Wednesday, 18 August 2021

The Taliban and Self-Preservation

The BBC called it "extraordinary". In reality, Tuesday's Taliban press conference was pretty banal. The media in this country tend to ignore coups and civil wars that have no impact on oil supplies, so I suppose a spokesperson making vague, reassuring promises about the new regime is something of a novelty. Five quick points about the Taliban's media offensive and what it means.

1. The Taliban have assured the populace and the Western media that everyone is safe, and there will ne no reprisals against those who were part of the previous government. Actions might be at odds with the words, but no insurgency riddled with factions and whose rapid advance is largely thanks to deals cut with localised militias and regional government are about to openly declare a reign of terror, even if this is what they will end up doing.

2. The Taliban's leadership are aware they must placate the Western powers, even as they continue removing their forces. 20 years of war has devastated the countryside in their rural strongholds, but many Afghan cities have been rebuilt. Bombed out central districts have been repaired, electrical, water, and road infrastructures renewed, and the capacities of the state apparatus modernised. The Taliban of 1996 had to build a ramshackle and repressive state from scratch in an utterly devastated country, while the Taliban of 2021 inherit something entirely different. Antagonising the West, for all they know, could unleash a campaign of air strikes that would easily rub all of this out. Therefore the reassuring words, their commitment to prevent Afghanistan from becoming a haven for terrorists again, the retention of UN agencies and aid-related NGOs, and the more welcoming attitude to Western journalists is part of this. In other words, the Taliban are proving adept exponents of statecraft.

3. The position of women is central to this. Going from the previous horrors of their regime, large numbers of women in Kabul have taken to the burqa and have disappeared from public places. Except for some courageous women who have publicly protested in defence of their rights. Here, the Taliban have fudged the issue, with their spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid saying "The Islamic Emirate is committed to the rights of women within the framework of sharia. Our sisters will have the same rights, will be able to benefit from their rights." Which can mean anything as there are as many interpretations of Sharia as there are Sharia jurists. However, while women have suffered appallingly in Taliban-controlled areas the leadership know it's good optics to talk up women continuing in work and education, and having a woman interview a commander for one of the news channels. This reduces the chances of antagonism with the West and keeps the aid money flowing.

4. Another good reason for not rubbing the United States up the wrong way is the service they and the West are rendering the Taliban. As awful as the scene at Kabul airport was on Monday, it appears the Taliban are utterly uninterested in preventing the evacuation of Afghan civilians who were variously employed by the previous government - apart from some warm words about staying and rebuilding. Here, a layer of the (mostly urban) population are removing themselves from the equation. Potential oppositionists, and potential points of tension with whatever form of Islamism they end up installing as the official ideology are gone. And while they might be an annoyance to the regime as they take to the airwaves safely overseas, the post-occupation recovery will be greatly assisted by whatever remittances they send to relatives remaining in Afghanistan.

5. What's the Taliban end game? It's the retention of power. As the last 20 years have shown, the Taliban leadership are far from stupid and are unlikely to make the mistakes that saw them ousted by the West. They can see from looking at Iran and Saudi Arabia, and how the military elites from Pakistan who've generously funded and supplied them that modernised Islamist states can support theocratic or religiously-aligned ruling classes and repressive religious doctrine. And as controllers of the state, they're well positioned to seriously enrich themselves from the scramble for rare earths. The Gulf states have shown official ideology is no barrier to wealth and (lopsided) capitalist development. The Taliban are unlikely to proves themselves any different.

Image Credit


BCFG said...

Wow, now 3 articles from someone who hasn’t shown any interest whatsoever in imperialist affairs. This must really be hurting you; still you have managed to tell us that some infrastructure has been built! You would think the Afghans would be more grateful, right!

One question not being asked is why the Afghan people are so much more attracted to the Islamic agenda of the Taliban than the Western model of, erm, having all your national resources plundered! Incidentally building infrastructure is a very important component in the plundering modus operandi.

Not rubbing the US criminal gangster empire up the wrong way is what any nation (possibly except Russia and China) has to do on pain of death. We see this everywhere, from Caracas to Kabul. But the people of Venezuela, Cuba etc have shown that resistance to the beast is possible. We can only hope that the Taliban show the same heroism, and that others learn from their heroic deeds.

This is a magnificent time for the Afghan people, their years of struggle against a criminal beast is hopefully over, and they can get on with the task of building a future for themselves. Hopefully they will diverge totally from the highly destructive, highly regressive Western model, built on the most repugnant values in the whole of human history.

A defeat for Western values is a victory for humanity.

Incidentally, on that score did the Taliban mention the IPCC report at all?

Anonymous said...

This article is thoroughly racist, in all its aspects.

"whose rapid advance is largely thanks to deals cut with localised militias"

This is such a projection. What you mean to say here is that the US occupation forces have failed to bribe the regions of Afghanistan into being subjugated to US interests. But instead you have to present it as the opposite. But it should be noted that the US had much more resources at their disposal to cut deals and it doesn't seem to have worked does it!

You see the Afghans are not so easily bought as you might think!

Phil said...

What a stupid comment. Do you ever stop and think before typing? As you might have noticed, the US had pre-announced their withdrawal from Afghanistan. So the choice was simple - fight without US support and lose, or bargain an outcome that will save lives. Particularly the lives of those doing the dealmaking.

asquith (stopped using google) said...

Has BCFG ever spoken to a woman once in his whole 'life'?

