Tuesday’s press conference hosted by the Taliban promised to usher in a new dawn for the Islamist insurgency, respecting women’s rights and forgiving those who fought against them.
Still, we must remember that these are the same extremists who imposed one of the world’s strictest interpretations of Islamic jurisprudence for more than half a decade. These are the men who brutalized their own population, banned women from even the most basic freedoms, and inflicted barbaric punishments on citizens and in the past twenty years, according to periodic United Nations reports, were responsible for the deaths of thousands of afghans. civilians, from the same population that they now pretend to rule.
Perhaps most worryingly, this is the same group that provided al-Qaeda haven and allowed the terror group to build a network of terrorist training camps, in which thousands of recruits learned deadly skills directly from the returning terrorists’ handbook. to spread devastation in their territory. countries of origin or foreign targets.
Compliance with the Taliban allowed Osama Bin Laden’s organization to grow and develop, ultimately resulting in numerous terrorist attacks on European and American soil, including the September 11 attacks and the Madrid train bombing in 2004, as well as inspiring many others.
Despite assurances from the Taliban, recent reports emphasize that they remain closely aligned with al-Qaeda and a number of al-Qaeda-affiliated terrorist groups operating in Afghanistan. The Taliban have never shown any signs of breaking ties. Al-Qaeda is reportedly active in at least 15 Afghan provinces and its leadership has even sworn bayat to Mullah Haibatullah, the leader of the Taliban.
Due to the Taliban’s close ties to al-Qaeda and other affiliates, there is little doubt that, in addition to being a significant military victory, it is also a victory for insurgency propaganda with global implications and is seen as an important step. forward by the United States. global Islamist terrorist movement.
Al-Qaeda supporters are celebrating the situation in Afghanistan as an opportunity to proclaim victory over the United States, something that even ISIS did not achieve at the height of the Caliphate.
The footage of US helicopters evacuating the US embassy will reinforce a movement that will no doubt come back to haunt Europe and the West for years, if not decades, to come. Afghanistan is now poised to once again become a breeding ground for radical Islamist terrorists, with the help of new technologies and the updated and moderate face of the Taliban.
Large ungoverned areas of the country are ideal hiding places for militants seeking to find a peaceful new home, away from the prying eyes of US forces.
This newfound trust among Islamists, coupled with the rather thin commitment of the Taliban not to allow terrorist activity to emanate from Afghanistan again, creates a worrying and risky situation.
My assessment is that the Taliban have no long-term strategic commitment to upholding their guarantees. This is compounded by the fact that most nations will never recognize them as a legitimate government.
Furthermore, once the true nature of the insurgency is revealed, and the oppression, as well as the punitive practices that became synonymous with the group’s return, bilateral sanctions will be unequivocally imposed.
Consequently, the external “strike capacity” of the Taliban will be forced to come through al-Qaeda and its affiliates around the world.
Once the West begins to pressure the new regime in Kabul, the Taliban will most likely allow al-Qaeda to re-establish a strong presence in the country.
So it’s only a matter of time before we see attacks emanating outward. The Taliban, aiming to keep their hands clean and appear as legitimate leaders, are unlikely to be directly involved, but they will certainly provide tolerance and unspoken encouragement. We may soon see organized terrorist attacks again, first at the regional level and then beyond in the medium and long term.
The dire situation in Afghanistan raises the question of what the EU and its allies can do to alleviate the crisis and, more importantly, protect their strategic interests and the safety of citizens.
In the short term, it is essential to remove Afghan national personnel and threatened individuals, such as journalists, women’s rights activists and former officials, from the country.
So Europe must prepare for the inevitable influx of Afghan refugees fleeing the country. We must work quickly to avoid the mistakes and devastation of the 2015 crisis.
In the long term, there must be a concrete strategy towards the new regime in Kabul, and sanctions are one of the few tools left. Humanitarian deliveries must continue. However, any potential development aid should be tied to conditions.
Unfortunately, with Russia, China and Turkey already agreeing to work with the new regime, alongside the Taliban’s long-term ally Pakistan, the development aid tool, as well as sanctions, will be far less effective.
When facing unfamiliar territory, it is important that the EU stands together as a united bloc, using all diplomatic and geopolitical tools at our disposal, to protect both innocent Afghans and, indeed, the safety of our own citizens.
_Dr. Hans-Jakob Schindler is Senior Director of the Anti-Extremism Project (CEP), an international non-profit organization working to combat the growing threat of terrorism and extremist ideology. _
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism