August 16, 2021 MEMRI Daily Brief No. 304

The Taliban Victory – Made In USA

August 16, 2021 | By Yigal Carmon and Tufail Ahmad*
MEMRI Daily Brief No. 304

August 15, 2021: Taliban jihadi fighters inside the Presidential Palace, Kabul

The fall of the democratically elected government in Afghanistan is an American betrayal of democracy. The fall did not begin yesterday – it began with the Doha agreement signed in February 2020. The U.S. and other Western powers were pretending hard to push forward a non-option in Kabul, a power-sharing agreement between the Taliban and the democratically elected government of President Ashraf Ghani. This option never existed.

The United States itself dumped this option in Doha, Qatar, when it made the Doha agreement with the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (the Afghan Taliban organization), banishing the democratically elected government totally from the talks.[1] The United States killed this option the moment it authored in the agreement the release of 5,000 Taliban jihadi terrorists, bowing to this Taliban demand.[2]

Subsequently, as per the Doha pact, even on occasions in which the democratic government was allowed to participate in the intra-Afghan talks, the Taliban demanded that Afghan government officials would merely be one part of many prominent Afghans who formed the Afghan delegation. The U.S. abided by it, acting as if there had never been elections in Afghanistan.

The reason this Western dream of a power-sharing pact between the Taliban and the democratic government was a non-option from the beginning is because the Taliban never recognized the elected Afghan government, nor had they ever intended to. Their singular goal was to remove the democratic government in order to bring back their rule from 2001. Everything that has happened since the American invasion is regarded by the Islamic Emirate as illegitimate. And the way to achieve their goal is through jihad as declared by Zabihullah Mujahid, the Taliban spokesman who clarified that even Muslims will be killed for aiding non-Muslims.[3]

There are numerous examples of the ways in which the Taliban always dismissed the democratically elected government of President Ghani. During June-August 2021, when the Taliban began seizing Afghan districts and provincial capitals, Zabihullah Mujahid gave a wide-ranging interview to the Afghan television channel ToloNews in which he noted that "the current regime has been imposed through force," completely disregarding the fact that the governments in Afghanistan came to power through proper democratic elections supervised by the international community, unlike the Taliban, who seized power in 1996 without elections and have now seized Afghan cities by force.[4]

The ToloNews interview gives a good insight into the ideology of the Islamic Emirate. In that interview, Zabihullah Mujahid also made it clear that a woman is not permitted by Islam even to sing and certainly cannot be the president of Afghanistan – a proposition that made the democratic government unacceptable to the Taliban. He told the ToloNews journalist: "No, she cannot (sing). In Islam, she cannot. This is not our view; this is Islam's view. If you don't know it, you should know it... You should ask a scholar."[5]

Such religious views made the Taliban reject the democratic government in Kabul, or any form of democracy. It is also for this reason that the Islamic Emirate called for "a pure Islamic government" in Afghanistan, meaning that the current system of democracy and elections will never be acceptable to the Islamic Emirate whenever it assumes power.[6]

In July 2021, Zabihullah Mujahid referred to President Ashraf Ghani merely as "the head of the Kabul administration" – denoting that the Islamic Emirate will never recognize the democratic government and making clear that at best he was head of the government limited to Kabul.[7] Although the U.S.-Taliban talks, preceding the Doha agreement, created misconceptions in the minds of the Western public that the Taliban could be persuaded to take part in the government, the Islamic Emirate had never given such a view.

In January 2020, weeks before the Doha agreement was signed, the Islamic Emirate dubbed the Ghani government as "the stooge administration" of the foreign powers.[8] Six months later, in July 2020, it again dismissed the Ghani government as "the stooge Kabul administration."[9] A month later, the Taliban website published a statement saying that "the Kabul administration itself is illegitimate."[10] In March 2021, an article published on the Taliban website called the government officials the "puppets of the foreigners in Kabul."[11]

In fact, the Islamic Emirate was so emboldened by the 2020 Doha agreement that within weeks of the pact being signed, it threatened to "seize Kabul in 48 hours" and kill President Ghani.[12]  This was not an unconsidered view of the Taliban. In February of this year, as the Doha agreement turned a year old, the Islamic Emirate reiterated this view that it planned to hang President Ghani in Kabul much like the Taliban had hanged the then Afghan President Dr. Najibullah, who had taken shelter at the United Nations office in Kabul in 1996.

In an article published on its website, the Islamic Emirate clarified: "The communist regime in Kabul, led by Najibullah, which was under heavy attacks by the mujahideen, was counting the last moments of its survival like today's authoritarian regime led by Ashraf Ghani. After the withdrawal of Soviet forces, both regime officials and the international community saw the fall of Najibullah's government in the face of mujahideen onslaughts after three years [and the hanging of Najibullah by the mujahideen]."[13] That article warned that "slaves" like Ashraf Ghani could meet the fate of Dr. Najibullah: "God willing, the fate of every invader and slave will be the same as that of the Soviets and their slaves."[14]

The question is this: Who enabled the Islamic Emirate, a jihadi terror group, to become so strong and to act at international diplomatic levels as a legitimate force? The answer is the U.S. which, led by its ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, signed the Doha agreement. In an interview, former Afghan lawmaker Shukria Barakzai discussed "the role of U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad in creating an opportunity for Taliban" and noted: "I believe he, as the U.S. envoy to Afghanistan, committed a historically unforgivable mistake toward the Afghanistan and its people."[15]

In a tweet, Prakash Katoch, a retired officer of the Indian military, wondered if Zalmay Khalilzad, who also holds Afghan citizenship, will be rewarded by the Taliban for his role in Doha by being appointed as the new Afghan ambassador to the U.S.[16] Worried over the Doha agreement's role in bolstering the Taliban's rise, liberal Pakistani writer Dr. Syed Akhtar Ali Shah recently demanded that the United Nations quash the Doha agreement, stating: "The UN must impose restrictions [on the Afghan Taliban] and rescind the Doha Agreement."[17]

The Islamic Emirate has always stood for a Sunni theocratic state.[18] Even Al-Qaeda, a continuing ally of the Afghan Taliban, celebrated the Doha agreement.[19] The Taliban feared when Joe Biden took over as U.S. president because he had promised to aid democracies, saying: "During my first year in office, the United States will organize and host a global Summit for Democracy to renew the spirit and shared purpose of the nations of the free world. It will bring together the world's democracies to strengthen our democratic institutions, honestly confront nations that are backsliding, and forge a common agenda."[20]

For Biden, who had expressed clear support for democracies, to allow Zalmay Khalilzad to remain in his position, despite having negotiated the pro-Taliban deal in Doha, was seen by the Taliban as an American surrender – one of the landmark victories before the final victory in seizing Kabul. As the Taliban were galloping toward Kabul, President Biden said that Afghan leaders "have got to fight for themselves, fight for their nation" – speaking as if the fighting in Afghanistan was merely between two sections of Afghans, not a fight between democratic tenets and jihadi terrorism.[21] The Taliban spokesman spoke more clearly: "The obligation of jihad remains and shall continue to remain until the 'word of Allah' reigns supreme [and] an Islamic government is established."[22]

* Yigal Carmon is President of MEMRI; Tufail Ahmad is Senior Fellow for the MEMRI Islamism and Counter-Radicalization Initiative.


[8] (Afghanistan), January 20, 2020.

[9] (Afghanistan), July 17, 2020.

[10] (Afghanistan), August 5, 2020.

[11] (Afghanistan), March 17, 2021.

[16], August 12, 2021.

[20] Foreign Affairs (U.S.), March/April 2020.

[21] (Qatar), August 11, 2021.

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