Is the Taliban Group a Wagner for America?

Hasht-E Subh  In February 2020, after 18 months of negotiations, the Taliban signed a friendship pact with the United States, known as the “Doha Agreement.” While multiple factors contributed to the fall of the previous government, the Doha Agreement was the most significant. Allegations have surfaced regarding hidden annexes within the agreement, suggesting that the warm interaction between the United States and the Taliban may serve as its provisions. The United States displayed apathy towards the fall of the previous government, leading many to speculate that the country preferred the Taliban over its predecessor. Since the Taliban’s return to power, the relationship between the United States and the group has normalized. The compromise between U.S. officials and the Taliban remains intact, with Qatar and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) acting as hosts for both parties. However, the United States has refrained from officially recognizing the Taliban or reopening its embassy in Kabul.

Rumors about a secret relationship between the Taliban and the United States gained momentum when Ayman al-Zawahiri, the leader of al-Qaeda, was killed by an American drone in Kabul on July 31, 2022. There are two interpretations of this incident. The first suggests that a faction within the Taliban intentionally disclosed al-Zawahiri’s whereabouts to the Americans, aiming to gain recognition for their government. The second view posits that the Taliban has once again opened Afghanistan’s doors to terrorist groups, particularly al-Qaeda, and is hosting them. While both perspectives appear plausible, the lack of a serious American response to the Taliban harboring al-Zawahiri suggests that the first view may be more accurate.

In a recent press conference, U.S. President Joe Biden responded to a question by stating, “Do you remember what I said about Afghanistan? I said Al-Qaeda will not be there. I said that we will get help from the Taliban. What happens now? What’s up? Follow the media. I was right.” Biden’s statements received widespread reaction, once again shedding light on the alleged secret deal between the United States and the Taliban. The Taliban group welcomed Biden’s statement, interpreting it as an acknowledgement of the truth by the United States.

Considering these points, the question arises as to whether the Taliban group is a Wagner for the United States. The answer to this question is affirmative. The United States has utilized Wagners not only in Afghanistan but also in other parts of the world. When its interests demand, the United States has shown no mercy towards regimes that emerged from democratic elections, as evident in the fall of the previous Afghan government. To further clarify this issue, historical examples are provided below:

1- The Iran-Contra Affair:

The Iran-Contra affair took place in 1985 during Ronald Reagan’s presidency. Often referred to as the “Iran-Contra Scandal,” this incident is comparable to the infamous “Watergate Scandal.” The story revolves around American citizens being held hostage in Lebanon, with the United States believing that Iran had influence over the hostage-taking organizations. To secure the release of the hostages, the United States resorted to secret and illegal arms sales to Iran.

Iran, engaged in a war with Iraq at the time, welcomed this event. The proceeds from the arms sales to Iran were funneled to the “Contras” in Nicaragua, who were fighting against the leftist “Sandinistas” in power. The revelation of this story in 1986 severely tarnished Reagan’s reputation, as the U.S. Congress had prohibited any form of support for the “Contras.” It is reminiscent of the current situation with the mysterious and opaque $40-million aid packages entering Kabul, reminiscent of the United States’ secret aid to the “Contra” forces.

2- Chile:

The United States also employed Wagner in Chile to prevent leftists from assuming power in the country. Salvador Allende became the president of Chile in November 1970 through elections, becoming the world’s first leftist leader to ascend through democratic means. The United States opposed his rise to power and sought to bolster his opponents. It is widely believed that the United States played a crucial role in organizing the military coup against Chile’s leftist government, providing financial support amounting to eight million dollars. General Augusto Pinochet led the coup in September 1973, overthrowing the elected government and resulting in the death of Salvador Allende. Pinochet, backed by the United States, established a dictatorial regime that disregarded democratic principles, leading to his eventual trial. The scene of Allende’s downfall and Pinochet’s rise to power draws parallels to mid-August 2021 in Afghanistan.

3- Iran:

Collaborating with Britain, the United States orchestrated a coup in Iran, which led to the downfall of Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh’s government. This coup, known as the “28th of Mardad” coup, took place on August 19, 1953. Mossadegh’s government was legitimate, having assumed office through parliamentary elections. However, his nationalization of oil and refusal to grant Britain a monopoly over it provoked the ire of both Britain and the United States. Former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright confirmed U.S. involvement in the coup on August 24, 2000, exactly 47 years after the event.

Additionally, on June 4, 2009, 56 years after the coup, former U.S. President Barack Obama acknowledged the United States’ responsibility and expressed an apologetic tone. The United States’ role in organizing the coup tarnished its reputation among Iranians. America’s Wagner in this story was Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.

4- Egypt:

On June 16, 2012, Mohamed Morsi assumed the presidency of Egypt through elections. Prior to this, Hosni Mubarak, a strategic ally of the United States, had held the presidency from 1981 until February 11, 2011. However, Morsi’s government was short-lived as it was overthrown by a coup d’état on July 3, 2013, which was swiftly recognized by the United States. It is alleged that the coup received support from the United States and its regional allies (Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Kuwait), despite U.S. laws prohibiting support for coup governments. America’s Wagner in this story was Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, the current president of Egypt.

The United States has engaged with dictatorial rulers and Taliban groups when it aligns with its interests. Reflecting on the United States’ presence in the Middle East, North Africa, and Latin America after World War II provides evidence for this claim. America’s Middle Eastern allies consist of countries that disregard human rights and democratic values, with their rulers often maintaining power for extensive periods.

In her memoir, “Hard Choices,” Hillary Clinton described a division within Obama’s administration regarding the Arab Spring. According to her account, Obama personally supported the Arab uprisings, while other decision-makers emphasized supporting traditional U.S. allies. Among these decision-makers was Joe Biden, who served as Obama’s vice president at the time. Clinton wrote, “We had two choices: core values (democracy and human rights) and strategic interests (supporting traditional allies). Obama emphasized the first option, while others, especially Joe Biden, emphasized the second option.”

The relationship between Biden’s administration and the Taliban can be interpreted as prioritizing strategic interests over core values. By hastily withdrawing from Afghanistan, Biden’s administration sacrificed its core values (democracy and human rights) infavor of strategic interests (controlling regional rivals through the Taliban). Initially, the United States struck a deal with the Taliban, providing them with a political platform to showcase their willingness for peace. Subsequently, an agreement was signed with the Taliban to demonstrate their domestication and participation in bilateral negotiations and international meetings. Ultimately, in order to have a responsible and dignified exit, the United States left the gates of Afghanistan open to the Taliban, turning its back on the democratic system it had supported for two decades.

However, the reasons behind the previous government’s inability to resist are a separate issue. The focus of the debate lies in how the United States welcomed the return of the Taliban. The United States’ optimism towards the Taliban brings to mind the words of former U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt, who referred to the “Somoza family,” the rulers of Nicaragua, as “bastards, but our own bastards.” The Somoza family came to power in Nicaragua with U.S. support and, upon their removal from power and escape from the country, took the national treasury with them. Even today, Biden may think to himself, “The Taliban are terrorists, but terrorists who dance to our tune in exchange for dollars.” Depending on its interests, the United States either accommodates or confronts Taliban groups.

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