The war in Gaza entered its 21st day. Although the Israeli army’s ground attack on Gaza has yet to start, the number of Palestinian casualties due to the retaliatory bombing by the Israeli side has exceeded five thousand. The position of many countries regarding the Gaza war is clear. Some countries have chosen the middle path, which includes China, Russia, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and others. Several countries could not maintain neutrality, including the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, and the Islamic Republic of Iran. Countries such as Türkiye are in a position of having verbal tension and a decrease in the level of diplomatic relations. For example, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced the cancellation of the visit of Turkish officials to Israel while attending the parliament of this country and called Hamas a “liberating” movement.
In the meantime, the position of the Taliban remains ambiguous. This group has not condemned or praised the parties involved. Specifically, the Taliban did not call Hamas a liberation movement like the Turkish authorities, nor did they call Israel a usurper and infanticidal regime like the Islamic Republic of Iran. They also did not support the position of Saudi Arabia and Egypt in talking about the necessity of creating two countries in the pre-1967 borders.
Understanding the position of the Taliban regarding the Gaza war is pivotal because this group is an Islamist movement and considers itself obligated to support Muslims in all parts of the world. More importantly, Mullah Hibatullah Akhundzadah, the Taliban Supreme Leader, calls himself “Amir al-Momineen” and this title requires him to back the believers of the world.
Notably, the stance of the forces opposing the Taliban is firmer than this group in supporting the Palestinians. For example, the Supreme Council of National Resistance for the Salvation of Afghanistan supported Hamas’s attack on Israel by publishing a statement. Even Muhammad Mohaqiq, a member of the leadership of this council, had a telephone conversation with Ziyad al-Nakhalah, the leader of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad group, which actually should have been done by the Islamist and jihadist Taliban. Similarly, the position of the National Resistance Front of Afghanistan (NRF) was clearer and more coherent than the numerous and vague statements of the Taliban.
The main expectation from the Taliban is to join the ranks of the supporters of Hamas and the Palestinians. However, the Taliban spokespersons vividly defended the Palestinian demand, but this defense could not expose Mullah Hibatullah to public opinion questions due to his silence.
The question is why the Taliban supreme leader does not seriously support Hamas and oppose Israel.
1. Financial Assistance from the United States
Israel is a strategic ally of the US and a country that is its enemy cannot remain a friend of Washington. Therefore, governments and groups that need America’s support try to support Israel’s stance. The Taliban are also considered friends of the US as evidenced by Washington’s ignoring human rights violations by the Taliban and sending packages of dollars to this group. The war in Gaza has made the ranks clear. The opponents of Israel cannot be liked by America, just as the opponents of Hamas cannot be liked by the Islamic Republic, Türkiye, and Qatar.
If the Taliban, like the Islamic Republic, enters the arena in support of Hamas, there will undoubtedly be a reconsideration in America’s approach to this group, which will result in a shift in the approach of America’s allies as well. For the time being, the Taliban needs the support of the United States, and they prefer its support to the defense of the Muslims, whose leader calls himself their emir.
The Taliban leader is afraid that if he supports Hamas against Israel, Washington may show favor to the opposition forces of this group. For example, the creation of the United Front of Afghanistan led by some soldiers of the former government in America is not good news for the Taliban.
2. Profiting from Creating a Crisis
Creating a crisis for the Taliban is not only dangerous but also profitable. Major crises such as Gaza place Afghanistan on the sidelines of the world’s attention more than before, and this is to the benefit of the Taliban to destroy the ground for creating a comprehensive democratic political structure in Afghanistan. For example, the crisis in Ukraine removed the need to address the crisis in Afghanistan from the focus of the world’s attention. In other words, Afghanistan’s case will not be on the world’s table until the Ukraine crisis is resolved. The Gaza crisis is more dangerous than the Ukraine crisis. Although one side is weak, the continuation of the war will force other factions to enter the field.
If the Gaza crisis escalates, the Afghanistan crisis will be forgotten once again. Therefore, rather than thinking about the end of the Gaza war, the Taliban prefer its continuation and expansion, since the world is engaged elsewhere and avoids putting serious pressure on this group.
Additionally, for the Taliban, who are looking for a solution rather than a dialogue in the war, the continuation of the war in Gaza is not a matter of concern, even though it is not politically beneficial for them.
