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China and Russia’s deal with the devil - by David Patrikarakos for UnHerd 23.08.21

Both superpowers have everything to gain from cosying up to the Taliban

Of all the footage that has emerged from Afghanistan over the past week, the most disturbing clip does not contain shooting jihadists, exploding buildings or screaming civilians. It appeared a few days ago as the Taliban took Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul, and it shows a small group of them in the gym at the captured presidential palace.

One man peddles on a cross trainer; one struggles to operate a weights machine; another uses his arms to work a leg press. Then one hops off an exercise bike and scoots gleefully across the room, squealing with delight.

It’s his look that I can’t forget: his eyes twinkle, his mouth explodes into a grin. It’s the same look that I’ve seen a thousand times on the faces of my godchildren and young cousins when they know they’re misbehaving. The video was of fighters triumphing in a captured building, but it was also of a pack of brutal man-children fooling around with expensive toys they will eventually break. There could be no clearer metaphor for what is happening to Afghanistan.

These men — and they are always men — are always the same; adults who revel in their savagery like misbehaving adolescents, child arsonists driven by the same violent impulses — to shoot a woman for wearing the wrong sort of Naqib or none at all; to kill a man for being the wrong religion; or simply to pull the wings off a fly.

It’s no surprise, then, that Britain, the United States and even the UN are evacuating their embassies as well as — to greater and lesser degrees — the Afghans who worked alongside them and now face torture and death. But while most flee, others see opportunity. Not least Russia and China, who are already exploiting the nascent Taliban monster that is emerging while its creators helicopter themselves to safety.

If you think the Taliban are a mob of disheveled thugs, you’d be right. But they’re also now a political force that two of the world’s most powerful states want to cosy up to — even as their foot soldiers beat and murder in the name of an Islam they long ago perverted for their own ends.

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China and Russia’s deal with the devil - BY David Patrikarakos for UnHerd 23.08.21
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Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid plays the Great Game (Sayed Khodaiberdi Sadat/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

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