- Analysts say Middle Eastern states may seek parallel alliances
- Some Arabs hail the withdrawal of foreign forces
- Afghanistan could become an activists’ paradise again
AMMAN, Aug. 18 (Reuters) – Across the Middle East, the Taliban’s rapid takeover of Afghanistan has been seen by some as a signal that actors in the region can no longer depend on declining US power.
While the Taliban’s ability to regain ground on foreign forces has been hailed by anti-Western factions, the group’s advance has also raised fears that the country will once again become a haven for Arab militants.
Struggling to expel foreign forces since their overthrow in 2001, the Taliban seized Kabul on Sunday after a lightning offensive as US-led Western forces withdrew. Read more
In the Middle East, where the United States has long been the dominant external power although its involvement has diminished since it reduced its forces in Iraq, events in Afghanistan could prompt states to forge new or parallel alliances, analysts said.
“What happened in Afghanistan reinforces the conviction of many Arab regimes that the role of the United States in the Arab and Islamic world (…) is declining,” said Mohammad Abu Rumman, Jordanian analyst and former minister.
“It is time to reduce dependence on Washington in the strategic area,” UAE analyst Abdulkhaleq Abdulla wrote in The National.
Western policy and military interventions have sparked resistance movements for decades in the Middle East, and some have welcomed the withdrawal of foreign forces.
The Houthi movement in Yemen and the Lebanese Hezbollah, both aligned with Iran, have made statements calling attention to what they called the failure and humiliation of the United States.
Hezbollah has said the US withdrawal should serve as a lesson for US-aligned groups in Lebanon not to depend on Washington as an ally.
“In order not to fight on behalf of anyone, he (US President Joe Biden) agreed to suffer a historic and humiliating defeat in Afghanistan,” Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said in a sermon Tuesday evening.
Hamas, the Palestinian militant group that controls the Gaza Strip, praised the Taliban and the Afghan people. Gazans welcomed the advance of the Taliban, which offered encouragement to Palestinians living under Israeli occupation, said Mohamed Dadar, a 28-year-old man from Gaza City.
Sheikh Ahmed Bin Hamad al-Khalili, the Grand Mufti of the State of the Gulf of Oman, who has a long-standing policy of neutrality, welcomed the victory over the “aggressor invaders”.
However, reactions were tempered by concern over the resurgence of militancy in Afghanistan, where before 2001 many Arab fighters were being trained under the Taliban for insurgencies in their country.
“We are afraid of their return,” Jordanian Taqi Abdelsamad, 23, said, citing past jihadist violence in Syria and Iraq.
Several groups aligned with al-Qaeda have hailed the success of the Taliban.
The Taliban’s takeover of Kabul could accelerate a trend for jihadists to move towards Afghanistan, said Jordanian analyst Abu Rumman, who is an expert on Islamist groups.
“It could, in my opinion, boost the morale of thousands of jihadists who collapsed after the disintegration of Daesh (Islamic State), so they think things are not so bad. “
However, he added that the Taliban would treat newly arrived jihadists with caution due to a peace deal that led to the withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan.
Others expressed dismay at the return to power of a group with an uncompromising religious agenda.
“We must all unite to prevent this from happening because it is unacceptable for this to happen for the rights of women and anyone else in the Arab and Islamic world,” said Sarah Nawas, a student in Damascus, the Syrian capital.
A Taliban spokesperson suggested the group would impose laws more gently than during their severe 1996-2001 rule.
In Iraq, the advance of the Taliban brought back painful memories of the seizure of entire swathes of Iraqi territory by the Islamic State in 2014.
“I really sympathize with them (the Afghan people) because I have been through this situation before,” said Khalid al-Rawi, a musician from Mosul, the Iraqi stronghold of the Islamic State before he was driven into the country. 2017.
Reportage de Hams Rabah, Muath Freij, Fadi Shana, Arafat Barbakh, Nuha Sharaf, Tom Perry, Aziz El Yaakoubi, Yamam al Shaar, Mahmoud Hassano, Sayed Sheasha, Khalid al-Mousily, Charlotte Bruneau, Maher Nazeh Écrit par Aidan Lewis Montage par Gilles Elgood
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