The Crusade of Salafiyya
The Crusade of Salafiyya

On October 2, 2010, the United States announced plans to withdraw troops from Afghanistan, a decision that will have harsh consequences for Afghans, who may very well come under the Taliban rule once again. After nine years of fighting to destroy AL-Qaeda in Afghanistan, the U.S. has little to show for the war.

Nonetheless, the U.S. has improved the human rights situation for many Afghan citizens. The U.S. essentially contained the Taliban’s oppressive practices to a limited sphere. However, an American troop withdrawal would give the Taliban the ability to regain not only Afghanistan, but the Fergana Valley and Pakistan as well. If the Taliban regains control over these areas, their oppressive practices will create an even more dismal situation for human dignity to flourish. The chances are high that they will violate international human rights law once again.

The U.S. invaded Afghanistan to destroy the terrorist group AL-Qaeda, who was based in Afghanistan. Yet, the ruling government at the time – the Taliban – would not give up AL-Qaeda. Therefore, the U.S. attacked the Taliban to get to AL-Qaeda. In the midst of the war, the U.S. added another mission – to bring democracy to Afghanistan – but now that the U.S. intends to withdraw troops from Afghanistan, this secondary goal has been sidelined.

The U.S. has considered negotiating with the Taliban, who will inevitably take control over the country. However, an alternate solution exists – collaborating with Russia and Pakistan.

Al-Qaeda and The Taliban

Al-Qaeda and the Taliban share similar religious leanings, but have different goals and foci.1 Al-Qaeda, a terrorist networks, is grounded in its hatred of the West and it also supports a strict interpretation of Islam. Al Qaeda wants the removal of U.S. troops from Saudi Arabia and a removal of Western presence in Islamic countries in general. While the Taliban also supports a strict interpretation of Islam, its goal is to regain control over Afghanistan. The Taliban, however, practice a similar form of Islam, not out of hatred for the West, but because these are ingrained religious beliefs.

The Taliban is the former Afghan government that ruled the country before the U.S. invasion. It was started by Pakistani students of Madrassas in Northwestern Afghanistan to fight against the brutality of the Russians who raped children while travelling to Kandahar.2 These Madrassas taught a puritanical version of Islam known as the Deobandi sect, which was promoted by Pakistani General Zia-ul-Haq. General Zia promoted Deobandi out of fear of another accession from Pakistan after Bangladesh succeeded to form an “impure” Hindu state in 1971.

The Taliban was nationalistic in nature. General Zia rallied students at the Madrassas because of their support of the idea of a national jihad.3 This nationalistic fervor would form a crucial difference between the Taliban and al-Qaeda.4 These Madrassas, which soon became Wahhabi because of Pakistan’s alliance with Saudi Arabia,5 became the training ground of the Taliban, who would end up governing Afghanistan as an extremist form of Saudi-style Wahhabism. The Taliban welcomed bin Laden and AL-Qaeda from Saudi Arabia in exchange for financial support and a connection to the Islamic world. Yet, the difference between AL-Qaeda’s jihadist goal and the Taliban’s nationalism mission allowed Saudi Arabia to separate these two groups.

Saudi Arabia

With 75 percent of its income from oil revenues,6 Saudi Arabia not only has the financial means to enable the Taliban to break ties with al-Qaeda, they also have the influence to separate the Taliban from AL-Qaeda. Saudi Arabia has offered to help make the Taliban become the official government of Afghanistan – the Taliban’s top priority7 – in exchange for cutting ties with AL-Qaeda.8

Although the Taliban now supports itself through US$2.8 billion in “narco profits,” more than 50 percent of their income originates from checkpoint, illegal taxation of villagers, payments from kidnappings, and from foreign donors.9 The Taliban will need financial support to become a legitimate government, which is their top priority.10 These sources of funds would, except donations from Saudi Arabia, potentially dry up if the Taliban wanted to gain international and internal approval as the government of Afghanistan.