3. A Lack of Compromise to Human Rights
The Taliban do not have a good relationship with human rights. Not only do they not have a good middle ground, but they violate human rights and completely ignore the demands of human rights defenders. In the war in Gaza, what provoked the reaction of supporters and non-sponsors of the war parties was the violation of human rights. Additionally, Muslim Palestinians were killed more than Israelis. Many countries seriously criticized the violation of human rights in Gaza, but the Taliban have yet to do it since it does not concern them. Even in the statements of the Taliban, human rights violations have not been mentioned as slogans, and they only mentioned Palestinians have the right to legitimate defense.
The Taliban group, which itself is accused of violating human rights, may think that criticizing human rights violations in Gaza is absurd as they are bound to fulfill their obligations in Afghanistan and then rush to help the residents of Gaza.
4. The Principle of Non-Interference in the Internal Affairs of Other Countries
The Taliban strongly values the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries, and this is because the world has not yet recognized this group due to its refusal to establish an inclusive democratic government. The Taliban consider the determination of the nature of the government to be an internal matter and do not listen to the voice of the world in this regard. The ambiguous position of the Taliban towards the Gaza war is affected by this. For example, Sirajuddin Haqqani, the Taliban Acting Minister of Interior, attended a meeting in Paktia Province where he stated that although the Taliban do not interfere in the affairs of others, they sympathize with Muslims. While voicing concern about the violation of human rights in Gaza or calling on the warring parties to exercise restraint is more than interfering in the affairs of others, it is a morally binding matter.
Considering their sensitivity to interference in their affairs, the Taliban try to avoid interfering in the Gaza war, even if the protection of Palestinian rights requires intervention. This is because they think they have violated this moral principle: “What you do not want for yourself, do not wish for others.” The Taliban wants to persuade the world not to interfere in their internal affairs by not interfering in the Gaza war.
5. Lack of Effectiveness of the Intervention
The Taliban have not yet become a legitimate and democratic government and are recognized as a group, not a government. Many countries use terms such as “Taliban group”, “Taliban interim government” and “current rulers of Afghanistan”, and the prospect of these terms becoming “Afghan government” is still grim. Additionally, the national legitimacy of the Taliban is suspicious and the people cannot trust the rulers to whom they have not given their consent. The need of the Taliban group for financial aid from the Western governments remains unmet. In this case, the Taliban’s support for Hamas and opposition to Israel, instead of supporting one of the parties to the war, will turn Israel’s Western allies away from the path of supporting this group.
6. The Reality of the Taliban Being Wagner for the US
The Taliban were addressed as America’s Wagner when the president of this country, Joe Biden, called the killing of Ayman al-Zawahiri, the leader of al-Qaeda, in a conversation with the media, due to the cooperation of this group. Rahmatullah Nabil, the head of intelligence of the former government, in response to Biden’s statements, called the Taliban the Wagner of the United States. The Taliban would not have colluded to kill their main ally and supporter if they were not America’s Wagner.
The Taliban’s silence in the face of the killing of Gaza residents is perplexing because this group colluded with the US to kill the leader of al-Qaeda. If this group is not the Wagner of the US, it is unlikely that it will remain silent against what is happening to the residents of Gaza. Supporting the Palestinians earns credibility for the Taliban in Afghanistan and the region because, on the one hand, the public sentiments in the country are focused on supporting the Palestinians, and on the other hand, some governments in the region, especially Russia and Iran, have a completely different view from the United States in the field of solving the Palestinian crisis. It appears that the Taliban’s approach to the Palestinian crisis is more in line with the US than neighboring countries and the region.
The silence of public sentiments in Afghanistan is more bewildering than the silence of the Taliban supreme leader. It is notable that the streets of London, Madrid, Paris, Berlin, and Sydney, instead of witnessing the presence of Israel’s supporters, witnessed the massive presence of Palestinian supporters, but in Afghanistan under the rule of the Taliban, no one came to the streets. While under the rule of the republican system, the need to defend the rights of Palestinians has brought the Afghan people to the streets many times, even leading to the destruction of public property. However, this time, under the rule of the Taliban Emirate, which calls itself the most Islamic regime in the world, no fervor has been created in support of the Palestinians.
It is not unlikely that the Taliban have warned the orators, preachers, imams of mosques, and lawyers to refrain from organizing protest movements regarding what is going on in Gaza. Otherwise, if the Taliban’s interest in supporting the Palestinians was concealed, they would undoubtedly take advantage of the intense feelings of the good people.