Don’t be fooled by the Taliban, they will never change
The Taliban are evil and cruel, but they are not fools, and trying to seem kinder and gentler now, does not mean that they will be any less vengeful when foreign evacuation is complete.
General Sir Nick Cartner’s recent comments that suggested the Taliban wanted an “inclusive” country and are “country boys, who live by a code of honour” is a betrayal to the British servicemen and women who fought for freedom in Afghanistan.
In 1996, when the Taliban took over Kabul, they declared that it was not going to take revenge, instead offering amnesty to anyone who had worked for the former government. The exact statement was “Taliban will not take revenge, we have no personal rancor”. When that promise was made, the ousted President, Mohammad Najibullah, was castrated and strung up from a lamppost at the centre of Kabul. So, the reports of a “reformed” Taliban may sound reassuring to those who are unfamiliar with Afghanistan’s history, but it sure doesn’t convince me.
In the Taliban’s first ever press conference last week, they stated that women would be able to study and work, and they will guarantee human rights and freedoms of speech and expression, so long as they comply with sharia - which basically means they don’t believe that Afghans have been complying by it so far. And yes, maybe the Taliban spokesperson agreed to do an interview with a female television presenter, but the Taliban own Afghanistan now. It can’t allow chaos to ensue so early on in their leadership, especially when the world's eyes are on them?
Away from slick press conferences, the Taliban are a vicious death cult that is waiting to take its revenge
They are calling for people to get back to work, including police formerly loyal to the previous government, to report to duty. Family and friends in Kabul are telling me that Taliban are in the streets, not executing people on street corners, but acting as “guarantors of public order”. Exactly what Mullah Omar did in 1996, pleading the people of Afghanistan to not flee the country and reassuring them that Taliban will keep them safe.
Since the movement was founded in Kandahar in 1994, the Taliban have always operated in this way, by proving that when the country was taken over by looters, murderers and rapists - the group won its support by providing order when anarchy reigned.
But the Taliban have always returned to their core identity and beliefs. The Taliban are evil and cruel, but they are not fools, and trying to seem kinder and gentler now, does not mean that they will be any less vengeful when foreign evacuation is complete and the world has officially left Afghanistan.
Even yesterday, outside of Kabul and away from the eyes of the world, by shutting down media and journalists - there are already reports of executions and brutality. What can you expect when the United States agrees to release 5,000 Taliban prisoners who have committed horrific acts to now form a Taliban government?
Biden’s speech last week was seen to lack compassion about leaving millions of people in Afghanistan to suffer at the hands of the Taliban. But he also seemed to have forgotten his own words from February 2003, where he stated that, “‘nation building’ is a dirty phrase. But the alternative to nation building is chaos.” He now claims that the United States had no business trying to build a durable and democratic government; it sought only to keep the country terrorist-free. But the fact that Afghanistan is capable of providing safe-havens to terrorist groups, is directly related to its status as a background tribal-ridden wasteland.
Turning Afghanistan into a healthy democracy required endurance - especially when changing a society and the system does not happen overnight, and 20 years was nothing when it comes to nation-building.
We constantly hear that the US courageously tried to bring about democracy in Afghanistan and that the people didn’t want it, or didn’t care enough to protect it. Or, the narrative that the country has always fought foreign intervention, and sadly we faced the same defeat. But this can’t be further from the truth. This is all incorrect. The people of Afghanistan did not reject the international community’s efforts. They looked to you as exemplars of democracy and the rule of law. They were grateful for the sacrifices that were made. They wanted you to stay.
Afghanistan is not the graveyard of empires. It’s only in such a state because The West never persevered and stayed long enough for an inclusive democracy to in-bed itself into society.
So really, who are we trying to delude?
The people didn’t kick you out, you chose to leave. And now Biden is trying to justify his exit by trying to convince us the Taliban have changed.
I’d like to take you back 25 years go, when the Taliban first took power in Afghanistan. It began by implementing a system of simplicity, their version of law and order according to strict interpretation of Sharia law, calm and relaxed. But slowly and steadily it started to commit human atrocities that scar the people of Afghanistan until this day, including my parents. Away from slick press conferences, the Taliban are a vicious death cult that is waiting to take its revenge.
Taliban 2.0 isn’t different. It’s just better resourced.
Shabnam Nasimi is the executive director of Conservative Friends of Afghanistan.
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