The Taliban and al-Qaeda: Not ideological allies

The popular Afghan resistance is fighting to drive out foreign invaders.

The following was written anonymously by a March Forward! member who is an active-duty GI.

A new report published by New York University calls into question one of the central premises justifying the United States war on the people of Afghanistan.

The study is entitled  Separating the Taliban from al-Qaeda: The Core of Success in Afghanistan and was produced by NYU’s Center on International Cooperation. Though it is generally supportive of the goals of the United States and NATO in Afghanistan, it reveals that the Taliban and al-Qaeda are not ideological allies, but rather have developed a pragmatic political alliance in the face of a common enemy – U.S.-led imperialism.

According to the study, the Taliban and al-Qaeda are “caught in a marriage of convenience” forced upon them by the U.S./NATO-led International Security Assistance Forces occupying Afghanistan. The two groups are sharply distinct and have radically different goals. They share neither ideology, social or cultural backgrounds, nor national origins. To date no Afghan nationals have ever been proven members of al-Qaeda. Even before September 11, 2001, there was “considerable friction between them … and today that friction persists.”

The study goes on to say that existent relationships between the Taliban and al-Qaeda come in three main varieties: “personal/ individual ties, a shared religion, and their circumstances, a shared location and enemy.” While al-Qaeda has provided some financial and training assistance to the Taliban, the organization has had absolutely no influence on the native Afghan resistance movements.

Matthew Hoh, a Former State Department official who resigned in protest of the way the war was being carried out, has said that possibly thousands of resistance groups in Afghanistan fight entirely independent from any affiliation, but are instead motivated solely by the common desire to remove foreign occupiers from their homes.

The Taliban’s leaders have repeatedly maintained that they have no interest in launching international attacks against the United States. Their goals, unlike al-Qaeda, are exclusively national in scope – they seek to drive out a colonial-type occupation by foreign invaders. Their actions have been entirely defensive and limited to Afghanistan’s national borders, unlike the United States, which invaded and occupied a country that has never committed a single act of aggression against it.

The NYU study additionally claims that the 2009 Obama administration troop surge is actually undermining the over-all U.S. strategy by alienating both the broader population of Afghans and the Taliban. U.S/NATO actions, particularly the increased frequency of night raids on Afghan homes, are further radicalizing the resistance and unifying opposition to the foreign occupation forces.

Furthermore, a public opinion poll taken last fall in Kandahar and Helmand provinces—the focus of the troop surge and the scene of the great majority of bloodshed in the country—found that only a miniscule 8 percent of young men even know about the Sept. 11 attacks in the United States.

Even the Taliban leadership did not know in advance about the September 11 attacks, according to the NYU study. Their statements immediately afterwards condemned the attacks while expressing disbelief that they were the work of bin Laden.

In fact, there is no evidence that the Taliban had a role in the 9/11 attacks. They even offered to extradite bin Laden to face trial, but in response were arrogantly told that the United States “will not negotiate with terrorists.”

NYU study shatters U.S. justification for war on Afghan people

Considering that the alleged pretext for the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan was in response to the Sept. 11 attacks, the findings in NYU’s study completely shatter the main justification for the war. The official justification for the U.S. military invading Afghanistan in 2001 was, in the words of then-President George W. Bush, to “smoke out” the enemy – al-Qaeda.

But if the Taliban does not share a common ideology or goals with al-Qaeda, had nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks and even offered to extradite bin Laden, what was the true reasoning behind the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan?

Another pretext for the invasion of Afghanistan was the Taliban’s reactionary social policies. As this propaganda line went, the United States invaded Afghanistan to save its women. There is no question that the Taliban regime had reactionary social policies. But that had not prevented the United States from organizing and funding reactionary extremist forces like the Mujahedeen when it was plotting to overthrow Afghanistan’s progressive and secular government. Social problems have only intensified since the U.S. invasion, and can never begin to be overcome as long as the Afghan people live under occupation.

The true motive behind the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan was to maintain and expand its global hegemony and empire. Afghanistan is home to strategic natural gas and oil pipelines and is a critical crossroads to deal with the former Soviet republics of Central Asia, as well as Pakistan and Iran. Raising the stakes still further, in June of 2010 the United States discovered untapped mineral deposits worth upwards of a trillion dollars. Among those minerals is lithium, the metal used in cell phone and computer batteries, an enormous strategic prize.

However, it becomes clearer every day that, in spite of overwhelming military and technological superiority, the United States cannot win the war. Due to the valiant resistance of the people of Afghanistan, the United States has been forced to replace its goals of all-out domination with the avoidance of the appearance of defeat to stave off inspiring further resistance among other targets of the U.S. empire. 

We have nothing to gain from this occupation. The Afghan people have the right to self-determination. The only solution to this quagmire that is in the interests of us, our families, and the vast majority of people in the U.S. and Afghanistan, is the complete and immediate withdrawal of all U.S. and NATO forces from the region.


March Forward! members across the country are mobilizing for mass anti-war protests on March 19, the 8th anniversary of the invasion of Iraq. Click here to find a protest near you, and email [email protected] to get involved!


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