How the Taliban will seek to win the world's hearts and minds

It is no secret now. The Talibani troops, a hotpotch coalition of nobodies - have taken over Afghanistan. They have somehow managed to cut through a modern army like a knife through the butter. But as we are reading this, we know that the said modern army was in fact a testimony to the scale of corruption upon which the modern state of the USA is built.

Or else, how should I be putting this? The world has reposed too much faith in the USA. The hapless Afghans have done the same. Now when we see and weep to the scenes that unfolded in the Kabul airport, what should we surmise? We saw people desperately clinging on to the US Airforce aircrafts that were taking off. They prefer that perilous death over falling into the hands of an advancing Taliban.

Isn’t this what betrayal feels like?

There is no joke in Afghanistan, but only pain and suffering. My mind is upset the most about the young amongst those unfortunate people. Those who were born after 2001. The generation of Afghans who were exposed to the ways of the free world. Those who had the dreams of freedom in their eyes. Those who dreamt about being part of the free world - however far away it may be. Now that it is all shattered, I wonder how they are responding.

I am reminded of my own adolescence and early adulthood. It was the free internet and the limitless quest for knowledge that made the person I am. I remember spending hours talking to wise strangers online about everything that is out there to learn. I read thousands of pages on Quora, Wikipedia, Rationalwiki, Brainpickings amongst others. Even when I was thousands of miles away from those people, a bond was forged and that has helped me understand and realize the true potential of my thoughts and actions.

Now I feel helpless. What about those kids from Afghanistan who were on a similar path? Will they ever recover? What about their mental health? What about the real losses they will have to suffer in terms of lost opportunities?

I don’t know. But I do know that they are being thrown into radically altered realities. This reminds us of the need to have a state that is committed to humanism and progress, without which the kind of horrors that have fallen upon Afghanistan can descend upon any people of this world. And the pressing need of decent men and women being ready to take its mantle and lead those efforts from the forefront.

This is not a philosophical essay. Rather, I am just writing an intro to the perverse ways in which any illegitimate regime can cultivate legitimacy and acceptance of the comity of nations. The United States have done the Taliban a favour by negotiating an agreement with them and in turn adding legitimacy to their claims. I also see how the US withdrawal actually blisters their interest in the region. Now that Afghanistan is unpredictable, isn’t there a case for China, Russia and Pakistan to be more invested in the region? Pakistan with its financial woes is hardly in a position to be a sponsor for a wider change in Afghanistan. China will be pushed to expend more of its efforts and loosen its purse strings, if ever it hopes to achieve a stable Afghanistan. If the problems in Afghanistan can spill over to Central Asian Republics, that’s a whole new set of problems for Russia. An India that cannot influence Afghanistan will be in a perpetually anxious state and will be left in the dark.

In short, an unstable Afghanistan, a sick man of Asia with great aspirations and a rodomontade ruling class could lock the Asian contenders to American hegemony in the region. As there arise suggestions for India to focus on naval domain and the like, there is no question that the Afghan question, that is afresh since the Great Game of 1920s, remains unanswered.

I am not trying to answer that question or roll out suggestions here. This is a mere compendium of tropes, ploys and deceits that the Taliban (and their smart advisers who wear blazers, drink champagne and pay to fornicate) will employ to win the hearts and minds of the people across the globe.

Following is the verbatim replication of a memo that I wrote on my phone, on the fateful morning of August 15 when Taliban took Kabul from a corrupt, incompetent government that had the gall to call itself the national government of Afghanistan.

Excuse the errors for it is unedited. I am publishing it in the original form so that my later learnings, propensity for better presentation and pathological obsession with editing doesn’t interfere with the originality of the emotions I experienced on that morning, six days ago.

Read on:

Possible tropes for Talibani Public Relations Blitzkrieg:

  • Innocent tribal fighters having fun at Kabul - how that innocence was lost during the “imperial” era.
  • Women “testimonials” on how they feel safer under the new regime - Taliban patrolling streets at night and how they can go out at night now.
  • How tourism in Afghanistan is booming - now some of the most pristine mountainous locations in the world are open for Western tourists for the first time in many decades.
  • Story of an Afghan shepherd who can now access his open pastures without the fear of carpet bombing; how his village roads are repaired after a while.
  • In Herat, women can drive. But a video series on how women are finding joy in the religiously ascribed duties and how blissful homes are now under the Taliban.
  • “We are the most maligned freedom fighters in the world. Listen once to us before you judge.”
  • How Afghan is now stable that the corrupt American stooges are ousted. The extortion by the Taliban is not extortion at all, but a voluntary contribution to “nation” building.
  • Another series of Op-eds in Western Media how Taliban is open to ideas and have reformed over years - a young Afghan man wearing business casuals pitching at an investor meet up in California?
  • Series of investigations on the inner structure of Taliban and an exposé of how the enlightened, western-educated youth has infiltrated the Talibani higher bureaucracy and ‘taking the torch forward.

A parallel path should accompany this :

  • How a return to core values heal a national soul - gun-totting fighters enjoying with their families, target practices in ranches, hunting wild rabbits in Tora Bora, etc, made for the consumption of the rednecks in the USA and abroad.
  • The way women are disciplined by the Taliban and how feminists and liberals refuse to talk about it.
  • An Afghan cleric pontificating on how a liberal intelligentsia has corrupted the country and true democracy can be sustained only through the barrel of the gun.
  • “We have killed only the most necessary” - gory documentation of the kills for consumption in the alt-right silos in Europe and the US.
  • The efficacy of order the Taliban way - a Chinese documentary that goes viral in the west. It disgusts the liberals, while the right argues about how effective it is, at the same time denouncing the Taliban.

Among other nonsensical tailor made for the gullible. Main targets - imbeciles who think they are liberals, criminals to take up the alt-right cover, and the average literate citizen of the free world who gives up forming an opinion because well, “there are both sides of course. I don’t know which one to pick”.

Written on August 21, 2021