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The return of Taliban and the future of radicalism

Abdullah bin Bijad al-Otaibi

Published: Updated:

Taliban has once again taken the reins in Afghanistan, and it is only a matter of time before this takeover is officially announced. Pictures, footage, and Taliban statements all testify that nothing has changed in the movement’s ideology or methods. Their modus operandi is evidently the same: violence, extremism, and utter disregard for human lives.

After its two-decade leadership of the international coalition established in the wake of 9/11, Washington is retreating today in a controversial, rushed move, almost as if the withdrawal is but a frightened flight from a supposedly decisive battle that gradually waned and faded until there was no other option than withdrawal, which is as good as a defeat.

Footage of Taliban’s capture of the advanced weapons and modern military vehicles -- some of which brand new and unused -- left behind in the US rushed withdrawal is everywhere, in a stark reminder of ISIS’s capture of all kinds of advanced US weapons and equipment after Mosul’s fall, and the subsequent chaos that ISIS wreaked in Iraq and Syria and the revival of its cells across the world.

Volumes can be written about what happened in Afghanistan in the past two decades, but a simple conclusion is enough: none of the promises made 20 years ago was achieved. The US media’s favorite long-held narrative of “exporting democracy,” be it the advancement of “women’s rights” or the transparent “ballot boxes” carried on horseback to the remote mountains of Afghanistan, was nothing more than propaganda aimed at US electors.

But enough about the past, for the future is what matters most. In this regard, it suffices to underline three expectations, each with different consequences and impacts to be monitored and analyzed.

The first is the proliferation of terrorism, which will be an integral part of what I have long called “the fundamentalist era,” not only in Afghanistan, but across the entire Muslim world. Afghanistan will once again become a safe haven for all fundamentalists and terrorists, starting with the Muslim Brotherhood and not ending with al-Qaeda. The alliance between Sunni and Shia fundamentalism will prosper, which augurs some lean years.

Second, drug trafficking will thrive. A key weapon in political and economic wars, drug trafficking will likely prosper unhinged, starting from the Hindukush mountains in Afghanistan to the coasts of Lebanon on the Mediterranean Sea.

The third is the dangerous spiritual “revolution” on a wide scale in the ranks of fundamentalists and terrorists. Concepts like “right and wrong,” “the victory of Islam,” “pride and dignity,” “the supremacy of the faithful,” and other such slogans that some people rushed into vanishing, will make a comeback. Divine “victory” and the defeat of “crusades” against Islam will be marketed again. These are not predictions: this is just history and human nature.

Consequently, the Arab and Islamic worlds must prepare for the worst in the near future. Any leniency with Political Islam groups, organizations, activities, rhetoric, or ideology will have dire consequences. Social media will become a fertile ground for incitement, mobilization, and recruitment. Novel mechanisms to collect funding and establish organizations will emerge. Fundamentalist “symbols” and “figures” will steal the spotlight again.

This careful and precise understanding of reality allows us to foresee what the future holds for the purposes of knowledge, analysis, and preparation, not from a perspective of pessimism and cynicism.

Dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s is paramount at this stage. International actors must bear responsibility for their actions, because Arab and Islamic states will be targeted if “terrorism” thrives again in the world.

Alas, after decades of powerlessness, the Afghani people found themselves caught between a rock and a hard place: either a “corrupt elite,” or an “extremist movement.”

This article was originally published in, and translated from, Emirati news outlet Al-Ittihad.

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Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.