Since the Taliban seized Kabul last month, there’s been a tendency to play down the jihadists’ behaviour, says America’s former national security adviser HR McMaster in The Sunday Times. One British general called them “country boys” who “happen to live by a code of honour”. Others now say “Taliban 2.0” – “as if it’s a company after a brand refresh”. It’s delusion. We know exactly who they are and why they’re so dangerous.
Just look at their recruitment process, which amounts to “serial kidnapping on a huge scale”. To find members, the Taliban stalk villages and slums in Afghanistan and Pakistan, preying on vulnerable families. They offer to “look after” boys, sometimes as young as six, and then ship those children to madrassas, or schools. But they’re not schools at all, rather “factories that perpetuate ignorance and foment hatred to produce terrorists”. For hours a day, boys memorise the Quran; they learn paramilitary skills; they’re taught women belong in the home; they’re given lengthy justifications for suicide bombings; and they are relentlessly sexually abused. Eventually, the boys learn to accept this. “For them, abuse and horror in life confirm that death is a blessing – and a suicide bombing that kills their enemies the best possible way to die.” In Pakistan alone more than 10,000 of these madrassas are indoctrinating a million boys at a time. “We must not forget who we have been fighting against and why.”