Following the conclusion of World War II, Western nations, spearheaded by the United States, embarked on a mission to counter the Soviet Union’s unionism and communist movements. This mission was implemented in the Middle East and Afghanistan through two distinct methods: supporting Islamic fundamentalism and advocating for democracy. The aim was to impede Soviet infiltration and the spread of communist ideologies. Democracy and fundamentalism were both utilized as instruments. The United States’ stance in Afghanistan over the past few decades has clearly demonstrated this instrumental approach to religion and democracy.
At the outset, when the Soviet Union sought to incorporate Afghanistan into its sphere of influence, the West responded by investing money and providing weapons to the region, in order to create a “green belt” of fundamentalism. Those who implemented this belt, while receiving weapons and money from the West and its allies, viewed democracy and socialism as two facets of the same civilization (the West) and considered the primary jihad to be against Christianity and Jews (Western civilization), with the fight against communism being a subset of this historical confrontation. This confrontation has occurred in different eras and has been somewhat obscured by the expansion of colonialism to the benefit of the West. In the context of the Green Belt project, two strategic enemies had actually joined forces tactically, although the West was aware of this. The West believed that suppressing fundamentalists would be easier and cheaper than defeating the Soviet Union. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Green Belt project, the United States and its jihadist protégés quickly turned against each other. This time, the United States and its allies entered the field with the banner of democracy, and the promotion of democracy was declared to be the primary mission.
In 1991, the invasion of Iraq marked the start of a new conflict in which the United States viewed dictatorships and non-elected governments as enemies of humanity. This time, Saddam Hussein, Muammar Gaddafi, Mullah Omar, Osama bin Laden, and Hosni Mubarak were not the only targets. The West, led by the United States, sought to suppress these minor rulers as part of a global campaign against their main political and economic rivals, China and Russia. It was hoped that by suppressing these small examples, a larger mobilization and confrontation would arise, resulting in a shift of wealth and power away from the West and the curbing of the ambitions of China, Russia, and other Eastern countries. After overthrowing and suppressing these governments, the West sought to create democratic governments in the Middle East, challenging non-Western models from China, Russia, and other Eastern countries. Unfortunately, this campaign had many undemocratic consequences, including the chaos in Iraq and Syria and the Taliban’s return to power.
For many years, university and school graduates have discussed the possibility of reviving the caliphate and introducing an alternative Islamic government system. In Afghanistan, attempts to establish a national government based on Western models have been met with resistance from conservative and fundamentalist groups from the start. These opponents of democratic government with a Western model argue that they have not been given the chance to implement their ideas in society, and if they were, they would be able to create a balance between the two worlds and provide better governance and services than anyone else, while also protecting cultural and religious values. Over the past four decades, the rule of the Mullahs in Iran, the first Taliban emirate, ISIS administrations in some parts of Syria and Iraq, the Muslim Brotherhood government in Egypt, and now the second Taliban emirate have made the people of this region familiar with the practical versions of the anti-democratic ideas of fundamentalists. The Taliban emirate, with its crude and primitive face, has become a testing ground for the ideals and fantasies of not only fundamentalist parties and groups but also the delusions of the deceived masses about fundamentalism. In the Middle East, after the Arab Spring and the violent unrest in Iraq and Syria, there has been an increase in the desire to open up the political space and respect civil liberties, and Iran is on the brink of democratic change.
The oppressive governments, corruption, and lack of political liberty in the Middle East have contributed to the growth of extremist ideologies. Afghanistan can be used as a reflection for those who support the Taliban and fundamentalism in other countries, warning them of the risks of becoming ensnared in Jihadism.
The Taliban’s Emirate has broadened its communication networks and disseminated extensive information regarding its conduct and policies in Afghanistan, not only to the Middle East but also to the entire Muslim world. Jihadists and fundamentalists are facing a great challenge in Afghanistan. It is hoped that the Afghan people’s suffering in the Taliban laboratory will have lasting and constructive outcomes for our region, and many other countries and nations that are on the brink of terrorism and fundamentalism can be saved from destruction by viewing their future in Afghanistan.
It is hoped that the failure of imported “democracy” and hasty efforts for overnight transformation, as well as the defeat of fundamentalism and Talibanism in responding to the complex needs of the contemporary world, will lead Afghanistan and our region toward a path that combines the valuable cultural and popular capacities of the indigenous people with the universal values of freedom and democracy in the most suitable way, thus bringing an end to the current crisis.