Robert said...

Afghanistan illustrates how the neocons could never have imposed democracy on anyone else. How could they? Democracy by definition must be chosen by the people who have it. Many of those who don’t have it don’t want it, and shoving it down their throats — especially when it’s done with the sort of clueless arrogance that the Anglo-American empire displayed in such abundance — is not a good way to convince them to want it.

Anonymous said...

What's the Taliban end game? It's the retention of power.

You mean, they're sort of like Kier Starmer, only much more intelligent, much more courageous and in a much better position?

Phil, I think your critics are exaggerating the poor quality of your posts. I'm glad you're saying something about the situation, and what you're saying is miles better than what the established media tend to be lapping up.

However, to be fair to the critics, you're being awfully condescending about an organisation which has accomplished a remarkable feat, and in doing so it's easy to wonder whether this is not driven by the fact that the feat was accomplished on the backs of a lot of dead British soldiers. Do you not think that focussing on the failure of British policy in the region would not be more useful than focussing on the (possibly imaginary) potential flaws of the Taliban?

Blissex said...

«the neocons could never have imposed democracy on anyone else. How could they? Democracy by definition must be chosen by the people who have it.»

There is a big difference between "democracy" and "the institutions of liberal democracy", the institutions can well be created from the outside, whether or not they end up being successful is something else.
The main reason why the neocons like "the institutions of liberal democracy" could be that they are based on representative bodies with elections of representatives, and experience shows that representatives can be easily "sponsored" because they constantly need campaign funds, unlike local strongmen, who often have their own sources of funding and power base and so get uppity.

That probably also is why New Labour seem so keen to get rid of members (hundred thousands of them being "trot entrysts" and "racists and antisemites" apparently, as they voted for Corbyn twice) and their subs, and of trade union subsidies, to ensure that the party is mostly funded by private donors: who pays the piper calls the tunes.

«Many of those who don’t have it don’t want it»

There is some difference between “don't want it” (in the sense of rejecting it) and "are not willing to die for it", especially if it is "managed representative democracy" that ends up representing the interests of foreign or local "sponsors" more than that of people.

McIntosh said...

Maybe in a few years we will see the Emir of the Afghans having tea with the Queen or King Charles 111. His phots can be put beside the King of Saudi, the Chinese President and numerous other honourable heads of state.

Fascinating to see how long - and what trade deals - are needed to make him a repectable recipient of a royal carriage ride.

Robert said...

Worth a read:

BCFG said...

"Has BCFG ever spoken to a woman once in his whole 'life'?"

Yes, as my partner can attest to. But what a pathetic and stupid comment. As if opposition to imperialist criminality is pathologically related to not having had a girlfriend! Incidentally I have also worked very closely with Muslim women over a number of years.

Incidentally, asquith, have you ever spoken to a muslin in your entire life?

Anonymous said...

BCFG is a talking shite as usual. Honestly Phil I don't know why you put up with his weird fascist apologism.

Anonymous said...

If BCFG was banned he would return under another name (he used to have many). His extremism is no different from that of the far-right, and his mindset little different.

Both are driven by a sort of narcissism that insists on the omnipotence of the West and making all other cultures subordinate ('White Left' the Chinese describe it as) it's just that one sees it as desirable, the other not. Yet it is inherently racist, in either case - hence easily lending itself on both sides to anti-Semitism.

It is also marked by a disregard for the rights of others, whether it be 'collateral damage' of dead Arabs or Africans on the right, or the dead squaddies or women's rights on the left.

Both are political sociopathies, and probably reflect the psychological make-up of their adherents. You can't convince them - they don't need argument, they need therapy.

David Parry said...

Anon (@09:06 on 21/08/21)

The corrupt Western-backed client regime was, according to feminists in Afghanistan, little better for women's rights than the Taliban, but don't let pesky facts like that get in the way of a good narrative.

BCFG said...

"It is also marked by a disregard for the rights of others, whether it be 'collateral damage' of dead Arabs or Africans on the right, or the dead squaddies or women's rights on the left. "

Does anon think for even a minute that we believe he has any regard whatsoever for Afghan women? I guess the centrism that anon represents cares neither for dead squaddies, Afghan women or the dead Arabs and Africans! All he cares about is that the US gangsters are free to carry out their gangsterism.

I am happy to be called a fascist by all these supporters of white supremicism!

"Both are political sociopathies, and probably reflect the psychological make-up of their adherents. You can't convince them - they don't need argument, they need therapy."

So what is your answer, permanent occupation by the US empire using all force necessary or the extermination of all Afghan men, with Afghanistan to be repopulated with white 'civilsied' Western men?

Anonymous said...

Given that 20 years of US occupation has made the Taliban more powerful in Afghanistan, and that 20 years of the war on terror has created ISIS, along with arch political reaction at home, then surely those arguing for the US to stay in the region are the real fascists?

It is also surely racist to believe that the Afghans can't develop their own rights based system, and instead need Westerners to school them on how to treat women?

The analysis from those defending the American occupation is purely moralistic, idealistic. It evades the fact that the Americans have made things worse, and it evades asking questions, such as why have the Taliban defeated the Americans.

The supporters of the American occupation believe in the idea that might is right and that the Americans should use their superior military and security equipment to rule over whom they so like.

It isn't a very big step from supporting the might is right concept to supporting the very worst anti Semitism seen in Germany in the 2oth century.

I fear that anon @9:06 is well down that anti Semitic path.