In business, there is a phenomenon called cannibalism. It means when a company introduces a new product, it becomes successful and consumers adopt it but at the cost of another already existing successful product the company had. The new product takes away some of the market share of the existing product. What we see in Afghanistan happening between ISIS and the Taliban is not much different.
Becoming a participant and an enabler of denying the wishes of the people anywhere will only earn hatred in global public opinion. Propping up strongmen in the Middle East turned a generation of young Arab men into Takfiri Jihadists. This may come as a shock to many but even Osama bin Laden had considered a life of peace after the Jihad in Afghanistan was over and the Soviets had left Afghanistan. This was when Bin Laden settled in Sudan and started enjoying normal life, presiding over a conglomerate of various businesses there. The lure of peace was very strong for him but the one thing that kept gnawing at him was the continued American presence on Islam’s Holiest land.
During Saddam’s invasion of Kuwait, the Saudis feared being invaded next by Saddam. Declining Bin Laden’s offer of using his Mujahideen in repelling Saddam, the Saudis invited the Americans. Long after Saddam was defeated, the Americans still remained. The continued presence of the infidels on the Holy land was not only viewed suspiciously but many Jihadists including Bin Laden were humiliated by it. Al-Qaeda as a terrorist organisation was really born during those days. Bin Laden turned against America.
Similarly, America created ISIS. And I don’t mean to spew the conspiracy theory that America had created ISIS as shock troops to fight against Iran or some other country but rather that American aggression and American presence in Iraq led to the creation of ISIS. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was an unknown Jordanian thug. Colin Powell’s anthrax speech at the UN made him a celebrity Jihadist overnight. The founders of ISIS were radicalised in Camp Buqqa, which was a US prison in Iraq for the prisoners of war. Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi, the former leader of ISIS, was no religious zealot before being imprisoned at Buqqa. He was just a colonel in Saddam’s air-defence force, who had lost his job. He went in as a prisoner but he came out a butcher.
The Taliban were a direct result of the actions of America’s favourite freedom fighters aka the Arab Takfiri Jihadists and the nationalist Afghan warriors collectively known as the Mujahideen. More importantly, the Taliban had not sworn revenge against America before the American invasion of Afghanistan.
ISIS and the Taliban make an interesting tale of two aggressions. President Bush invaded Afghanistan after the Taliban demanded proof of Bin Laden’s role in 9/11. Just two years into the war, President Bush decided to shift his gaze elsewhere. He invaded Iraq. That shift in attention not only caused Afghanistan to become America’s longest war but also led to the creation of ISIS. Before India’s mournful Independence Day this year, the IS-K were fiercely opposing the Taliban as a competitor in insurgency. Today, they are fighting against the rulers of Afghanistan.
Today, both the products of American aggressive actions are readying to fight on Afghan soil. America sounds willing to recognise the Taliban provided the latter shows some good behaviour but America’s other product from Iraq is chipping away at the half embraced product in Afghanistan. Lecturing the Taliban not to allow ISIS to use Afghan soil for terrorist actions against the west is like a father lecturing his son not to give shelter to a homeless son of the father from another failed marriage. Worse yet, the father tells the relatively good son that he would pay the price for any bad actions of the homeless son. That should be called reverse cannibalism, if you will, because one product takes up the waste of another.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 14th, 2021.
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