Taliban’s Al Qaeda Nexus
Decades of misinformed military and political fetishizing of Afghanistan and terrorism have created their own enduring mythology in the US. Al Qaeda and the Taliban were never bedfellows, nor were they even close. 9/11 was conceived and planned in Germany, not Afghanistan. It was the US that harbored and taught the 9/11 terrorists how to fly.
It was US airport security that was lax and US airlines that pushed back on security recommendations to have $20 door locks installed in cockpits on the grounds of cost. It was the Bush-Cheney junta that ignored intelligence reports of an imminent al Qaeda attack. If any one of these factors had been properly addressed 9/11 would not have happened and the trillions spent and thousands of deaths caused by the invasion of Afghanistan would not have happened. Today the concept behind al Qaeda’s raisin d’être – the far jihad – has no real support anywhere. Jihadism has become tribal identity warfare or about local political power plays. Moreover, today al Qaeda would have a choice between a number of the Middle East and African failed states, rather than hiding in Afghanistan where the Islamic State would also be out to destroy them (the narcissism of small differences). Going on about a terrorist threat from Afghanistan just doesn’t ring true. And so far as I am aware the Taliban has never exported or engaged in any form of international terrorism. But the myths continue, propagated by ignorance and malevolent design.
The Taliban was never any threat to the West, whatsoever. The Taliban was never going to swim across the ocean to attack the West. The only interest it ever had was in Afghanistan. Similarly, the “jihadists” “inspired” by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were more reactive than anything else -they were driven to their actions by Western aggression against Muslim states. There is very little chance that Al Qaeda will regroup in Afghanistan. The Taliban never knew what Bin Laden was planning and would have stopped him if it had. It never wanted a war with the West. It wanted to enact its brutal medieval regime in only its home country. Yes, the plight of women and girls in Afghanistan will become terrible. But Western states have to learn that there are limits to what raw violence and military power can accomplish. Western interference in the Middle East and elsewhere has always only distorted local development. It is impossible to impose foreign values on places that have their own histories and experiences. In fact, we have to accept a simple reality: from the moment the US invaded Afghanistan 20 years ago, what is happening now was always the most probable outcome. If the US had not attacked Iraq and focused on rebuilding in Afghanistan, there was a brief glimmer of hope. But American hubris and arrogance led to war in Iraq and the devastation of the region. This is the inevitable result.
At the bottom, Biden’s only alternative to this fiasco was a bigger fiasco—endless futile efforts at, “nation-building.” This undoubted tragedy in Afghanistan will only be redeemed at all if the top-dog nations learn a crucial lesson from the experience. The lesson: in a post-colonial world, the nation-building agenda is utterly discredited. However reasonable the objectives may sound, cultural change takes too long—spans measured not in years, nor even in decades, but in many generations—for any nation, however powerful, to stay the course.
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