ANALYSIS – In 1999, a little known group of religious warriors swept through a war torn Afghanistan and achieved in a matter of months what the US and her allies have been unable to this day – stability and order to a society badly fractured by the brutal occupation of the Soviet Union.
That band of religious students, or extremists depending on your perspective, were of course the Taliban. Their brand of Islam sparked a debate within the Islamic World as to whether the good men under Mullah Omar were really practicing Islamic teachings.
Today, the Taliban – thanks mainly to a myopic and failed US foreign policy – are not only a force in Afghanistan but are widely accepted by most Muslims.
Could the same happen to ISIS , the Islamic state in Iraq and the Levant, whose leader has claimed the caliphate and who made his first public announcement over the weekend from Mosul?
Like the Taliban, ISIS have swept through a war ravaged country, this time Iraq, with little or no opposition and like Taliban also appear to have come from nowhere, yet are clearly being backed by someone.
ISIS’s appeal to the Islamic World is a call for acceptance as well as a call for recruits – not just soldiers, but also engineers, doctors, in fact anyone who can help rebuild the country destroyed by decades of war with first Iran and more recently the US.
How the Islamic World should respond will of course depend on the actions of ISIS over the coming weeks and months.
If they turn out to be as murderously sectarian as the Taliban were in attacking Iran’s embassy and then massacring Shias in Herat, then ISIS will be rejected not only by the Shias of southern Iraq but also the Islamic World whom they hope to one day lead.
At the moment, the good men under al Baghdadi have not resorted to such savagery – and that is the best that can be said of a group whose ambitions are to redraw the lines created by European colonial powers and establish the first caliphate since the collapse of the Ottoman empire.