Few in the international community foresaw the speed with which the militant Islamist group would take over Afghanistan, making a series of stunning territorial gains in July and August as the U.S. withdrew its troops to end its 20-year war in the country.
The Taliban’s moves so far show a failure to meet the group’s earlier pledge of an “inclusive” government, even as the moves put Western financial aid at risk and do not bode well for those who wanted to see Afghanistan rid of terrorist activity. Experts warn that the global jihadi movement will feel emboldened by what they see in Afghanistan as a triumph.
“For the foreseeable future, Afghanistan will be led by senior Taliban leaders who include in many cases the worst of the worst,” Michael Kugelman, deputy director of the Asia Program at the Wilson Center, told CNBC on Wednesday. Kugelman pointed specifically to members of the Haqqani network, known as the most brutal faction of the Taliban.
In a controversial appointment, Sirajuddin Haqqani has become Afghanistan’s interior minister, in charge of police and security. Haqqani is the leader of the Haqqani network, which is known to have links to al-Qaeda. He is on the FBI’s most wanted list and is a designated global terrorist. The Taliban’s provision of a safe haven to al-Qaeda in the 1990s is what led the U.S. to invade Afghanistan after the Sept. 11 attacks.
In the years since the U.S. invasion, Haqqani has deployed violent tactics as a deputy to the Afghan Taliban, including using death squads for executions and releasing videos of mass beheadings. The Sunni Islamist Haqqani network was founded in the 1970s, fought the Soviet-backed Afghan regime in the 1980s, and later pioneered the use of suicide bombings in Afghanistan which killed and injured thousands of American, coalition and Afghan soldiers. (CNBC)