March 24, 2011
Afghanistan’s Taliban movement has responded to the Western intervention in the Libyan rebellion with predictable anger, but declined to declare their support for either the loyalist or rebel factions in the conflict (Ansar1.info, March 20).
The statement from the “Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan” described the intervention as a “politically-motivated and uncalled for” adventure that would harm Libya and the greater Islamic community. Without making reference to either Qaddafi or the rebels, the Taliban simply expressed “pity that the situation in Libya evolved to the extent that paved the way for anti-Islamic forces to intervene.” The Taliban believe the intervention is intended to weaken Libya through a war of attrition before seizing its oil reserves in a direct invasion.
The movement’s recommendations are somewhat ambiguous; the Taliban suggests that the Libyan people “fulfill their Islamic and national duty” so that “internal and external enemies” cannot use them as “scapegoats for their warmongering policy.” The ummah [Islamic community] and rulers of the Islamic world should not remain neutral, but should play a role “in line with the interests of Islam,” which will enable Libya to evade “the tentacles of foreign colonialism.” The statement appears to reflect the Taliban’s reluctance to issue a statement supporting either Qaddafi, whose “Green Book” ideology is abhorrent to most Islamists, or the largely secular rebel movement. Neither camp can be described as sympathetic to the Islamists, who have played a relatively insignificant role in the rebellion.
Colonialism has been a Taliban concern lately as the movement develops a response to U.S. proposals to establish permanent military bases in Afghanistan. In a statement entitled “The Afghans Can’t Tolerate the Occupation even for a Single Day, Let Alone Tolerate Permanent Bases,” the Taliban ask, “How is it possible that the proud tradition of the common Afghans and the religious obligation and the Afghan characteristics of the mujahideen will allow them to overlook the overall American presence in the country?”
A recent article in the Taliban’s al-Somood magazine entitled “The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan: Combating Colonialism, Between Yesterday and Today” compared the Russian occupation of Afghanistan to that of the United States: “To us there is no difference between the Russians and the Americans. Each of them has occupied our country and shed our blood, destroyed our civilization, corrupted our culture and our religion… If yesterday, Russia described the battalions of liberation and jihad and all the mujahideen as evil, America… likewise describes its unjust and evil occupation as fighting terrorism, its intervention in other countries’ affairs as building civilization and restoring women’s rights, its obliteration of the economy as opium eradication and the sabotage of minds and ideas as education and culture” (al-Somood 56, March 10).
This article first appeared in the March 24, 2011 issue of the Jamestown Foundation’s Terrorism Monitor