LONDON - Leading Salafist and Islamist figures in the Arab world as well as extremist groups congratulated the Taliban on the unexpectedly fast offensive that ended with the seizure of Kabul following US President Joe Biden’s decision to withdraw his troops from Afghanistan.
The Taliban celebrated Afghanistan’s Independence Day on Thursday by declaring they beat the United States. But they faced growing challenges to their rule as Afghan protesters defied them for a second day Thursday, waving their national flag in scattered demonstrations, prompting a violent response from the Taliban fighters.
The militant group has moved quickly to suppress any dissent despite its promises that it has become more moderate and tolerant since it last ruled Afghanistan with draconian laws between 1996 and 2001.
Oman's Grand Mufti, Ahmed Bin Hamad Al-Khalili, congratulated on Monday the Afghan people on their “clear victory” against the invaders.
“We congratulate the brotherly Muslim people of Afghanistan for the clear victory and the dear victory over the aggressor invaders, and we follow this by congratulating ourselves and the entire Islamic nation for the fulfillment of God’s sincere promise,” Khalili tweeted.
Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, or the Levant Liberation Committee, an al-Qaeda-linked extremist group in Syria, compared the Taliban’s control of much of Afghanistan and its “dear victory” with the early Muslim conquests.
Some of the founding members of the group — which used to be known as the Nusra Front — include Arab commanders who were close to Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan. Many of them were killed in US drone attacks in Syria over the past years.
In 2017, Brett McGurk, then top US envoy for the coalition battling the Islamic State group, said that Syria’s northwestern province of Idlib had become the largest al-Qaeda haven since Afghanistan in bin Laden’s days.
“No matter how long it takes, righteousness will end up victorious,” said the group also known as HTS in a statement released late Wednesday.
“Occupiers don’t last on usurped lands no matter how much they harm its people,” it added.
Morocco’s Ahmed al-Raissouni, head of the International Union of Muslim Scholars, said Monday that the Union was optimistic and satisfied with the recent developments in Afghanistan after the Taliban movement took control of the government and the Afghans’ blood was not shed during the last hours
The IUMS, which Reuters said was formed in 2004 mostly by scholars belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood, congratulated the Afghan people and their leadership, especially in the Taliban movement, for “this new phase that has begun, begins or is now taking shape” in Afghanistan.
“The Union was always busy with a basic matter that troubles it, which is lives and blood. It was always in contact with delegations for negotiation and dialogue here in Doha,” said Raissouni.
“We in the International Union of Muslim Scholars offered congratulations before to the Taliban movement that it was able to conclude an agreement for the withdrawal of foreign forces, American and foreign forces from Afghanistan. We thank the Taliban for it, as it is an Afghan achievement thanks to jihad, patience and sacrifices,” he added.
Under a pact negotiated last year by former President Donald Trump's administration, the United States agreed to withdraw its forces in exchange for a Taliban guarantee they would not let Afghanistan be used to launch terrorist attacks.
Al-Hassan Ben Ali al-Kettani, President of the Association of Arab Maghreb Scholars, also congratulated the Taliban for retaking Afghanistan almost 20 years after being toppled by the US following 9/11 attacks in New York.
“The Islamic Emirate in Kabul again, without blood or revenge, and praise be to God, Lord of the Worlds,” Kettani wrote on Facebook.
Analysts criticised the leading Islamist figures’ statements and slammed their praise of the Taliban regime which oppressed women’s rights, smuggled drugs and killed adulterers by stoning.
Women were forced to wear the burka (cover from toe to head), and the Taliban also disapproved of girls aged 10 and over going to school when the militant group controlled Afghanistan.
“It is very clear that the dream of the Caliphate and the Islamic Emirate flirts with all of them,” Mhamed Abdelouahab Rafiqui, a researcher in Islamic studies and President of Al Mezan Center for Mediation, Studies and Media, wrote on Facebook.
“The Taliban, although it is not for them the ideal model for the Caliphate State, but in light of the disappointments and setbacks and the failure of all the projects of the Islamic State, it gives them a glimmer of hope, that this project is not far from attainable, that it is feasible, and that even the international community can accept it, even if the regime will violate human rights, cut off hands and kill the adulterer, then all of that will be overlooked when politics requires, the Taliban flirted with dreams of the caliphate and awakened its feelings among these currents,” said Rafiqui.
“The experience of the Taliban in which many of those people see as a hope to heal the wounds left by previous experiences; Saudi Arabia and its experience, which does not satisfy many of them and its accusation of serving foreign agendas; Sudan, which suffered from the bitterness of the Islamists and knew their era of starvation, division and devastation, before it turned after them into a civil and secular state; Turkey, which has no Islam but a name, ISIS (The Islamic State), which presented a savage and terrifying model; the Taliban itself in its first experience that ended in bringing destruction and devastation, so they rejoiced today when they see the return of the “Islamic Emirate” with an American facilitation and a Qatari sponsorship,” he added.