Moreover, Saudi Arabia offers the Taliban the connection to the Islamic world, another huge incentive. The Taliban has always felt excluded from the Muslim world, since they are located outside of the Persian Gulf region. With the support of Saudi Arabia, the Taliban would have connections to the capitols of Islam – Mecca and Medina.11 Although Saudi Arabia may be able to separate the Taliban from AL-Qaeda, the Taliban’s practices will remain unchecked causing a grave human rights situation violating international human rights laws.

The Ideology of the Taliban

The Taliban practices an extreme form Salafiyya, which violates human rights. Salafiyya is not Islam. According to U.S. Rep. Dana Robrabacher, the Taliban, “…are fanatics that are totally out of sync with Muslims throughout the world, even Muslims in their own country, and they are especially out of sync with Muslims living in the western democracies….”

The Taliban prohibited women from getting educated and from working while forcing them to wear the burka. The Taliban punished sexual intercourse out of wedlock, homosexuality, stealing, and gambling through means dictated by the Korean, including stoning to death and limb amputation. Television, photography, singing, flying kites, and playing music were banned under Taliban rule. Those who failed to pray five times a day or to fast for 30 days during Ramadan were imprisoned. Western hairstyles, the shaving or trimming of beards, pigeon racing and dog racing were outlawed as well.12

If the U.S. leaves Afghanistan, these laws and the associated punishments are likely to be enacted once again. Many would consider the punishments a violation of international human rights law.

What Will Happen When the US Leaves?

The Taliban will no doubt retake Afghanistan because the US will no longer protect population centers.13 Already terrorist attacks claiming the support of AL-Qaeda and the Taliban are on the rise in Pakistan14 and the Fergana Valley.15

Pakistani Pashtuns have already radicalized to create the Pakistani Taliban forcing Pakistan to negotiate with the Afghan Taliban. This happened because of former president George W. Bush’s decisions:

  • to allow the anti-Pakistan Northern Alliance to take Kabul in 2001
  • to ignore Islamabad’s later requests for consultations on US strategy in Afghanistan
  • and, to treat all Afghan Pashtuns as potential Taliban.16

Now it is even more difficult for Pakistan to contain the Afghan Taliban because the Afghan Taliban has access to the Pakistani Taliban. The Pakistani Taliban have already invaded Pakistan’s Swat region, which is 60 miles from Islamabad.17 It would be a disaster if the Taliban conquered Pakistan and gained access to their nuclear weapons, which could be used against their “impure” Hindu enemies – India.18

The rise of the Taliban in the Fergana Valley has implications for both China and Russia, as terrorist attacks carried out by the Taliban are on the rise in the region. The Fergana Valley is the gateway to Dagestan, Chechnya, Ingushetia in Russia, and the Xinjiang province in China. All of these regions have large Muslim populations. If radical Islamic groups gain access to these regions, the world will see a new cycle of resistance and oppression, as well as increased discrimination against Muslims in general.

Moreover, the Taliban is likely to support these groups because they who would want to support their kinsmen.19 With Russia intending to move 25,000 troops into the Fergana Valley to prevent the rise of Islamic militants in Afghanistan,20 the Taliban has an incentive to support Islamic militants’ fight against the Russia. Because the Taliban will be supporting these militants, indoctrination is highly likely.


If the U.S. and the West want to protect human rights, they should collaborate with two key players: Russia and Pakistan.

Russia is no longer the West’s enemy, and as such, the West has the opportunity to forge an alliance with Russia to fight the Taliban. Not only does Russia have the resources to fight the Taliban, Russia also has the influence in the Fergana Valley to fight the Taliban. As seen during the April 2010 Kyrgyz uprising, Russia weighed in heavily on quelling the violence.21 Russia also intends to send 25,000 troops to the region to secure the area after American withdrawal, which will allow them to halt the spread Salafiyya.22 Russia, therefore, makes a good ally to contain the Taliban on the north, while Pakistan makes a stronghold on the east. This strategy would eventually cut off and land lock the Taliban.

