"The Taliban will be judged on its actions, not only its words"
The most critical of those actions are the ones President Trump described as "killing some very bad people."
“I’ll be meeting personally with Taliban leaders in the not-too-distant future. And we’ll be very much hoping that they will be doing what they say they’re going to be doing: They will be killing terrorists. They will be killing some very bad people. They will keep that fight going,”
“I really believe the Taliban wants to do something to show that we’re not all wasting time..... If bad things happen, we’ll go back.”
“I don’t think that will be necessary.”
-President Trump said on Feb. 29, 2020. (1)
It's been more than two full months since the US officially withdrew from Afghanistan and the Taliban have been busy setting up a new government, appointing officials to various positions, reopening the airports (with technical and security help from Turkey and Qatar), and establishing diplomatic relations with countries in their neighborhood as well as beyond.
They are also still regularly meeting with officials from the US in Doha, Qatar.
"The discussions were candid and professional with the US delegation reiterating that the Taliban will be judged on its actions, not only its words..." (2)
The most critical of those actions are the ones President Trump described as "killing some very bad people." Since signing the Doha Agreement, and especially since the US officially withdrew, the Taliban have been capturing and killing A LOT of terrorists.
You may recall in my first Afghanistan article, I called the withdrawal a feigned retreat. In an August 19th, 2021 interview with Defense One, Def Sec Miller called it a “ruse”. The play was to publicly declare a withdrawal in order to get the Afghan Gov’t to the negotiation table and form an Intra-Afghan Gov’t with the Taliban. We were never intending to fully withdraw. Instead, “the United States would be able to broker a new shared government in Afghanistan composed primarily of Taliban officials. The new government would then permit U.S. forces to remain in country to support the Afghan military and fight terrorist elements. “
Well, I think, we are still operating some Counter Terrorism Forces out of Doha, UAE, possibly Tajikistan and Pakistan. Unofficially.
Certainly, we are still operating drones over Afghanistan, but the sighting of US SpecOps aircraft going up the Pakistan air corridor and the news that Pakistan is willing to keep that corridor open to the US, indicates to me that the plan for Afghanistan, as described by Def Sec Miller in the Defense One article, is possibly active. Just not officially. US forces are nearby and not in country. That we know of. (3, 4, 5, 6, 7)
The people who are in country are the Qataris and the Turks.
“We have a court for every criminal,” said Abdullah Ghorzang, a Taliban commander. “But there is no court for ISIS. They will be killed wherever they are arrested.” (8)
Taliban are giving no quarter to Islamic State affiliated groups like ISKP. They are captured for information and killed later or killed on the spot. Often, such acts are followed by media claims that the victims were not actually IS but former Afghan Forces members and this is revenge killing. This could be true, but it could also be that the individual was both.
Something particularly gruesome which has become a regular sight along major roads, is Islamic State affiliated terrorists keep turning up dead, their bodies found along the road or hanging from trees. It’s the result of mysterious night operations by… Taliban forces, I suppose. Remember all that night vision equipment that the Afghan Forces left behind for the Taliban to pick up? I think they are putting it to good use. As Islamic State has adopted old Taliban insurgency tactics, The Taliban have adopted the Counter Insurgency/Terrorism tactics perfected by the US and GCC nations against the Islamic State, albeit, with a brutality all their own. (9)
Besides the Qatari Special Forces, a few other assets have been spotted recently, such as bomb sniffing dogs run by contractors and privately owned helicopters helping track down ISKP members following a recent attack on a military hospital in Kabul.
The best help they could possibly get would be from US Counter Terrorism Forces, and like I wrote above, I believe they are receiving that help, just not officially. Both for their sake, ours, and the sake of the forces putting themselves in harms way. (10, 11, 12)
While many neighboring countries have at least offered to help the Taliban combat the Islamic State networks, Iran is actually seeking to help ISKP against the Taliban. For the regime in Tehran, a weak Afghanistan is preferable to a strong one. (13, 14)
One country that has recently turned up on scene is Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia was the among the first countries to recognize the Taliban as the new government of Afghanistan, but not much visible interaction or support has materialized since then. Not publicly anyway. They have recently met with just about every country neighboring Afghanistan, and they have had multiple meetings with US Officials since the withdrawal. While Afghanistan isn’t specifically mentioned in the press releases, “developments in the region” is. The most significant development in the region in the past several years is Taliban taking over Afghanistan, so I think we know what they were referring to. (15, 16)
These direct flights between Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan are a very positive sign. Could it be that the Saudis are finally, at least publicly, getting involved in guiding the new Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan?
The narratives on Afghanistan, the Taliban, the US, the War… they are well programmed and embedded into the minds of the populations in both countries. The secrecy, the MilDec, the official and unofficial positions, it’s all necessary in my opinion. This is a complex and highly volatile situation for all parties involved. Both the US and Taliban, but especially the latter, need to save as much face as possible with their own people while also making damn sure that the Islamic State and other Islamic terrorist organizations cannot exploit the situation.
To the average US citizen, the Taliban is synonymous with terrorists, despite them never being wholly designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization. To the average Afghan citizen, the US is synonymous with foreign invader, occupier, imperialist. This time period right now, these next six months to a year are absolutely critical for both countries, as both need the Doha Agreement to hold.
Now, don't get it twisted, the Taliban are not suddenly "good guys" or "allies", but they are adhering to their end of the Doha Agreement. So far.
And in keeping with that Agreement…
"They [are] killing terrorists. They [are] killing some very bad people. They [are keeping the] fight going."
As President Trump predicted they would do.