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Classless Politics book cover

Since the 1970s, the Egyptian state has embarked on a far-reaching and destabilizing project of economic liberalization, reneging on its commitments to social welfare. Despite widespread socioeconomic grievances stemming from these policies, class politics and battles over wealth redistribution have largely been sidelined from elite-led national politics. Instead, conflicts over identity have raged, as Islamist movements became increasingly prominent political players.

Classless Politics offers a counterintuitive account of the relationship between neoliberal economics and Islamist politics in Egypt that sheds new light on the worldwide trend of “more identity, less class.” Hesham Sallam examines why Islamist movements have gained support at the expense of the left, even amid conflicts over the costs of economic reforms. Rather than highlighting the stagnancy of the left or the agility of Islamists, he pinpoints the historical legacies of authoritarian survival strategies. As the regime resorted to economic liberalization in the 1970s, it tacitly opened political space for Islamist movements to marginalize its leftist opponents. In the long run, this policy led to the fragmentation of opponents of economic reform, the increased salience of cultural conflicts within the left, and the restructuring of political life around questions of national and religious identity.

Historically rich and theoretically insightful, this book demonstrates how the participation of Islamist groups shapes the politics of neoliberal reform and addresses why economic liberalization since the 1970s has contributed to the surge in culture wars around the world today.

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Islamist Movements, the Left, and Authoritarian Legacies in Egypt

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As reports of leveled mosques, detention camps, and destroyed cultural and religious sites in China's Xinjiang province emerged in the mid-to-late 2010s, the world took notice of the Chinese Communist Party's (CCP) flagrant oppression of Uighur Muslims and other minorities. Under the Xi Jinping administration, the Xinjiang region in northwestern China has experienced what is perhaps the greatest period of cultural assimilation since the Cultural Revolution. This massive state repression represents a primary research focus for Dr. James Millward, Professor of Inter-societal History at the Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University, who joined both APARC's China Program and the Stanford History Department as a visiting scholar for winter quarter 2022.

Millward's specialties include the Qing empire, the silk road, and historical and contemporary Xinjiang. In addition to his numerous academic publications on these topics, he follows and comments on current issues regarding Xinjiang, the Uyghurs and other Xinjiang indigenous peoples, PRC ethnicity policy, and Chinese politics more generally. We caught up with Millward to discuss his work and experience at Stanford this past winter quarter. Listen to the conversation: 


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Aggressive Assimilating Thrust

Millward emphasizes the importance of documenting the scope and scale of the crisis in Xinjiang. "What's happened in the last four or five years in Xinjiang is of great global importance and interest to people," he says, and although it is still early to write the history of this period of repression, "it's important at least to try and get an organized draft of it down and to try to begin to interpret rather than just narrate the litany of things going on: the camps, the digital surveillance, forced labor, birth depressions, and try and put it all into some kind of framework where we can understand it." 

China’s crackdown on Uyghur Muslims and other minorities in Xinjiang is part of aggressive intolerance of cultural and political diversity that is emerging as a central feature of Xi Jinping’s tenure, explains Millward. The shift in the CCP's assimilationist policies constitutes a complete "reversal of what had been an earlier approach to diversity in China," which allowed for 56 different nationalities to have regional autonomy. His aim is to "point out a really aggressive assimilating thrust under the Xi Jinping regime [...] and then also to look more clearly at settler colonialism in Xinjiang."

To learn more about the historical context of current events in Xinjiang and how to understand them against contemporary Chinese politics, tune in to Millward's public lecture of February 2, 2022, “The Crisis in Xinjiang: What’s Happening Now and What Does It Mean?

In this talk, Millward explains how PRC assimilationist policies, if most extreme in Xinjiang, are related to the broader Zhonghua-izing campaign against religion and non-Mandarin language and perhaps even to intensified control over Hong Kong and efforts to intimidate Taiwan.

U.S.-China Cooperation Amid Strained Ties

The Xinjiang crisis has affected how the United States views China, bringing an unexpected unity to the usually-polarized American foreign policy arena. "The Xinjiang issue has contributed to the broad-spectrum feeling in the American political sphere that engagement with China has failed," notes Millward. The parallels between China's repression of minorities and some of the worst events in the 20th century in Europe "have brought together the political sides in America and rallied them around a much stronger anti-China stance," he says.

