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Jihadi Reactions to the U.S.-Taliban Deal and Afghan Peace Talks


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Jihadica

Cole Bunzel

September 23, 2020

On September 12, 2020, the Taliban and the Afghan government began negotiations in Qatar over the political future of Afghanistan. In accordance with the “Agreement for Bringing Peace to Afghanistan,” signed by the United States and the Taliban on February 29, the negotiations are expected to produce “a permanent and comprehensive ceasefire” between the warring Afghan parties, as well as an “agreement over the future political roadmap of Afghanistan.” In return for the Taliban’s participation in the negotiations and its guarantee that “Afghan soil will not be used against the security of the United States and its allies,” the United States agreed to withdraw all its forces from Afghanistan within fourteen months of the original agreement.

In the world of Sunni jihadism, the U.S.-Taliban deal and the associated peace talks have elicited a range of reactions, from celebration to condemnation. This divergence of views reflects the fractured state of the jihadi movement—or its “tri-polar” character—split as it is between the three poles of the Islamic State, al-Qaida, and Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) in Syria. The cautiously optimistic views of certain jihadi scholars add another layer of complexity to the picture.

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No consensus, uncertain future

If one thing is clear from this motley of views concerning the Taliban’s deal with the United States and its negotiations with the Afghan government, it is that there is little consensus in the jihadi world on what the nature of the Taliban truly is. For the Islamic State, the Taliban is an ungodly movement ready and willing to renounce jihad and share power with the Afghan government. For al-Qaida, it is the future Islamic caliphate. And for HTS, it is a model of jihadi realpolitik. The scholars, for their part, wary as they are of where the negotiations will lead, reflect a deep uncertainty about the future of the Taliban. Their worst fear is that the Taliban will make peace with the Afghan government and shed its character as “the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.” Their greatest hope is that the negotiations will turn out to be a time-saving ruse. They are not so hopeful, however, as to assume this outcome as a given.

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