The U.S. should provide the support Pakistan needs to combat the Taliban because negotiating with Afghan Taliban will only facilitate their aid to Pakistani Taliban. Although the US fears Pakistan will use their requested armed Predator drones to support the Taliban,23 Pakistan has made a new vow to focus on fighting the Taliban giving the U.S. the opportunity to influence Pakistani policy.24

In order to prevent human rights abuses, the U.S. should make a deal with Pakistan to provide support to Pakistan on the grounds only if Pakistan uses this support to fight the Taliban. This strategy will ease Pakistan’s fears of surviving in a hostile region after an American withdrawal and will give them an incentive to cooperate in a fight against the Taliban.

The Taliban may not wage a jihad against the West, but the spread of their practices are violating international human rights laws and causing a crucial regression in human rights. By withdrawing from Afghanistan and by negotiating with the Taliban, the U.S. is essentially allowing criminal behaviors and valuing security over oppression.

1 van der Galien, Michael. “Al Qaeda and the Taliban: Natural Allies?” Foreign Affairs. April 20, 2009.
2 “Difference Between Taliban and Al qaeda.” Prabhat Articles. 2010.
3 “A Global Agenda.” A Second Look at the Saudis. April 6, 2008.
4 Raman, B. “Dagestan: Focus on Pakistan’s Tablighi Jamaat.” South Analysis Group. September 15, 1999.
5 Zaidi, S. Akbar. “The Ulema, Deoband and the (Many) Talibans.” Let Us Build Pakistan. February 8, 2010.
6 Clarke,Killian. “A modernization paradox: Saudi Arabia’s divided society.” Entrepreneur. Fall 2007.
7 Dorronsoro,Gilles. “Stopping the Taliban’s Momentum?” Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. September 23, 2010.
8 “Saudi Arabia wants Taliban to expel bin Laden.” MSNBC. February 2, 2010.
9 “Security Brief: Chasing Taliban’s overflowing coffers, cash couriers.” CNN. May 13, 2010.
10 Elias, Barbara. “Know Thine Enemy: Why the Taliban Cannot Be Flipped.” Foreign Affairs. November 2, 2009.
11 Ibid.
12 “A Global Agenda.” A Second Look at the Saudis. April 6, 2008.
13 Rashid, Ahmed. “A Deal with the Taliban?” The New York Review of Books. February 25, 2010.
14 Obaid-Chinoy, Sharmeen. “Children of the Taliban.” Frontline. April 14, 2009.
15 Chausovsky, Eugene. “Dispatch: Tajikistan and Central Asia’s Fergana Valley.” Strafor. September 20, 2010.
16 Rashid, Ahmed. “A Deal with the Taliban?” The New York Review of Books. February 25, 2010
17 Gartenstein-Ross, Daveed. “Pakistan’s Fifth Column.” The National Post. July 16, 2009.
18 Shahid, Shiza. “Engaging Regional Players in Afghanistan: Threats and Opportunities.” Center for Strategic and International Studies. October 15, 2009.
19 May, Clifford D. “The Taliban: A Brief History.” The National Post. July 17, 2009.
20 West, Ben. “The Tajikistan Attacks and Islamist Militancy in Central Asia.” Stratfor. September 23, 2010.
21 Gerstle, Daniel J. “Kyrgyzstan Calling for Help to Quell Ethnic Violence.” June 12, 2010.
22 West, Ben. “The Tajikistan Attacks and Islamist Militancy in Central Asia.” Stratfor. September 23, 2010.
23 Gartenstein-Ross, Daveed. “Pakistan’s Fifth Column.” The National Post. July 17, 2009.
24 Rose, Charlie. “Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Foreign Minister of Pakistan.” Charlie Rose. August 20, 2010.

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