From Millward's perspective, however, it is not only possible but also necessary for the United States to act on Xinjiang and press China on its human rights record while cooperating with China on other issues. "This is the art of diplomacy, you have to compartmentalize and deal with different issues, particularly with two countries as large as the United States and China." In Millward's view, areas pertinent to U.S.-China collaboration are varied and transcend global challenges such as climate change or pandemics. Those are simplistic dichotomies," he says. "We have 300,000 Chinese students in our universities and we welcome them and learn a lot from them [...] We benefit from Chinese expertise in all sorts of ways."

Millward spent a productive winter quarter at APARC. Returning to Stanford as a visiting scholar provided him a unique opportunity to reconnect with his past on The Farm and survey all that has changed in the years since he completed his doctorate under the tutelage of the late Professor Harold Kahn. "The trailer park where I lived as a first-year graduate student is no more, and I couldn't even find the footprint of where it was."

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James Millward

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From top left, clockwise: Lauren Hansen Restrepo, James Millward, Darren Byler and Gardner Bovingdon speaking at a panel at APARC.
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The Human Rights Crisis in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region

The Human Rights Crisis in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region
Putin and Xi
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An Uncomfortable Friendship: Understanding China’s Position on the Russia-Ukraine War and Its Implications for Great Power Competition

On WBUR’s "On Point" and Fox 2 KTVU, Center Fellow Oriana Skylar Mastro shares insights about China's alignment with Russia and the worldwide implications of its calculus on Ukraine.
An Uncomfortable Friendship: Understanding China’s Position on the Russia-Ukraine War and Its Implications for Great Power Competition
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Bargaining Behind Closed Doors: Why China’s Local Government Debt Is Not a Local Problem

New research in 'The China Journal' by APARC’s Jean Oi and colleagues suggests that the roots of China’s massive local government debt problem lie in secretive financing institutions offered as quid pro quo to localities to sustain their incentive for local state-led growth after 1994
Bargaining Behind Closed Doors: Why China’s Local Government Debt Is Not a Local Problem
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APARC Visiting Scholar James Millward discusses PRC ethnicity policy, China's crackdown on Uyghur Muslims and other minorities in Xinjiang province, and the implications of the Xinjiang crisis for U.S. China strategy and China's international relations.

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Rethinking Modern Sunni-Shii Relations: The State, Revolution, and Foreign Intervention

What explains the turn towards more politically relevant Sunni and Shii identities in the modern period? How do we account for a shift from Sunni-Shii cooperation against colonialism, for example, or in defense of the Ottoman Caliphate, towards polarisation? This lecture will look especially at the role of the modern state in regulating religion more broadly, coopting certain cultural groups and alienating others, and fostering sharpened sectarian identities. It will also look at the impact of the 1979 revolution in Iran, and reactions towards it, and of foreign intervention, especially the Iraq war of 2003 in sectarianizing the Middle Eastern regional system.

This event is sponsored by the Abbasi Program in Islamic Studies in partnership with the Center for International Security and Cooperation (CISAC) and the Program on Arab Reform and Democracy at CDDRL.

ABOUT THE SPEAKER

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Toby Matthieson
Toby Matthiesen is a scholar of Comparative Politics and International Relations with a focus on the Middle East. He is currently a Marie Curie Global Fellow at Stanford University and Ca’ Foscari University in Venice, leading a project on Sunni-Shii Relations in the Middle East.

Toby's aim in research and teaching is to study the Middle East in a global context. His research is characterized by the use of primary sources, archives, fieldwork, and engagement with social science and historiographical debates. He is the author of Sectarian Gulf: Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and the Arab Spring That Wasn’t (Stanford University Press, 2013), a book on the impact of the Arab Spring on the Gulf States. His second book, The Other Saudis: Shiism, Dissent and Sectarianism (Cambridge University Press, 2015) dealt with the relationship between the Shii community in the Eastern Province and the Saudi state, and with transnational movements and Iran. It is based on fieldwork in Saudi Arabia and the wider region, and hitherto unused Arabic archives.

His forthcoming book, The Caliph and the Imam: The Making of Sunnism and Shiism, is a global history of Sunni-Shii relations and is published by Oxford University Press. Toby's work has also been translated into Arabic and Persian and apart from English, he publishes in German. His other research interests relate to the history of Leftist movements and the use of Islam as anti-Communism during the Cold War.

