The Normalization of The Taliban

The Centers of The World System Discover Islamofascism As a Repressive Instrument of Crisis Management in The Periphery

Tomasz Konicz

Talk to the Taliban? Mrs. Merkel can’t do that quickly enough. While panicked people clinging to planes taking off plunge to their deaths at Kabul airport, while IS Islamists blow up dozens of fleeing people in suicide attacks, the chancellor declared Taliban rule in Afghanistan to be a new reality that was “bitter,” but one that had to be “dealt with.” This means, above all, holding talks with the stone-age Islamists “in order to be able to preserve something of what has benefited the people of Afghanistan over the past 20 years” (one can only hope that the Chancellor is not referring to the mass-murderous German air strikes, which, for example, provided one Colonel Klein with a career path to General).[1] According to Merkel, the German government is already providing 500 million euros for humanitarian purposes. Through this, the hope is to “continue to protect people” in Afghanistan after the evacuation, which will be completed in “a few days.”[2]

In plain language: Berlin wants to hold talks with the Taliban on how the Afghans can continue to be kept – pardon, “protected” – in Afghanistan despite the Islamist reign of terror. Because that was the central German concern during the collapse of the Afghan state dummy in recent weeks: The fear of new flight movements from the collapsed Afghanistan, which could give the New Right in the FRG additional impetus, manifested itself precisely in the slogan, “2015 must not be repeated.” And anyway: The New York Times knew to report after a first interview that the new Taliban could hardly be compared with the old stone-age Islamists.[3] At least that’s what the Taliban said. Their spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, even stressed that, “in the long term,” women under the Taliban could well “resume their routines.”

After all, it seems that the Taliban’s public relations have indeed been modernized, as Mr Mujahid seemed to know exactly what his Western interviewees wanted to hear. Despite the “tense situation” at the airport, the Taliban hoped to establish good relations with the “international community.” The Taliban spokesman named the fight against terror (Al Qaeda is now being replaced by the Islamic State), the eradication of opium production in Afghanistan, which is one of the Taliban’s most important sources of income, and the “reduction of refugees” who wanted to go to the West as potential areas of cooperation. The Taliban are thus in effect offering themselves to the West as a source of “law and order,” as jailers of a region of socio-economic collapse which, like the post-state region of Libya, is really only called Afghanistan out of habit. The Taliban spokesman was at pains to paint the picture of a rather “tolerant” Islamist movement that had broken with its past, according to the New York Times. For that to happen, the West would still have to tolerate the idiosyncrasies of Taliban extremism, such as the ban on music, which Mr. Mujahid explicitly acknowledged – and the reported burning alive of women by Taliban who didn’t like their food.[4]

The idea of allowing Islamic extremism to play a leading role in the defense against refugees, of allowing the corresponding dictatorships, militias and rackets to play the role of concentration camp wardens on economically scorched earth and turning them into open-air prisons, so to speak, is not entirely new. In Berlin this has been the maxim of policy towards Erdogan’s Turkey since the refugee crisis of 2015, which must not be repeated at all costs. Berlin keeps paying billions to the Erdogan regime so that calm prevails at the EU’s borders. Turkish Islamofascism – already under increased socio-economic pressure due to the crisis – expanded in the collapsing, war-torn areas of northern Syria, where Turkish-funded Islamist militias were able to establish a gang rule marked by permanent clashes. Syrian civil war refugees, who increasingly face pogroms in Turkey, are to be shipped there for some perspective (Al Qaeda in Turkish-controlled Idlib celebrated the Taliban’s victory with a motorcade).[5]

The war of Islamism, which in fact represents a postmodern crisis ideology,[6] is directed first and foremost against progressive counter-models. The aggressions of the Turkish-Islamist soldiery against Rojava, against the self-administration in northern Syria, not only served the ethnic cleansing of this region bordering on Turkey from Kurds; this also attempted to smash a competing, emancipatory counter-model to Turkish-sponsored Islamofascism in the region. Berlin has flanked these Turkish aggressions financially and politically – the repressive suppression of refugee movements with the help of Islamism seems to have become a raison d’état in Berlin, while an emancipatory alternative is being fought by the German state apparatus with passion.

Islamofascism now appears to be on the rise throughout the region. Coinciding with the fall of the Western-funded puppet government in the “failed state” of Afghanistan, Turkey has expanded its attacks on the Kurdish movement in Syria and Iraq. In the slipstream of the disaster in Afghanistan, the emancipatory awakening in Rojava is to be finally put to death.[7] The Islamists in Ankara, at least, are well aware that there is no alternative to their rise in the wake of the globally unfolding crisis process – as the civil war in Syria illustrates.

