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Peddling US-Taliban friendship is the new narrative

Rami Rayess

Published: Updated:

A political narrative is building momentum that will allow everyone to forget what the War on Terror, and the invasion of Afghanistan was really all about.

The narrative has the ultimate aim of bringing the Taliban into the international fold. The group will have its government legitimized and it will work with the West to fight terrorist groups in the country.

The public awareness campaign is underway. It is telling us already that under the pretext that the US will not have ‘boots on the ground’ it’s the Taliban instead that will take the war to America’s enemy: ISIS. This is the only choice and is a good thing to protect America we’re starting to be told.

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Building narratives is easier than building democracies, it seems, and quicker than the Taliban taking control of Afghanistan.

The UK’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson leapt forward and suggested that if the Taliban want diplomatic recognition it will need to prevent Afghanistan from incubating terrorists. I thought the Taliban were terrorists.

The Director of the Middle East Program and former Special Envoy to the Global Coalition To Defeat ISIS, Ambassador James Jeffrey said that the ISIS attack on Kabul airport “is a fundamental challenge to Taliban control and underscores the continued threat from Afghanistan after the American withdrawal."

I wonder if ISIS had swept to power would the West have built relations with them to fight the Taliban.

‘My enemy’s enemy is my friend’ is a wonderful strategy to follow in international relations, but probably not the ethical and moral thing to do when dealing with the Taliban.

Collaboration is the strategy guiding both the US and the Taliban. After the unilateral American military withdrawal from Afghanistan, Washington will seek to have the Taliban counter any threats that endanger its own national security.

But, the Taliban, in turn, needs urgent American help to crush other insurgents that do not fall under its control. This is a win-win scenario for both.

Striking a deal with the Taliban to counter potential terrorist attacks appears sensible on one level, so why not? Forget the human casualties and the billions of dollars spent over the last 20 years. This is a new chapter in the making.

Whether the US will adhere to its demands that the Taliban respect minorities and women’s rights is yet to be tested. The priority is to handle the high risks that are expected now that America has withdrawn completely.

Reincarnating the American experience with Syria and to a lesser extent Iraq might partially work in Afghanistan. In Syria, Washington is supporting the Syrian Democratic Forces against ISIS. In Iraq, the Pentagon extended support to the Iraqi Security Forces and the Kurdish Peshmerga in their respective fight against ISIS.

The Taliban will have its government legitimized and it will work with the West to fight terrorist groups in the country, writes Rami Rayess. (Stock photo)
The Taliban will have its government legitimized and it will work with the West to fight terrorist groups in the country, writes Rami Rayess. (Stock photo)

Now that the Taliban is the major player in Afghanistan its policies not only affect Afghans at the local level, but also the terrorist movement worldwide.

The US defeat tarnishes Washington’s image of being the biggest global power. It also sends a signal to terrorist cells around the world that fighting superpowers is not doomed to failure: wars can be won.

A terrorist you know is easier to handle than one you do not, but I’m skeptical that an agreement with the Taliban guarantees protection this protection.

Holes can be picked in any evidence that suggests that the group can reign in others spread across Afghanistan. The Haqqani network isn’t likely to acquiesce to demands set out by the Taliban, and although al-Qaeda’s muscle has diminished somewhat, its presence remains.

The pressure cooker will heat up now that the US has withdrawn. Terrorist cells will rebuild their position in Afghanistan. Civil war is on the horizon.

Despite enormous technological advancement in satellite images and drones, striking terrorist groups relies on timely, definitive and accurate information.

If the US and the Taliban were to become friends, the latter could pass on intelligence, with American drones targeting ISIS-K and others. Filling this security vacuum is important, but it allows the Taliban to build its own narrative for the Afghan people: its government is the only one that can tackle internal insurgents.

Striking a deal with the Taliban is unpalatable to the Western public.

Selling such a move is no easy task. Becoming best friends with a staunch enemy you fought against for twenty years will not happen overnight.

Political populists understand one crucial point about introducing dubious policies successfully: public opinion needs to be on their side.

A strategic narrative offers control over how any given population interpret the ‘why, where and how’ of the scenario being pursued. In the case of war, justifying it is a delicate matter.

One year from now, on the day of the anniversary of the US’ exit from Afghanistan only three people will understand what the 20-year war was for.

The first person will have died, the second went insane and I’ll have forgotten. Given the pursuit of the new narrative, the aim is for you to forget too.

Read more:

UK says only few hundred of its citizens still in Afghanistan

Taliban have access to $85 bln army equipment due to Biden’s ‘negligence’: US veteran

The Taliban have amassed authority in Afghanistan but do not speak for the people

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