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Toby Matthiesen
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Black Markets and Militants: Informal Networks in the Middle East and Africa

Khalid Mustafa Medani joins ARD to discuss his recently released book, Black Markets and Militants Informal Networks in the Middle East and Africa (Cambridge University Press, 2021).

Understanding the political and socio-economic factors which give rise to youth recruitment into militant organizations is at the heart of grasping some of the most important issues that affect the contemporary Middle East and Africa. In this book, Medani explains why youth are attracted to militant organizations, examining the specific role economic globalization, in the form of outmigration and expatriate remittance inflows, plays in determining how and why militant activists emerge. The study challenges existing accounts that rely primarily on ideology to explain militant recruitment.

Based on extensive fieldwork, Medani offers an in-depth analysis of the impact of globalization, neoliberal reforms, and informal economic networks as a conduit for the rise and evolution of moderate and militant Islamist movements and as an avenue central to the often violent enterprise of state-building and state formation. In an original contribution to the study of Islamist and ethnic politics more broadly, he thereby shows the importance of understanding when and under what conditions religious rather than other forms of identity become politically salient in the context of changes in local conditions.

ABOUT THE SPEAKER 

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Khalid Medani
Dr. Khalid Mustafa Medani is currently associate professor of political science and Islamic Studies at McGill University, and he has also taught at Oberlin College and Stanford University. Dr. Medani received a B.A. in Development Studies from Brown University, an M.A. in Development Studies from the Center for Contemporary Arab Studies at Georgetown University, and a Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of California, Berkeley. His research focuses on the political economy of Islamic and Ethnic Politics in Africa and the Middle East.

Dr. Medani is the author of Black Markets and Militants: Informal Networks in the Middle East and Africa (Cambridge University Press, 2021) and he is presently completing another book manuscript on the causes and consequences of Sudan’s 2018 popular uprising and the prospects and obstacles for Democracy in that country. In addition, he has published extensively on civil conflict with a special focus on the armed conflicts in Sudan and Somalia. His work has appeared in Political Science and Politics (PS), the Journal of Democracy, the Journal of North African StudiesCurrent HistoryMiddle East ReportReview of African Political EconomyArab Studies Quarterly, and the UCLA Journal of Islamic Law.

Dr. Medani is a previous recipient of a Carnegie Scholar on Islam award from the Carnegie Corporation of New York (2007-2009) and in 2020-2021 he received a fellowship from the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars to conduct research on his current book manuscript on the democratic transition in Sudan.

This event is co-sponsored by the Abbasi Program in Islamic Studies and the Center for African Studies at Stanford University.

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Khalid Mustafa Medani Associate Professor of Political Science and Islamic Studies McGill University
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Policies implemented by the CCP in Xinjiang since c. 2016 have become a central issue in PRC international relations, leading to international determinations that those policies constitute genocide; scrutiny of global supply chains for Xinjiang cotton, textiles and polysilicon; US sanctions on companies and individuals and Congressional inquiries directed at Airbnb and other multinationals operating in Xinjiang; and diplomatic boycotts of the Olympics. The assimilationist policies, if most extreme in Xinjiang, are related to the broader Zhonghua-izing campaign against religion and non-Mandarin language and perhaps even to intensified control over Hong Kong and efforts to intimidate Taiwan—an aggressive intolerance of cultural and political diversity that is emerging as a central feature of Xi Jinping’s tenure. This talk will review the Xinjiang crisis to date and suggest how we should understand these events and trends.



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Portrait of James Millward
James Millward is Professor of Inter-societal History at the Walsh School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University, teaching Chinese, Central Asian and world history. He joins the Walter H. Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center (APARC) as visiting scholar with the China Program for the 2022 winter quarter. He is also an affiliated professor in the Máster Oficial en Estudios de Asia Oriental at the University of Granada, Spain. His specialties include Qing empire; the silk road; Eurasian lutes and music in history; and historical and contemporary Xinjiang. He follows and comments on current issues regarding the Uyghurs and PRC ethnicity policy. Millward has served on the boards of the Association for Asian Studies (China and Inner Asia Council) and the Central Eurasian Studies Society, and was president of the Central Eurasian Studies Society in 2010. He edits the ''Silk Roads'' series for University of Chicago Press. His publications include The Silk Road: A Very Short Introduction (2013), Eurasian Crossroads: A History of Xinjiang (2007), New Qing Imperial History: The Making of Inner Asian Empire at Qing Chengde (2004), and Beyond the Pass: Economy, Ethnicity and Empire in Qing Central Asia (1998). His articles and op-eds on contemporary China appear in The New York Times, The Los Angeles Review of Books, The New York Review of Books and other media.  

