Some of the reasons behind the decision taken by Washington and its allies in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) to withdraw their troops from Afghanistan are becoming clear gradually.
They cleared the way for Taliban to take over power without any resistance from local forces or the international coalition forces, which only secured the exit of its members and some Afghans who cooperated with it.
The decision was not the result of a military defeat or the failure to build successful civil state institutions and establish a pluralistic political life. It aimed at reducing huge military expenditures and redeploying US forces in new areas which Washington considers constitute a serious threat to its interests and global leadership. It was also used as an implicit political message about the US vision for the future of some issues in the Middle East and North Africa region.
The message addressed to all the regimes in the region and the international and regional powers underlines Washington’s unwillingness to abandon using political Islam as a card in its relations with the regional countries and one of its tools to secure its major interests and ensure the continuation of its dominant influence there. It also shows that it is capable of activate this card and using it in the manner it sees as appropriate.
It has facilitated the return of Taliban to power in Afghanistan, which would cause anxiety and tension for many countries, being an inspiring example for various organizations in the region.
Washington has given the impression that it has accepted the fate of the various Muslim Brotherhood forms of political Islam. These include the electoral defeats and legal decisions in countries that allow the organization to operate openly or the security measures by authorities of some countries that did not hide their efforts to eradicate the Brotherhood phenomenon by dismantling its secret cells, drying up its financial sources and relatively rehabilitating random areas from where new followers have emanated.
Nevertheless, paving the way for Taliban and overlooking the crimes it has committed prove that the US authorities still want to play the card of political organizations tucked behind religion.
Washington is convinced that there is no other organized political alternative that can be taken advantage of to maintain tension throughout the region. It considers these organizations necessary to disturb the deep military, security and administrative institutions that run several countries and have opposed the US wish to distinguish between moderate organizations and those that adopt violence and terrorism as a means to achieve their goals.
In light of the above, the terrible decline in the activities of the “light” Islamic political organizations compared to the Sunni and Shiite armed organizations and militias seems to be normal. These organizations are active locally within the borders of one state and defy and sometimes fight the authorities of that state, and regionally within exposed sectarian alliances.
It is noteworthy that most of these organizations have recently intensified their activities, raising the ceiling of its challenges after it considered the US overlooking Taliban a green light that could be used to expand its influence. Below are some examples:
- Yemen’s Houthi Movement, also known as Ansar Allah, became fierce and violent after US President Joe Biden’s administration removed it from the US list of terrorist organizations. It besieged the city of Marib and continued bombing civilian areas in Saudi Arabia instead of resorting to negotiations with the legitimate Yemeni authorities, in accordance with UN resolutions and the Gulf initiative.
- Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces, of which Washington approved the establishment to fight ISIS militants then recommended considering it a legitimate government institution in Iraq after cooperating with its members to secure air cover for US forces during their fight against ISIS remnants. The US had deliberately attacked its barracks recently on the Syrian border to give it credibility that could inflame sectarian feuds, especially since the movement does not deny being sectarian and expresses openly its ambitions to expand within the Sunni provinces.
- Somalia’s Islamic Shabaab organization has benefited from the withdrawal of US forces from Somalia under former US President Donald Trump and the current delays in establishing a unified Somali army to extend its influence in central and southern Somalia, defying the central authority in Mogadishu. It aims to carry out terrorist operations in neighboring countries such as Kenya, where it was able to recruit Kenyan and Ugandan citizens, threatening to widen the circle of instability throughout East Africa. This seems to be its task.
- ISIS, which was said to have been defeated after being expelled from Mosul, the capital of its so-called caliphate, in 2017. The organization has returned in the form of mobile terrorist cells, whose number of militants according to Western intelligence estimates is 27,000. It adopts the style of a painful guerrilla war in Iraq and Syria and arose from areas close to the Syrian Al-Tanf base, where the US forces are stationed. This indicates that its move came to curb the escalation of demands to withdraw those forces from Iraq and to prevent the expansion of the Syrian regime forces east of the Euphrates River.
The “victorious” return of Taliban to power has certainly inspired other extremist organizations that would not hesitate to commit acts of terror and intimidation in the right circumstance. This once again affirms that we are facing groups with odd prospects, guns ready for rent and mercenarism that do not represent the true Islamic religion.
But it would be naïve to deny that it these groups were founded in the Arab region and their followers are the result of the shallowness of our education system, the misery of our culture and a reaction to all the evils that spread through our societies.