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Taliban Takeover of Afghanistan Stokes Fears of Renewed Terrorism Against Israel, Western Allies

avatar by Sharon Wrobel

Taliban forces patrol in Kabul, Afghanistan, August 16, 2021. REUTERS/Stringer

As the Taliban pledged a policy of no “internal or external enemies” on Tuesday following its seizure of the Afghan capital Kabul, Israel and Western countries are weighing the danger that Islamist fundamentalist organizations could return the country into a base for their terrorist acts and other malign activities abroad.

Israel and Western countries that have been the targeted by such groups should watch the developments in Afghanistan following the US withdrawal, Yoram Schweitzer, senior research fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS), told The Algemeiner on Tuesday. The main concern is whether Islamist groups — including al-Qaida and Sunni fundamentalists — will take advantage of the situation to mobilize forces and turn the country into a hub to plan global terror attacks.

“Israel and its allies in the West should look prudently if Afghanistan and the Taliban have not learnt their lesson of the past,” said Schweitzer, who heads of the INSS program on terrorism and low intensity conflict. “They should observe closely if and how Afghanistan returns to be a place for training camps by extremist organizations, including al-Qaida, which they could be using as a springboard to carry out terrorist activities abroad against the US and its allies, which includes Israel.”

The US and Western allies evacuated diplomats and civilians from Kabul on Tuesday as the city’s new rulers held their first news conference since the Islamist movement ousted the Western-backed government in mere days. Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid claimed the group would seek peaceful relations with other countries, saying, “we don’t want any internal or external enemies.”

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US forces are set to complete their withdrawal by the end of August, under the deal with the Taliban conditioned on a promise not to let the country be used for global terrorism.

Meanwhile, Iran as well as terror organizations Hamas and the Hezbollah on Monday publicly celebrated the final capitulation of the Afghan government to Taliban insurgents, praising the hardline Islamist organization for its “brave leadership” in defeating the “American occupation.” Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh called a Taliban leader to congratulate the movement, and said that the “demise of the American occupation and its allies proves that the resistance of the peoples, foremost of which is our struggling Palestinian people, will achieve victory.”

According to Schweitzer, the narrative over the “alleged” defeat of a superpower could be a source of inspiration to other terror organizations around the world, including in the Middle East.

“The US withdrawal is perceived and presented as a defeat of the Western superpower, and we have seen Nasrallah’s declarations about the weakening of its position and the trust its allies can place on it,” Schweitzer said. “Hamas and Hezbollah are not allies of the Taliban, but I am not surprised that Haniyeh is using the Taliban to promote his own position vis-à-vis Israel and is using the images for his own propaganda purposes.”

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