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James Millward Visiting Scholar, APARC, Stanford University; Professor of Inter-societal History, Walsh School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University
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This Q&A with Allen S. Weiner was originally published on the Stanford Law School website.

As the Taliban’s forces closed in on Kabul on Sunday, August 15, 2021, the Afghan President Ashraf Ghani left his country, the acting U.S. ambassador was evacuated, the American flag on the embassy in the country’s capital lowered—and the Biden administration’s plans for an orderly withdrawal of troops, diplomats, and Afghan aids and translators by the anniversary of 9/11 dashed as a scramble for the door becomes more chaotic. After twenty years, 2 trillion dollars, and the lives of almost 2,500 American personnel lost, President Biden said it was time to let the Afghan government and military stand on its own. Here, Stanford Law national security law expert Allen Weiner, who is a research affiliate at FSI’s Center for Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law, and the Center for International Security and Cooperation, discusses the U.S. mission to Afghanistan, its withdrawal, and potential consequences.

What was the American/NATO objective when we invaded Afghanistan almost twenty years ago?

The immediate United States objective at the time of the 2001 invasion was to destroy Al Qaeda’s base of operations in Afghanistan and to kill or capture senior Al Qaeda leaders there.  As those of us who are old enough to remember will recall, the invasion (“Operation Enduring Freedom”) was the U.S.-led response to the 9/11 attacks against World Trade Center twin towers and the Pentagon that were carried out by Al Qaeda. Because the Taliban regime in Afghanistan had a symbiotic relationship with—and provided a safe haven to—Al Qaeda on Afghanistan’s territory, the U.S. and its NATO allies also sought to drive the Taliban from power. At the time, the Taliban was fighting a civil war in Afghanistan and by October 2001 had achieved effective control over most of the country. President Bush and others quickly began to emphasize an additional objective for overthrowing the Taliban— to liberate the Afghan people from the regime’s repressive practices. We sought to promote basic human rights and to end the Taliban’s oppression of women.

Were those objectives met?

The U.S. and its NATO allies largely met those initial goals. Al Qaeda’s training camps in Afghanistan were destroyed, many of its leaders were killed and captured (although some, including Osama bin Laden, managed to escape at least initially), and its ability to plan, finance, and execute major global terrorist operations was severely diminished. U.S. and NATO forces drove the Taliban from power, and after a transitional period, a new government led by Hamid Karzai was established. Women and girls resumed participation in public life in Afghanistan, including education.

But those successes were fleeting?

As we know, the successes did not last. Although Al Qaeda never resumed significant operations in Afghanistan, the organization metastasized, and lethal variants of the organization arose in Yemen, Iraq and Syria, and the Maghreb, among other places. Other terrorist groups, such as the Islamic State and al Shabaab, either grew out of or have affiliations of varying degrees of intensity with Al Qaeda. We have also seen attacks carried out by homegrown terrorist organizations with only loose affiliations to Al Qaeda, sometimes only ideological affinities. So, while Operation Enduring Freedom significantly disrupted terrorist operations originating from Afghanistan, it cannot be said to have eliminated the threat of transnational terrorism.

And the Taliban continued to be a simmering problem in Afghanistan, didn’t it?

The goal of eradicating the Taliban, obviously, also was unmet. Although then Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld declared an end to major combat operations against Al Qaeda and the Taliban in May 2003, a revitalized Taliban renewed an intense civil war in the summer of  2006. That civil war against the Afghanistan government—which appears now to have been won by the Taliban—continued with varying degrees of intensity until the past few days. And if another of the goals of the invasion was to improve the protection of human rights in Afghanistan, we must recognize that civilians suffered terribly during the civil war.

Are there any (hopefully) enduring successes from the twenty-year investment by the U.S. and NATO?

Afghanistan did make significant progress in terms of economic development and the realization of at least some civil and political rights. Per capita GDP rose dramatically in the decades after the U.S. invasion. The status of women and girls improved along many dimensions, including health, life expectancy, education levels, and participation in government institutions. The Taliban’s victory clearly imperils these gains.

