Home Afghanistan Observations of an Expat: Trusting the Taliban!

Observations of an Expat: Trusting the Taliban!

Observations of an Expat: Trusting the Taliban!

Do we trust the Taliban to control a historically uncontrollable Afghanistan? If they can’t, any other pledges are worthless.

By Tom Arms

Can we trust the Taliban? President Joe Biden says the US has to work with them. But can we accept their assurances that women will be allowed to be educated and not forced to wear the oppressive burka? That foreign journalists can remain in Afghanistan to monitor their activities?

Do we believe the Taliban leadership when it says it will allow foreign nationals and Afghan citizens who worked with them to leave the country, and that American and British troops can protect Kabul Airport until 31 August to ensure their safe departure? And, most importantly, can we trust their pledge to prevent Afghanistan from again becoming a base for international terrorism?

Or are those the right questions? Should we instead ask: Do we trust the Taliban to control a historically uncontrollable Afghanistan? If they can’t, any other pledges are worthless.

The Taliban is comprised of individuals in the same way as any other political group anywhere in the world. They are united in their belief that Afghanistan should be governed by Sharia law, but a bewildering variety of conflicting groups disagree about the interpretation of that law and the tactics to be used in achieving that goal.

There are three basic camps within the Taliban. The first is the leadership. Twenty years in the wilderness, prisons and negotiations with America is believed to have invested them with a greater degree of political sophistication and realism than when they were last in power. Then there are the military commanders who have had no involvement in the discussions with American negotiators. Some of them support the leadership. Some of them are working with the third rogue group who are ignoring the leadership, closing down schools, arresting and sometimes killing Afghans who worked with Westerners; forcing women into burkas and imposing the harshest tenets of Sharia law.

But that is only part of the chaos. There are the organizations tangentially linked to factions inside the Taliban but outside the main group.  Specifically there is Al Qaeeda and ISIS-Khoramshar Province (aka ISIS-K). The latter organization is responsible for the double bombing outside the Kabul Airport Perimeter which has—as of this writing—claimed 90 lives and 150 wounded.

ISIS-K is not a big organization in Afghanistan. It is believed to be only about 2,000-strong in the country. But, as they proved this week, it only takes one well-placed suicide bomber to put them at the top of the world news agenda.

ISIS-K is the most extreme Islamic terrorist group operating today. Founded in 2015, its members follow the Salafi tradition which rejects religious innovation and demands the strictest possible interpretation of Sharia law. It operates an international network and in Afghanistan is believed to be responsible for a number of recent murderous attacks on hospitals and schools.

But perhaps most important of all, ISIS-K believes its mission is to destroy all those who work with non-believers as well as the non-believers themselves. This means that the current Taliban leadership is as much a target as American troops.

In the eyes of ISIS-K, Abdul Ghani Baradar, the current de facto leader of the Taliban, made a fatal mistake meeting with CIA director Bill Burns this week and agreeing to help protect the perimeter around Kabul Airport and facilitate the evacuation of foreign nationals and Afghan citizens who had worked with them. Add to that his pledges about women, journalists and the suppression of terrorists, and Baradar’s days could well be numbered.

Abdul Ghani Baradar was one of the co-founders of the Taliban in the 1990s. He was an American prisoner from 2010 to 2018 when he was released to participate in US-Taliban negotiations in Qatar. Baradar was the man chosen for the breakthrough telephone conversation with President Trump and was delegated to sign the agreement for US troop withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Bill Burns is the only CIA director to have been recruited from the ranks of America’s career diplomatic corps. He has served as ambassador to Jordan and Russia and as Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs.

The two men almost certainly talked about more than the protection of the airport perimeter. The Taliban needs access to the $7 billion in frozen assets in the Federal Reserve Bank, the $5.3 billion for projects that the World Bank has “paused”, $440 million for new hospitals which is now being blocked by the World Bank and food aid which is feeding roughly half of Afghanistan’s 38.4 million people.

Perhaps most of all, it needs American help in persuading Afghan professionals to remain in the country to keep the schools and hospitals open, clean water flowing and the electricity running.

All of the above are dependent on the Taliban proving that is in control of the security situation in Afghanistan. When the bombs went off — it failed the first test.

