Terrorism against Terrorism; Taliban at the Crossroad of Savagery and Domestication

By: Mazdak Parsi

Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Wang Wenbin recently said about the trilateral meeting held in Islamabad with the presence of Taliban Foreign Minister Mullah Amir Khan Mutaqi and the foreign ministers of China and Pakistan that the three sides had issued a joint statement and agreed on closer cooperation in the fields of politics, security, and development and on its methods. It appears that China was able to acquire a written guarantee from the Taliban in the fight against the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) with the assistance of the Pakistani army.

This is the first multilateral document in which the interim government of Afghanistan has participated as well as the first written commitment of the Afghan Taliban on not tolerating terrorist acts and the activities of terrorist groups such as ETIM, which is s very important for the development of China-Afghanistan relations and cooperation in the field of fight against terrorism in the region.

Wang further said that the trilateral meeting in Islamabad is the continuation of good neighborliness and practical cooperation among the three countries in the new era and it helps to resolve the Afghan issues politically and encourages the international community to stabilize the situation and assist Afghanistan.

This could be an achievement for China, which is a strategic ally of Pakistan and has played the role of an international lobbyist for the Taliban, both before and after the fall of the previous government. Now that the situation in Afghanistan is progressing in favor of China and its eternal ally, it is trying to ease its mind about making the suppression of Uyghur terrorists easy in Afghanistan. Since the Taliban need China’s support to revive Afghanistan’s ruined and bankrupt economic system and Beijing’s political support in the regional and global area, they have responded positively to China’s request with no other choice. This country has been playing an instrumental economic and political role as one of the great powers in the international arena for a long time, which no country can ignore. Due to being under serious pressure from the West, the Taliban have to abide by China’s demands so that they at least have a powerful ally by their side in the conflict with the Western powers.

Currently, Russia, Iran, and Pakistan also along with Chania are playing the role of regional allies of the Taliban, expecting to make the Taliban meet their demands that have been raised in nearly two years. Fighting terrorist groups which currently have safe havens in Afghanistan is their top demand. However, in response to the demands raised by the countries of the region, the Taliban have assured that they are steadfast in the fight against Islamic State-Khorasan (ISS-K) and other terrorist groups and will not allow them to threaten the national interests of the countries of the region from Afghanistan. But are the Taliban really acting decisively and seriously in the fight against terrorist organizations and networks with which they have a very strong ideological link, and separating from them is an unforgivable betrayal of its Islamic values and ideals, or is this simply a survival strategy tactic which will never be implemented?

Two hypotheses can be put forward here: First, what Mutaqi on behalf of the Taliban committed to in Islamabad is being done with reference to Mullah Hibatullah so that the world at least superficially knows that the Taliban are a local group and not interested in advancing the global jihad. In this case, the Taliban leadership can safely implement their ambitious jihadi plans. Second, the commitments given to the world by Mutaqi are not made in coordination with the Taliban leadership, and just as they made many commitments to the world during the Doha talks, they did not act on any of them, and now they continue with this trick, although it is partially out of order, but not completely invalid, to buy more time.

The first hypothesis can be valid because the Taliban leadership not only does not hate the terrorist groups in Afghanistan but also considers them as part of its global jihad project, and with the privilege of stability in Afghanistan, Taliban Supreme Leader Mullah Hibatullah Akhundzada and other extremist leaders of the Taliban are likely to consider its implementation. Al-Qaeda, the Taliban, ISS-K, Hizb ut-Tahrir, and other radical Islamic groups are dreaming of establishing a global jihad and Islamic Caliphate in the world, and now that the “Islamic Emirate” has been established in Afghanistan, Islamists have taken one serious step to the realization of their dreams.

The victory of the Taliban in Afghanistan has given new life and energy to Islamic extremism and emboldened its followers to succeed in their plans. But what the leaders of the Taliban and the terrorist organizations that inspire this group are unable to understand is the impossibility of such a project in the global and even regional arena. The establishment of an Islamic caliphate in the primitive style of ISS-K and the Taliban is not even accepted by the Islamic governments of the region, let alone the Western countries that always emphasize the universal values of democracy and human rights.

Taliban leaders are now in dilemma over following their radical Islamic dreams and pursuing their global jihad or compromising with the contemporary world based on internationally accepted rules and standards. If they follow their Islamic dreams, they can have the support of terrorist groups and organizations in Afghanistan and other parts of the world, but they cannot guarantee a long political life for themselves and their regime will remain unofficial and isolated until the end, which will eventually be toppled by another regime. If they agree to compromise with the contemporary world and accept the usual international norms, they can stay in power for a longer time by gaining diplomatic legitimacy, but at the cost of losing the support of a large part of powerful internal circles and external terrorist groups, which will most likely lead to the intensification of the power struggle among the Taliban, leading to unspecified results.

But how valid is the second hypothesis? The “moderate” faction of the Taliban, through whom the Pakistani Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI) deceived the world with the Doha talks and promoted the myth of “Taliban change,” have realized that the sensible way is to compromise with the world and not to confront them. However, this faction of the Taliban does not have high credibility and influence among the Taliban leadership, and thus they have not been able to prove that they have the power to challenge Mullah Hibatullah. Every time a harsh comment comes from them, they rush to visit Mullah Habitullah in Kandahar and renew their allegiance. This faction is perplexed and does not know whether to continue following the “Amir al-Momineen” with the risk of isolation and a dark future or to deviate from his commands, which leads to losing the position and dignity that they currently own.

The “extremist” Taliban, however, do not have the confusion as they are at the top of the leadership with unlimited powers and do not consider themselves accountable to any authorities. They still live in the illusion of global jihad and dream of implementing “Muhammadan law” in the “Land of Infidelity”. The performance of the Taliban in the last two years in Afghanistan has demonstrated that this faction of the Taliban continues to make the final decision concerning the crisis of the country, and there is no will to give up savagery and tribal desertification in favor of domestication in the modern and contemporary world.