What does the Taliban's victory mean?

A Taliban leader in Afghanistan

What does the Taliban's victory mean for America's Arab allies and extremist organisations? Ahmad Abdul-Rahman explains.

The Taliban's control of Afghanistan raises questions about its impact on the policies of Arab countries allied to the West and on extremist terrorist organisations in the world in general and Arab countries in particular.

The victory of the Taliban came 20 years after it was overthrown by a coalition led by the US.

The abandoning of Afghanistan by the US, and the state of complete chaos prevailing in the country, are summed up by scenes of chaos and panic at Kabul airport. It is there that thousands of Afghans gathered in an effort to flee their country, but to no avail, amid reports of casualties.

The rapid negative developments in Afghanistan are causing international concern, especially from Western countries, which are rushing to evacuate their nationals. Questions have also been raised about the impact of the Taliban's victory, which Afghans fear will return to its previous brutal practices, on the policies of Arab countries allied with the Americans and on extremist terrorist organisations that are active in Arab countries.

Impact on Arab countries

There are fears that recent developments in Afghanistan may have an impact on the Arab region, because violent terrorist and fundamentalist organisations such as Al-Qaeda, its affiliates, and ISIS could become more confident and more violent. The return of the Taliban could affirm that Jihad is worth following and could lead to more self-assertion and is a way to achieve political goals. This will affect the security situation in the Arab region.

It is also clear that jihadists, Salafists, and Islamists around the world are watching events in Afghanistan and view the Taliban's victory as an encouragement. We should expect that not only ISIS, but also al-Qaeda and smaller groups would become stronger.

With the rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan, the activity of ISIS is expected to increase in the Middle East, especially in Syria, Iraq, and North Africa. Although there are some differences between the Taliban and ISIS, there will be understanding to carry out terrorist operations outside Afghanistan, not inside it.

Foreign policy reviews

As a consequence of what happened in Afghanistan, Arab countries allied to the West, including Saudi Arabia, could begin important revisions in their foreign policies and priorities. It is expected that Saudi Arabia may quickly consider trying to contain the Taliban movement by inviting its leaders to visit the Kingdom in an effort to turn a new page. Saudi policy will be pragmatic. It is possible that Saudi Arabia will begin to search for a formula for a long- or medium-term political settlement with the Houthis, given that its relations with the US has become tense.

Between Iraq and Afghanistan

The truth is that there is a difference between Afghanistan and Arabia in terms of geopolitics and demography This difference prompted the US to move forward with its withdrawal from Afghanistan especially that it has become a failed country without well-established official entities, even while keeping some of its soldiers in Iraq as military advisors. The mistakes by the US in Iraq and its exploitation by Iran made it seem as if Washington had ceded Iraq to Iran. At the urgent invitation of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Arab countries, the US became aware that if they withdrew from Iraq completely, this would be the entrance to dangerous geopolitical changes in the region.

As for Afghanistan, America's mistakes made the Taliban acquire the character of a national liberation movement that represents a part of the Afghan people. This forced the US and Western countries to deal with it and consider it as a force that has some popularity among the Afghan people.

As for the difference between the Taliban and other extremist Islamic organisations, we find that the umbrella of extremism unites all of them. Although the Taliban is considered, be the umbrella organisation for al-Qaeda and ISIS, it differs from them in that its elements are from the people of Afghanistan and that it is changing. Some of their members now present themselves as politicians.

Fighting terrorism as a political card

The two countries most affected by the rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan are Syria and Libya. Syria has a branch of Al-Qaeda (currently the Organization for the Liberation of Levant Front which controls Idlib in Syria) As for Libya, its chaos and difficult terrain allow global terrorist networks to support each other, in addition to the presence of regional and international parties involved in the conflict who use terrorist networks to their advantage.

In Syria, the jihadists will draw at least some inspiration from the events in Afghanistan. They will make it clear to their supporters that if they hold out long enough they will have a chance of victory over the US and the Europeans.

The rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan may also be used as a card by some Arab countries, such as Egypt, to emphasise that there are real internal and regional risks facing the Arab countries. As a consequence, the security of many countries in Arabia may be enhanced.

In sum, Afghanistan's future remains dependent on the type of policies that the Taliban will adopt in the coming months.

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Saturday, 30 September 2023