World View - Observations of an ExpatWorld Review    

  • As Kabul descends into chaos it is becoming painfully clear that this is largely due to poor political leadership in the West. America—Trump and Biden—bear the lion’s share of the blame. Trump for laying the groundwork and Biden for failing to jettison Trump’s work and the serious miscalculation that the government of Ashraf Ghani could hold back the Taliban tide. But the Europeans also have to accept a big share of the blame, especially British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. The British were the lead European partner in Afghanistan. They have (or had) the second largest NATO military force and have a historic involvement in the country. President Biden made it clear back in April that he would withdraw US troops by 9/11 at the latest. Boris did nothing. It was not until the Taliban was banging on the gates of Kabul that he started trying to organize European NATO to persuade Biden to remain in Afghanistan or, at the very least, substantially delay US withdrawal. Even then something may have been salvaged if Boris had not been leading the charge. As one former senior diplomat said: “He has virtually zero credibility with the Biden Administration and every EU capital. He is regarded as lazy, untrustworthy and a political lightweight.”
  • Western diplomats are fleeing Afghanistan in droves. In fact, most of their embassies now stand empty. But that is not the case with the Russians. Their diplomats are operating at full tilt strengthening relations with the Taliban with whom they have been quietly working for several years. Taliban leaders have been in out of Moscow since for some time, and at one point the Trump Administration was accusing the Russians of supplying the Afghan Islamic rebels with weaponry. The charge was successfully denied. But the change of regime has been warmly and publicly welcomed by the Russians who maintain that the Taliban victory will bring peace and prosperity to the streets of Kabul and hills and valleys of rural Afghanistan. Part of the reason for the Russian diplomatic offensive in Afghanistan is to fill the political vacuum left by the West and exploit America’s humiliation and discomfort. But there are also practical considerations. Russia retains wide-ranging economic and military interests in the former Soviet republics of Central Asia. It is concerned that instability, Jihadism and a rogue Taliban will destabilize the other Asian stans and encourage Chechen rebels. They are also concerned that a failed state in Afghanistan will result in an increase in the drug trade with Russia. Moscow still has painful memories of their nine-year war in Afghanistan, but practical politics have won the day.
  • More signs that Brexit is beginning to bite. It has taken longer than expected, but the reality factor is replacing the fear factor. As predicted by Remainers, it is the lack of EU immigrant workers which is causing the current problem, especially in the agricultural and trucking industries. The two sectors rely on what is classified as unskilled labor to harvest the crops and move those products to super market shelves while still fresh. Unskilled jobs have been traditionally filled by immigrants, mainly because they are dirty, physically exhausting, and low-paid and involve long hours. British workers don’t want them. The result is that the number of lorry drivers is down by 20 percent and agricultural workers by at least 25 percent. Supermarkets are seriously worried about empty shelves. The response of British Home Secretary Pritti Patel is “pay more money and hire British workers.” There are several problems with this diktat. First of all, there is already a general labor shortage caused partly by Brexit and partly by Covid. Next, although, agricultural work and truck driving are classed as unskilled, that is a labor fallacy. Anyone who has spent a day picking strawberries or trying to drive a heavy goods vehicle will testify to the fact. So recruiting indigenous Brits will involve a training period – Which means a delay. Then there is the impact that such a move will have on inflation. Increasing the salaries of 320,000 lorry drivers and 176,000 agricultural workers will have significant impact wage inflation. It will also substantially increase the cost of products across the entire range of commerce as transport costs are added to the retail price. Already supermarket chains are paying drivers bonuses of up to 25 percent to move goods to shelves before they spoil. Unable to two compete with the private sector will be the public sector, which means, for instance, that local councils face the prospect of a shortage of drivers of dust carts to collect rubbish.
  • The cult of Xi Jinping continues to grow. The thoughts of the Great Helmsman (a title now conferred on Xi and previously reserved for Mao) have already been written into the Chinese constitution and Chinese Christians have been instructed to replace pictures of Jesus with smiling images of the Chinese leader. Now Xi’s the philosophy is becoming an official and required part of the educational curriculum from primary school right through to the final day of university. There are 14 main principles to the Thoughts of Xi, but they boil down to unswerving loyalty to the nation, socialism, the communist party, one-party rule, a united China (i.e. absorption of Hong Kong and Taiwan) and the principle of two systems in one state. Cult politics makes it easier to enforce policies when the subject of the cult is hale and hearty. But when the grim reaper makes his inevitable entrance and the cult figure his inevitable exit there is usually a substantial political price to pay. It happened with the death of Stalin and Mao.  President Xi Jinping is 68 years old. A healthy 68, but still in the early winter/late autumn of his life.
  • An innovative legal move by the Mexican government has caused America’s gun control lobby to shift its interest south of the border. Mexico has one of the worst gun homicide rates in the world as drug cartels shoot it out between themselves and the federalists. This should be surprising as Mexico also has one of the world’s toughest gun control laws. There is only one gun shop in the entire country and it only sells low caliber pistols. But the shop and the restrictive gun laws are an irrelevancy as the weapons used by the cartels are smuggled in from the US. This is why the Mexican government is suing 11 American gun manufacturers in the Massachusetts courts. It will be tough. Gun manufacturers and retailers are protected from law suits by the 2005 Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Acts (PLCAA) which says that the gun industry cannot be held liable for the actions of people who buy their weapons. The Mexican government claims that the restrictions of the act do not apply to Mexico because they are not American. If the Mexican government’s suit is successful than gun control enthusiasts will argue that American citizens should be given the same protection from the US gun lobby as foreigners.


Tom Arms Journalist Sindh CourierTom Arms is foreign editor of Liberal Democrat Voice. and the author of “The Encyclopedia of the Cold War”.His book “America: Made in Britain” is published on 15 October.