. To this day, Zawahiri remains loyal to Akhundzada, who has never disavowed the al Qaeda leader’s pledge — a fact that few leaders and commentators note when they write of a more “moderate” Taliban.
In short, the Taliban got much of the old band back together, and added a few new faces with the exact same beliefs.
The only people who will be surprised by this are those who desperately want to believe the Taliban has changed. The truth is that after the U.S. toppled the Taliban’s self-declared Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan in 2001, its leaders and their Al Qaeda allies spent the next two decades fighting to restore it. The jihadists were clear about their goals the entire time. And with President Biden’s help, they are now back in power.
Taliban thugs are already beating women in the streets, apparently beheading children, and imposing strict Sharia law. This is the Taliban on its best behavior, hoping to gain access to Afghanistan’s assets held abroad.
But once Afghanistan fades from the headlines and the American consciousness, the real horrors will begin. As a Taliban judge told a German newspaper in July, “There are only two penalties for gays: either stoning or he has to stand behind a wall that falls on him. The wall must be 2.5 to 3 meters high.” This will soon be the new normal.
Yet somehow, the Biden administration was surprised that the Taliban didn’t suddenly abandon its long-held beliefs, hold elections, and treat women as equals upon re-conquering Afghanistan.
“I think the whole international community was hopeful that they would be as inclusive as they said they would be weeks and months ago,” Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said of the Taliban in one eyebrow-raising comment last week.
One day earlier, Secretary of State Antony Blinken lamented that the Taliban’s newly announced government “does not meet the test of inclusivity.”
“It includes people who have very challenging track records,” he added.
“Challenging track records.” The Obama administration’s use of the term “violent extremist” was a bad enough euphemism for “Islamist terrorist.” But Blinken just took the obfuscation to another level of absurdity.
Still, the Biden administration somehow seems to think the Taliban will be a pragmatic partner capable of working with the United States. Our current leaders are either shockingly naïve, blinded by their own progressive ideology, or shamefully dishonest, hoping to hide just how badly they failed in Afghanistan.
Consider the words of Blinken, who managed to sound victorious as the last American troops left Afghanistan.
“A new chapter of America’s engagement with Afghanistan has begun. It’s one in which we will lead with our diplomacy,” Blinken said on Aug. 30. “The military mission is over. A new diplomatic mission has begun.”
You’d think he was declaring a great triumph, not presiding over a humiliating surrender. Perhaps America’s top diplomat was unaware that the U.S. leaving meant the Taliban was taking over.
The Pentagon was well aware but appeared to see the situation as an opportunity — to fight jihadists. No, that’s not a typo.
Two days after Blinken’s remarks, Army General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said it’s “possible” the U.S. will coordinate with the Taliban on military strikes against the Islamic State in Afghanistan.
This is a fantasy. Both the Taliban and the Islamic State hate America and want the same thing: global domination for Islamists. Their only real disagreements are about timing, tactics, and who ultimately rules the caliphate. But their objectives are identical. Empowering one to weaken the other would only hurt the U.S.
Milley’s comment is reminiscent of the Obama administration trying to work with Iran to fight ISIS in Iraq, in effect having the U.S. serve as Iran’s air force. What was true then remains true now: The enemy of my enemy is not necessarily my friend.
But Milley and Blinken could be forgiven for their remarks considering what’s coming out of the White House.
Last week, the spokesperson for the National Security Council actually heaped praise on the Taliban for helping to get Americans out of Afghanistan.
“The Taliban have been cooperative in facilitating the departure of American citizens and lawful permanent residents on charter flights from [the airport],” said Emily Horne. “They have shown flexibility, and they have been businesslike and professional in our dealings with them in this effort. This is a positive first step [emphasis added].”
When asked about Horne’s statement, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki echoed that the Taliban “was cooperative,” adding that the administration had to work “in a business-like manner” to rescue Americans and Afghans.
This is the messaging of this administration: The group holding innocents hostage should be lauded for releasing some of them.
The administration is refusing to recognize the true evil of the Taliban. This is shameful but it’s also dangerous. Taliban rule means a country-wide haven from which al Qaeda can operate. Not to mention both al Qaeda and the Taliban see Afghanistan as the cornerstone of a global caliphate, which can only be achieved by waging jihad.
The bottom line is this: The cruel and savage men who celebrated 9/11 and stood by Osama bin Laden are back in charge of Afghanistan. And the Biden administration seems more willing to collaborate with them than to make their lives more difficult.
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