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The new and improved Taliban: The parting US gift to Afghanistan

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The Taliban blitzkrieg that dismantled 20 years of neocon and liberal imperialism in Afghanistan has also marked an ignoble end to all manners of pretences.

Twenty years ago, the United States pretended it was going to Afghanistan to dismantle the Taliban, destroy al-Qaeda, and bring Afghans peace, prosperity, liberal democracy and rule of law. Above all, it acted as if it was invading Afghanistan to liberate Afghan women from their burqas and make them all look just like American women.

Predictably, it did not turn out that way. The US had no such intentions or capacities. Its intentions in Afghanistan, in fact, were purely military and strategic. It needed to flex its military, security and intelligence muscles near Russia, China, and Iran. For those purposes, the US invasion and occupation of Afghanistan has been a spectacular success. That it was a calamity for Afghanistan and its people is entirely irrelevant to American military strategists.

Now, a “new and improved” Taliban is in power in Afghanistan. This is the US’s parting gift to all Afghans. The Americans, who have been negotiating with the Taliban in Doha for months, were undoubtedly fully aware that the group would take over the country as soon as they pulled their troops out. Everything went according to their plans – they only slightly mismanaged optics at the Kabul airport.

This new Taliban is markedly different from the Taliban of 20 years ago. This time around, its leaders want to be part of regional and global politics. It seems, during the Doha conferences, they realised that their resumption of power in Afghanistan now needs international recognition – they realised that to survive, they must rule, not terrorise.

Their first press conference clearly showed that the Taliban leaders had been watching quite a bit of BBC, CNN and Al Jazeera as they loitered in the lobbies and rooms of gaudy hotels in Doha. They can now schmooze and lie as skilfully as Barack Obama, and are far more believable than Donald Trump, Boris Johnson and Emmanuel Macron put together.

Today, the US and European liberal media are terribly embarrassed by the Taliban’s rapid rise to power, and the evident (but misleading) futility of the US and its allies’ military adventure in Afghanistan. Their embarrassment is rooted in the fact that they helped George W Bush sell the lie that the US was in........

© Al Jazeera

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