In an earlier post, I discussed how top jobs in the new Taliban government will be held by leaders with close ties to al Qaeda. But there’s more to this story.
The four are:
Mullah Norullah Nori (Acting Minister of Borders and Tribal Affairs)
Mohammed Fazl (Defense Deputy Minister)
Khairullah Khairkhwa (Acting Minister of Information and Culture)
Abdul Haq Wasiq (Acting Director of Intelligence)
Wasiq was deputy head of the same key agency when the Taliban ruled Afghanistan in the 1990s
The inclusion of these four comes as no surprise. All of them (plus the fifth terrorist freed in the Bergdahl deal) were among the Taliban members who participated in negotiating the infamous “peace” deal with the Trump administration.
At the time, close observers of Afghanistan expressed concern that the inclusion of the five, all of whom were close to Mullah Mohammed Omar in the regime the U.S. overthrew, signaled that the Taliban hadn’t changed and, upon gaining power, would rule as it did under Omar. For example, Haroun Mir, an Afghan political analyst, warned:
The Taliban are bringing back their old generation, which means the Taliban have not changed their thinking or their leadership.
The Taliban’s cabinet selections, from top to bottom, confirm this assessment.
I’m pretty sure Donald Trump, who denounced the Bergdahl deal, understood that the Taliban hadn’t reformed. Heck, even Joe Biden probably did. Neither cared.
But they should have. We overthrew the Taliban for a reason. It abetted anti-Western terrorism.
The best Chuck Hagel, Secretary of Defense at the time of the deal, could say about the five was that they were not the most radical prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay. Great.
To be sure, the fact that the Taliban hasn’t changed its leadership and its ideology doesn’t mean it will behave the same way as before with regard to the U.S. It’s possible that fear of U.S. intervention will cause the Taliban to try to prevent al Qaeda and other such groups from using Afghanistan as a springboard for terrorism against America.
But it’s also possible that the Taliban won’t fear future intervention. Given the approach of both the Trump and Biden administrations, the Taliban might well conclude that the U.S. won’t return to Afghanistan and, to avoid doing so, would accept Taliban denials of any responsibility for attacks on the America by al Qaeda, for example.
That’s pretty much what I have concluded.