The Trump Administration negotiated an agreement with Taliban in 2020 providing for the withdrawal of U.S. Forces from Afghanistan by May 2021, as part of which the Taliban promised not to deliberatively attack U.S. troops during the withdrawal period.  Since then, the Taliban has been steadily gaining control over provinces in the county, and civilian casualties have been rising. Was it pure fantasy that the US was maintaining the peace?

The Trump Administration’s February 2020 agreement with Taliban, in which the U.S. promised to withdraw its forces from Afghanistan in a little over a year, even though the Taliban did not agree to even a ceasefire, much less reach any political agreements with the government about ending the civil war, was the beginning of the end. It clearly signaled to both the Taliban and the government that the U.S. was now concerned only with the security of its own forces, and that the Afghan government was on its own. Given that the Taliban was making progress in gaining territory, at least in the countryside, even with U.S. troops present, many analysts—including the U.S. intelligence community—forecast the eventual overthrow of the Afghan government. It is only the shocking speed with which that happened that is a real surprise.

The fall of the Afghan government has taken many, including apparently some in the Biden administration, by surprise. Why did the collapse of the Afghan military happen so swiftly?  And what role did the Afghan police force and corruption play?

Many commentators who have been critical of the U.S. effort to build up the Afghan military have long expressed doubts about the effectiveness of the Afghanistan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF), and many analysts predicted that the Taliban would ultimately prevail against the government after the U.S. and its NATO allies withdrew from Afghanistan. That said, I don’t think anyone predicted it would happen as swiftly as it did.

Multiple factors have been cited to explain how the Taliban—a force estimated to comprise some 75,000 fighters—defeated the 300,000-member strong ANDSF. First, despite the seeming superiority of the government forces, conditions for ANDSF soldiers were quite abysmal. Many reportedly went months without being paid. They lacked ammunition and even food. There are reports of incompetent leadership within the armed forces, leaving Afghan soldiers exposed in the middle of pitch battles, without reinforcements.

A second factor is the pervasive and corrosive corruption among Afghan government actors.  This helps explain why—despite the U.S. infusion of billions of dollars in military assistance— Afghan soldiers went without pay and lacked adequate ammunition.  It also explains why in some cases, after Afghan forces fighting alongside U.S. forces succeeded in clearing territory of Taliban insurgents, the Afghan government would fail to hold it. The notoriously corrupt and unprofessional Afghanistan police forces—who were in charge of security after territory had been cleared of Taliban fighters by the ANDSF—reportedly engaged in predatory practices targeting the local community or could be bought off by the insurgency to cede ground back.

Third, some critics of the U.S. effort to modernize the Afghan army have long argued that the ANDSF lacked resolve to aggressively engage the Taliban insurgency in the absence of active support from U.S. soldiers. Although there are many stories of Afghan soldiers fighting fiercely, there are anecdotal accounts of Afghan armed forces engaging in “mini non-aggression deals” with Taliban fighters in their area of responsibility in an effort to avoid armed engagement.

Fourth, the lack of motivation of Afghan armed forces was exacerbated in recent years by the unpopularity and perceived fecklessness of the Afghan government led by President Ashraf Ghani. Re-elected in 2019 after an election with sharply disputed results, in which voter turnout was less than 20 percent, the Ghani government was widely seen as ineffective in addressing corruption, effectively managing the country, or confronting the growing security threat posed by the Taliban. It became a common refrain among Afghan soldiers that the Ghani government was not one worth fighting for.

Fifth, it appears that in at least some provinces in Afghanistan, the Taliban, in essence, offered government forces negotiated settlements to cede control of territory. In some cases, this involved offering payments to government soldiers to switch sides—a particularly attractive offer for soldiers who had not been paid in months. It is likely that the Taliban offered broader commitments, e.g., not to engage in retribution against government soldiers who abandoned the fight, although I have not yet seen reports of such deals.

Sixth, there a seasonal calendar to armed conflict in Afghanistan, and the Taliban has typically engaged in its major military operations during the spring and summer.  Delaying the U.S. withdrawal by six months, so that U.S. forces did not leave during the height of what is known in Afghanistan as “fighting season,” might have given the ANDSF more time to prepare to defend Afghanistan’s cities. Although given how swiftly Afghan government forces were swept aside, this now seems doubtful to me.

