The Taliban’s Big Rebrand

By Bradley Devlin

Now the de facto government of Afghanistan, the Taliban is trying to solidify its rule by going through a bit of a rebrand, a topic that the corporate media has covered acutely. The Taliban seems to believe this series of rhetorical overtures to the West is important for gaining international recognition. More important, however, is the Taliban’s attempt to domestically rebrand itself, hoping to legitimize its regained authority to Afghans of different ethnic and religious stripes in various regions of the country.

Shocking as it may be for an American audience to hear, especially after the United States’ invasion of Afghanistan lasted 20 years and plenty in the foreign policy establishment were just fine prolonging the conflict another year (or five, or 10), the Taliban has bigger concerns than seeming moderate to gain approval with western media and governments. The Taliban has been attempting to undercut ISIS-K’s ability to recruit new fighters and garner public support by negotiating with Salafi imams who pledge their allegiance to the Taliban. While the Taliban has rebuffed claims that ISIS-K poses a substantial security threat or could challenge Taliban rule, which is true given the relatively limited number of ISIS-K fighters and capabilities, ISIS-K still presents a security challenge for the Taliban, especially in the Eastern regions of Afghanistan, where there are large Salafist populations.

The Taliban’s efforts to rebrand itself domestically began before the Taliban became the de facto government of Afghanistan in late summer of this year. In March 2020, the Afghan Salafist Council, led by its emir, Shaikh Abdul Aziz Nooristani, met with Taliban leaders and swore their allegiance to Shaikh Haibatullah Akhunzada, the Taliban’s leader. A roughly 20 minute video of the meeting, later released by al-Emarah studio, the Taliban’s media wing, under the title “Pledge of Allegiance of Salafi Ulama,” claimed that Nooristani, along with 32 Afghan Salafist ulema and officers, were loyal to the Taliban’s Emirate. They also asked the Taliban to recuse them from their war against ISIS-K, which they do not support because they believe their brutality goes against Islamic teachings, although ISIS-K was founded by Afghan Salafists and Taliban defectors. The Salafists even went on to claim that ISIS-K’s war against the Taliban is “an international conspiracy of the Jews and Crusaders.”

Prior to the meeting, the Taliban had already defeated ISIS-K fighters in skirmishes in the Nangarhar and Kunar provinces, and in late February the Taliban signed the Doha Agreement with the United States. These events bolstered the Taliban’s position in their negotiations with the Afghan Salafist Council. The Doha Agreement made it clear that the Taliban would remain after the United States’ departure, something of which the Taliban was eager to remind the Afghan Salafist Council. While the two have disagreements, both practical and theological, the Taliban told the Salafists that supporting them is the clear and only choice, and promised the Salafists that all sects of Islam would be free to practice in a Taliban-controlled Afghanistan, something easier for …read more

Via:: American Conservative

      

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