Following U.S. Withdrawal From Afghanistan - Independent Syrian Jihadi Cleric Proposes Taliban Model To Throw Off 'Western Hegemony'

September 14, 2021

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On September 11, 2021, an article by independent Syrian jihadi cleric Husayn Abu 'Umar appeared in Issue 28 of the Balagh monthly, which is published by a group of independent jihadi clerics based in Idlib, Syria.[1]

The three-page article titled, "American Defeat in Afghanistan, Pivot to the East, and Cold War with China – Will the Islamic Groups Seize this Historic Opportunity?" contends that the defeat of the U.S. in Afghanistan and the rise of China provide the Islamic countries, and especially the Islamic countries in Africa, with a historic opportunity to extricate themselves from the "Western hegemony." Abu 'Umar calls for the adoption of the approach of the Taliban, which he writes has proved to be successful. He recommends against choosing a path of non-violent political action, saying that its ineffectiveness was confirmed during the Arab Spring. He also maintains that the "traditional leaderships" of the Islamist organizations are not capable of seizing this opportunity and so he urges the Muslim peoples to do so themselves.

Abu 'Umar opens his article with the assertion that "at the start of the current century the U.S. embarked on global war with the aim of 'imposing its principles' on the rest of the world. It claimed that 'its principles are universal' and therefore the world must adopt them." To substantiate his allegations he provides quotes which he attributes to former U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld from October 2001 – "We face two options: to change our way of life or that of other people, and we have chosen the second option."

However, Abu 'Umar explains that "the truth is that the main motive for these wars was not [the desire] to disseminate the American values, but rather to spread its [America's] influence across the world." In this context, he quotes at length from a list of prominent American academics, such as the American political scientist John Mearsheimer, Emeritus Professor of International Relations Barry Buzan, and the historian Andrew Bacevich who, he writes, maintain that the national security policy of the U.S. is "shaped in a language of force and not of principles," who warned of "the danger of sinking into the mire of expensive wars that have no end," and who urge decision makers in the U.S. to put an end to their country's "imperialistic conduct."

According to Abu 'Umar, "these opinions led to heated and extended debate in the U.S. regarding the most effective way to preserve the country's international status… a debate that was finally decided in favor of the camp that touts a 'repositioning' grounded in reality." To prove this point, among other things the writer provides a document published by the U.S. Defense Department in January 2012, titled, "Preserving the Status of the U.S. as Leader of the World: Defense Priorities for the 21st Century."

Posing the rhetorical question – "Was the U.S. defeated in Afghanistan?" – Abu 'Umar presents another selection of alleged quotations which he attributes to prominent American politicians and philosophers, such as Professor of International Affairs Stephen Walt, and Europeans such as German politician Armin Laschet who serves as Minister-President of North Rhine-Westphalia, all of whom, he says, claim that the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were of great benefit to China and that the events in Afghanistan were "the greatest NATO catastrophe since its establishment."

Abu 'Umar maintains that in light of the preceding, the U.S. "adopted a new strategy that according to most commentators focuses on perpetrating quality strikes from the air and special operations against its rivals, without becoming entangled in situations in which its soldiers are on the ground. It does this by putting its allies in a position in which they will defend themselves and also by [American] reliance on regional forces. He suggests that this situation creates "a new reality that can be exploited."

The opportunity inherent in this new reality, he asserts, is derived from the following elements: "Following the defeat suffered by the U.S. and its allies in Afghanistan, there is no doubt that the image of the invincible West had been removed from the minds of many people and the despair that ruled the souls of many has also dissipated. This is in addition to the weakening of the internal unity of the American camp and the loss of faith in it experienced by many of its allies. Finally, there is the rise of China, and the threat it constitutes to American influence and to its hegemony across the world, as well as America's focus on it and the cold war it is waging with it."

The writer stresses that all these elements provide "a great historic opportunity to be freed from, and to leave the tunnel of, Western hegemony in Islamic countries in general and specifically in the Islamic countries in Africa." Abu 'Umar writes, "The groups [which espouse] political activity failed after the governments in several countries of 'the Arab Spring' exploited them in order to block the path of the rebels. These revolutions were stopped in mid-stride, another overthrow was carried out against those groups, they were removed from power… and thus the prospect of [succeeding] was blocked to those [who espouse] peaceful activities." This situation, he continues, "put paid to the concept of the partial solutions and the peaceful solutions and provides a strong push toward adopting the model of the Taliban."

In conclusion, Abu 'Umar admits that it is clear to him that, "most of the traditional leaderships of the Islamic groups are not fit to take advantage of this historic opportunity. The problem with them is first and foremost a psychological problem and not a problem of conditions or ideas." He ends his article with the question – "Will the bases [of support] for those groups do it, and take advantage of this historic opportunity?"


[1], September 11, 2021.

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