The Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan following two decades of US occupation risks emboldening jihadists worldwide, even if the group may already have a tense relationship with the Islamic State extremist group, analysts said.
The rapid ousting of the Western-backed Afghan government by the Taliban, who lost control of Afghanistan in the US-led invasion two decades ago, will provide jihadists with an example of how patience and careful strategy can pay off even after the defeat of IS in Syria and Iraq.
It is also especially symbolic coming just ahead of the 20th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States carried out by Al-Qaeda under Osama bin Laden and planned from Taliban-ruled Afghanistan where he had taken refuge.
“The Taliban’s victory will give jihadist groups worldwide a major boost. It makes them believe that they can expel foreign powers, even major military powers like the United States,” Colin Clarke, director of research at the New York-based Soufan Centre think tank, told AFP.
“I expect to see a major propaganda blitz culminating on the 20-year anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. This will improve morale for jihadis from North Africa to Southeast Asia,” he added.
Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi, a fellow at George Washington University’s Program on Extremism, said that the Taliban’s patience would convince jihadists around the world to keep fighting, despite the existing hostility between the Afghan fundamentalists and IS.
“The Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan is something that actually emboldens jihadists everywhere although the IS is not necessarily happy about it.”
Britain has helped more than 2,000 Afghans to flee the country in recent days, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Wednesday, as he warned the Taliban must be judged “on actions, not words.”
Addressing MPs called back to parliament from their summer holidays for an emergency debate, Johnson also defended his government’s handling of the crisis, insisting Britain could not have stayed in Afghanistan without US support.
He said Britain had so far secured the safe return of 306 British nationals and 2,052 Afghan nationals as part of its resettlement programme, while 2,000 more Afghan applications were complete and “many more” were being processed.
“UK officials are working round the clock to keep the exit door open in the most difficult circumstances and actively seeking those we believe are eligible but as yet unregistered,” Johnson told a packed House of Commons.
Britain announced late Tuesday a resettlement scheme for Afghans fleeing the Taliban after their return to power, offering an initial 5,000 places in the first year, rising to up to 20,000 in the long term.
The government has said priority will be given to those most at risk, including Afghan women, children, and others forced to flee or facing threats and persecution from the hardliners, offering them a chance to remain in Britain indefinitely.
The scheme is modelled on that which resettled 20,000 refugees from the Syria conflict from 2014 to this year.
Some 900 British troops have been rapidly sent back to Kabul to help the repatriation and evacuation efforts.