For the first time in several years, the jihadis sense U.S. weakness, confusion and lack of vision under the Biden administration.
By Khaled Abu Toameh, Gatestone Institute
As the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas is celebrating the “defeat” of the United States in Afghanistan, the Arabs seem worried that they will be the ones to pay the price by being targeted by terrorist groups, including Islamic State and Al-Qaeda.
Commenting on the withdrawal of U.S. troops and the speedy Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, various Arab political analysts, writers and journalists said that they have no doubt that the region is headed toward a new era of extremism and terrorism.
The Iranian-backed Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) said that they were emboldened by the “defeat” of the U.S. and have called for stepping up the fight against Israel. “The demise of the American occupation of Afghanistan is a prelude for the demise of all the forces of oppression, first and foremost the Israeli occupation of the land of Palestine,” Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said during a phone call to Taliban leader Mullah Baradar to “congratulate him on the alleged victory against the US.”
The Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), the second largest terrorist group in the Gaza Strip after Hamas, also issued a statement “congratulating the dear Afghan people on the liberation of the Afghan lands from the American and Western occupation.” PIJ expressed hope that all Muslims would one day be united “under the banner of Islam to liberate Palestine and the Al-Aqsa Mosque.”
The two Palestinian terrorist groups are happy to see the U.S. weak, humiliated and retreating. They despise the U.S. because of its long-standing and traditional support for Israel. As far as the Palestinians are concerned, “the friend of my enemy is my enemy”. This view also appears the reason Hamas and PIJ do not differentiate between Israel and the U.S. Hamas and PIJ are also now probably hoping that all the jihadi groups will get together to help the Palestinians eliminate Israel.
For the first time in several years, the jihadis sense U.S. weakness, confusion and lack of vision under the Biden administration. The Arabs are warning that this weakness and uncertainty will plunge Afghanistan and the whole Middle East into a bloodbath.
“We are witnessing the creation of a malicious momentum to revive the extremist Islamists again, and no party will be spared from this momentum, and we, the Arabs in particular, the Gulf states, will be targeted,” wrote Saudi writer Mishary Dhayidi. “Who released the beast from its cage and for what purpose? We have returned to square one.”
Saudi political analyst Abdullah Bin Bijad Al Otaibi predicted that the Biden administration’s steps in Afghanistan will lead to the revival of terrorism and the drug trade, as well as strengthening the extremist ideology of the terrorist groups in the Middle East.
“The revival of terrorism will be an important part of the fundamentalist era not only in Afghanistan, but throughout the Islamic world,” Otaibi cautioned. “Afghanistan will once again become a safe haven for all fundamentalists and terrorists, from the Muslim Brotherhood to Al-Qaeda.”
The Arab and Islamic countries, he said, “must prepare for the worst in the near future, and any complacency with Islamist groups, organizations, activities, discourse and ideology will have dire consequences.” Otaibi further warned that social media will become an even greater hotbed of incitement and recruitment, and new mechanisms will be established to raise funds for the terror organizations.
“Some Arab and Islamic countries will be targeted if the terrorist groups start mobilizing their members and tools across the world,” Otaibi noted.
Jameel Al-Theyabi, a Saudi journalist and political analyst, pointed out that American security experts believed the Taliban would not be able to enter Kabul for at least a month. Theyabi warned that the Biden administration’s actions in Afghanistan will open the door for a new global security crisis.
“Let us recall scenes of hesitation and fluidity in the positions of President Barack Obama, which ended with the handing over of Iraq and Syria to Iran,” he wrote.
“Today, it can be said that the administration of U.S. President Joe Biden took a weapon and shot itself in the foot. Afghanistan is now again in the grip of the Taliban because of the recklessness of the U.S. withdrawal, which means a threat to the security of the whole world because of the Taliban’s support for extremist and terrorist movements and groups. Who can forget that the Taliban used to host Al-Qaeda and its former leader, Osama bin Laden, and is still allying with it and hosting its elements?”
According to Theyabi, in addition to concern that Afghanistan will be plunged into a violent civil war, the fear is growing that Afghanistan will return to what it was — a stronghold of extremism and terrorism, and a haven for jihadist movements. “These are grave dangers that the United States and the world will not be able to ignore, no matter what,” he said.
“What is happening in Afghanistan, which is currently under the control of the Taliban, presents a serious challenge to the entire world. The United States withdrew from it to open the door for its enemies and opponents to fill the vacuum, with all that this implies of influence, hegemony, and a threat to the region and the world. If we assess the situation, we will find that the forces that will replace the U.S. there are: Russia, China, Pakistan, and of course Iran. Russia and China are driven by the desire to exploit the vast mineral wealth of Afghanistan. As for Pakistan, it is searching for strategic depth along its long border with Afghanistan. This strategic depth would block the way for India to reach any alliance with Afghanistan.”
The Saudi analyst added that “it is certain that the world is entering a dark tunnel and an insecure future with the return of Afghanistan as a gathering point for terrorist groups.”
Monir Adib, an Egyptian expert on Islamic movements and global terrorism, said that many countries had turned a blind eye to the Taliban’s cooperation with Al-Qaeda.
“Afghanistan has become a haven for Islamist organizations, and international behavior in general, and reflects the extent of the crisis in dealing with the escalating danger from Afghanistan and its impact on world security… The escalating threat of terrorism from Afghanistan appears to be taking place with the support and patronage of major countries, or at least by turning a blind eye to the activities of violent and terrorist organizations, which requires Arab and international solidarity to confront the threat of the Taliban and Al-Qaeda together.”
Adib called for a “strategy to confront violent groups and extremism, and also to confront the countries that support these organizations, despite the complexity and difficulty involved.”
Osama Saraya, former editor of the Egyptian newspaper Al-Ahram, said that the U.S. administration’s policy has allowed the Taliban to “realize its infernal strategy” in Afghanistan.
“The Americans must admit their failure to build a state, or an army, in Afghanistan, or even a movement to confront terrorism and extremism, and now it is withdrawing all its agents, leaving Afghanistan hostage in the hands of extremists… We, the Arabs, are the most affected by all terrorist and extremist movements. We need to prepare for what is to come from Afghanistan. This is a purely national responsibility of our countries. We must not wait for assistance from the West or from the Americans.”
Another prominent Egyptian writer, Ahmed Al-Shamy, pointed out that while the Taliban and their friends are “dancing with joy,” the world is “crying in fear of the possible terrorism” that would come from Afghanistan.
“The Taliban has gained the kiss of life from the Americans, and everyone is now engaged with it and ready to deal with it,” Shamy wrote.
“Will the Taliban stop adopting terrorism? I am certain that this is impossible in light of the movement’s endorsement of terrorist organizations in the world, especially the Muslim Brotherhood, Al-Qaeda, ISIS and Jabhat Al-Nusra after they have become a safe haven for them. Rather, the Taliban will provide all support to these organizations during the coming period to reproduce more extremist organizations and terrorists who terrorize all countries of the world under the pretext of establishing the Islamic state. Therefore, all countries of the world, especially in the Middle East, must search for new scenarios to stop the possible terrorism that has begun to appear in Afghanistan.”
The initial reaction of the Arabs to the last U.S. debacle in Afghanistan shows that the Arab and Islamic countries are extremely worried about the Biden administration’s empowerment of Islamist terrorist groups. Thanks to the Biden administration, say the Arabs and Muslims, terrorist groups that want to wage jihad (holy war) against the U.S. and Israel and threaten the security and stability of many Arab countries have firmly increased their foothold in the Middle East.
Khaled Abu Toameh is an award-winning journalist based in Jerusalem.