U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Dennis Hoffman, Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

Opinion: The costs of Biden’s gift to the Taliban are borne by the people of Afghanistan 

By Roh Yakobi

“I was right,” President Biden boasted at the end of a press conference last Friday, as he walked away from the podium. 

It was part of an answer to a question about the US’s withdrawal from Afghanistan and the return of the Taliban in August 2021, after a State Department report revealed the shortcomings of President Biden and his predecessor, Donald Trump’s administrations before and after the withdrawal. 

President Biden said: “Remember what I said about Afghanistan? I said Al Qaeda would not be there. I said it wouldn’t be there. I said we’d get help from the Taliban. What’s happening now? What’s going on? Read your press. I was right.”

The Taliban was quick to pounce and welcome Biden’s remarks as a vindication of its claims that no terrorist networks operated in Afghanistan and that the group had no ties with Al Qaeda. 

In a statement on Saturday, the group’s foreign ministry said: 

“We consider remarks by US President Joe Biden about non-existence of armed groups in Afghanistan as acknowledgment of reality & state that it refutes the recent report by UN Sanctions Monitoring Team alleging the prescence (sic) & operation of over twenty armed groups in Afghanistan.

“The Islamic Emirate maintains the policy of not allowing anyone to use the soil of Afghanistan to harm others. Our actions in this regard are not due to the requests or support of anyone, including America.”

The UN Sanctions and Monitoring Team report, the group’s statement refers to, reveals extensive ties between the Taliban and Al Qaeda, as well as other terrorist networks, such as the Pakistani Taliban (TTP) and Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement, Jamaat Ansarullah and others. 

The report reveals that Al Qaeda operatives have been given positions inside the Taliban’s government and their families receive “welfare payments”.

President Biden’s remarks were condemned by anti-Taliban figures, including former spy chief, Rahmatullah Nabil, who said the group had become the US’s Wagner Group in the region, and the former head of Afghanistan’s Independent Human Rights Commission, Shaharzad Akbar, who lamented the US for getting help from the Taliban.  

The Taliban, however, continued celebrating the world hearing from the mouth of the US President that the it was being hailed as an anti-terror partner. Its long-time spokesperson, Zabihullah Mujahid, joined in saying that Biden’s words proved their “commitment to its obligations” and that the critics were “conspiracists”. And the group’s foreign minister, Amir Khan Muttaqi, called the remarks as “understanding of reality”. 

The Taliban’s reactions to Biden’s remarks demonstrated that how words from the head of the most powerful country in the world can become an invaluable propaganda gift to the group. President Biden, effectively elevated the Taliban to the level of being as US security partner. 

It is a fact of realpolitik that the US would have direct contacts with the Taliban to protect its interests. Days after the Taliban’s retaking of Kabul in August 2021, CIA Director, William Burns, visited the Afghan capitalfor secret talks with group’s senior leaders. 

But given the Taliban’s gross violations of human rights, public pronouncements in support of the group, for whatever purpose, by Western leaders, particularly the US, will embolden the group to carry on with its policies, and make the people of Afghanistan suffer more. 

As for the group’s links with terrorist networks, facts don’t lie.

Roh Yakobi is the editor of KabulNow.

Opinions reflect the views of authors, not KabulNow.