The collapse of Syria – similar to the even more dramatic situation in Afghanistan – had socio-economic and ecological causes. The civil war broke out due to the advanced impoverishment of a largely economically superfluous population, as well as a prolonged drought in the agrarian northeast of the country. In the course of the civil war, in which the Syrian state, which had degenerated into a self-service shop of the Assad clan, could only be saved from implosion by massive Russian intervention, not only the genocidal Islamic State emerged as a formative force, but also the self-government in northern Syria, which was largely supported by the Kurdish freedom movement.

The Rojava model, which attempts to realize an emancipatory claim, constitutes – as long as it exists – a threat to Islamism in the region, since it shows alternatives to the terror regime of these clerical-fascist crisis ideologies. The Islamism of the Islamic State, the Taliban and Al Qaeda represents, as it were, a fascist extremism of the center,[8] which uses religion, the central religious identity of the Islamic cultural sphere, as a sounding board in order to drive it to the ideological, sometimes genocidal extreme in interaction with crisis shocks – this crisis ideology thus has little to do with the pre-modern agrarian societies of Islam to which the Islamist ideologists refer.

The crisis of the capitalist world system produces economically scorched earth in its periphery, i.e. regions in which hardly any capital valorization takes place and thus economically superfluous population strata emerge, which leads to increasing political instability, which can ultimately lead to state collapse. This is the deeper cause of the rapid collapse of the state in Afghanistan,[9] as well as similar processes in Libya, and the civil wars in Iraq and Syria.

Syria, however, represents an anomaly, since here, with Rojava, there is indeed a progressive, emancipatory alternative to the crisis-induced drift into Islamist barbarism. In Syria, at the latest in the fight against the genocidal militia of the “Islamic State” supported by Turkey, the West had the option of supporting an alternative. It is significant that – after the official victory over the IS – both the US and Russia proceeded to sell off Rojava piecemeal to Erdogan’s Turkey, which managed to play both major powers off against each other. The Islamists in Ankara and Idlib were ultimately more important to Washington and Moscow than the emancipatory awakening in northern Syria, due to Turkey’s greater geopolitical weight.

Turkey’s current airstrikes and artillery strikes in northern Syria[10] and Iraq[11] would also not be possible without the USA’s clearance of the airspace, and without Moscow’s consent in its northern Syrian zone of influence. The West is currently capitulating to Islamofascism, which – historically and socio-economically speaking – it promoted in two ways. On the one hand, it was the many billions of Western and Saudi US dollars that flowed to the Taliban’s predecessors, the Afghan Mujahideen fighting Soviet troops, in the final phase of the Cold War that gave militant Islamism an enormous boost (Osama Bin Laden famously fought in Afghanistan). The Taliban specifically formed in refugee camps and madrasas that sprang up – funded by the Saudis – in the Pakistan-Afghanistan border area during the war against the Soviets to indoctrinate children in the emerging Islamist ideology.

At the same time, the world crisis of capital choking on its productivity – which, precisely because of the increasing capital intensiveness of commodity production in the centers, first hit the capital-weak, peripheral regions of the world market in full – creates the socio-economic foundations for the rise of extremist movements in the collapsing periphery. Islamism thus represents – similar to the nationally and racially based European fascism – a terrorist crisis form of capitalist rule, which gains momentum wherever the course of the crisis has progressed far enough and the corresponding cultural foundations are in place.

The twenty-year struggle of U.S. troops and NATO against the Taliban thus resembled a senseless windmill fight in which the West fought against the ghosts of crisis that it itself directly and indirectly produced. The sophisticated late capitalist military machine fought – with barbaric methods – on economically scorched earth against the barbaric end products of the crisis of capital. The U.S. and its NATO allies wanted to finance and literally bomb the superstructure of a capitalist state with billions in subsidies, without realizing that there was no economic basis for it.

For the time being, Afghanistan will probably remain the last futile attempt at “nation building” by Western crisis imperialism. The new aspect of the current escalation in Afghanistan is that not only Berlin, but the West as a whole is coming to accept this religiously based crisis ideology, this Islamic fascism, as a factor of order in the periphery that is supposed to keep the superfluous masses of the global South in check, in order to prevent them from fleeing to the centers – all the more important in view of the full-blown climate crisis. The Taliban are also aware of this, as the interview with the New York Times makes clear. The repressive model of crisis management established by Berlin, in which Islamist regimes or rackets are literally paid to stop emigration, threatens to become a new, dystopian reality in the current crisis imperialism.

The transition from neoliberal, formally democratic capitalism, where rule unfolds without a subject, through the mediating levels of the market and the judicial apparatus, to openly authoritarian crisis management now seems to be taking place. Even the facade of Freedom and Democracy is being dropped, with Biden again merely continuing the policies of his right-wing populist predecessor in office. This authoritarian turn is first taking hold in the periphery – but, as illustrated by the militarization of the US police apparatus, it will soon rebound on the centers as well.


Originally published on 09/10/2021

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