Finally, from an operational standpoint, the U.S. has invested billions of dollars in Afghanistan to attempt to build up a military that functions in ways that resemble how a NATO army operates, with air power and advanced weaponry. Such a military depends on extremely complex behind-the-scenes logistics arrangements. In Afghanistan, these logistics systems depended heavily on U.S. contractors, who also began withdrawing from the country after President Biden announced the U.S. withdrawal. Many of the aircraft in Afghanistan’s air force, for instance, were grounded because they lacked parts needed for repairs or routine servicing. One of the lessons of the defeat of the ANDSF is that building a foreign country’s military also requires developing indigenous logistics capacity.

Troops had been drawn down to about 3,000 and negotiations that excluded the Afghan gov’t were conducted with the Taliban during the Trump administration. Could Biden, realistically, have rewound the clock–bringing more troops back? Was Biden pushed into a tough corner?

Although the withdrawal agreement the Trump Administration concluded with the Taliban in February 2020 may not have initiated the death spiral for the Afghanistan government and military, it certainly catalyzed it, as I noted above. It did put the Biden Administration in a tough position; the only option would have been to renege on the agreement, leave U.S. troops in Afghanistan, and to seek to renegotiate the agreement. That said, although that may have been a tough position, it was not an impossible one, as evidenced by the fact that the Biden Administration unilaterally changed the agreed upon date by which U.S. forces would withdraw from Afghanistan from May to August.

I’m not a military strategist, so I can’t say whether maintaining a force of 3,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan would have changed the military situation on the ground. But I think if the U.S. had said that it would not withdraw the U.S. military presence until there was a ceasefire and the Taliban and the Afghan government have negotiated a power sharing agreement/end to the civil war, that might have changed the Taliban’s political assessment about how to proceed. I stress that this only “might” have changed the Taliban’s thinking. The fact that the Taliban has been fighting for twenty years suggests that the group was very determined to regain control of Afghanistan and re-establish its vision of life for the Afghan people.

I understand that Russia and other countries have negotiated agreements to ensure the safety of their embassies and diplomatic staff so that they can continue operations in Kabul. Have the Americans done the same? If not, how significant will that be for the future safety of the U.S and the threat of terrorism? Will we have “eyes on the ground” and intelligence sources?

The United States is currently withdrawing all of its diplomatic personnel from Afghanistan and will presumably once again shutter its embassy in Kabul. The U.S. will face a difficult question about whether to recognize the new Taliban regime that will be installed in Afghanistan, and if so, whether to resume diplomatic relations and re-open its embassy. If the Taliban regime pursues the policies that characterized its period of rule in the late 1990s, particularly the severe repression of women and girls, I doubt the U.S. will re-establish relations. Even if the U.S. did re-establish diplomatic relations, it is inconceivable that the Taliban would permit the United States to maintain the large intelligence and security presence we have had in Afghanistan over the past two decades. So, we will not have the ability gather intelligence on the ground or to conduct military operations against any terrorist threats that emerge in Afghanistan.

The Taliban has pledged that it will not allow Afghanistan’s territory to be used by terrorist groups that seek to conduct hostile operations against foreign countries. Although the Taliban learned in 2001 about the potential costs to it of harboring such groups on Afghanistan’s territory—namely, being overthrown by the U.S. and its NATO allies—there are obviously reasons to question the Taliban’s promise.

Is there anything Biden can do now to minimize the damage?

The Biden administration does not have much leverage at this point. The administration will presumably signal to the Taliban that it will closely monitor its conduct with respect to preventing its territory from being used by terrorist groups and its performance on human rights issues, including the treatment of women and girls. Should the Taliban perform poorly on these issues, the U.S. could try to secure sanctions against the Taliban regime through the Security Council; after all, the Council had imposed sanctions on the Taliban in the 1990s in response to its providing a safe haven to Osama bin Laden and its violation of human rights, particularly discrimination against women and girls. Today, however, it is unclear whether Russia and China, which are likely to seek stable relations with the Taliban government, would support such sanctions. That means the U.S. would probably be limited to unilateral sanctions as a way of signaling disapproval of, and seeking to change the behavior of, a prospective Taliban government.

Allen S. Weiner

Allen S. Weiner

Affiliate at CDDRL and CISAC
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Helicopter crew members in Afghanistan.
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Biden's Afghanistan Decision

President Biden has inherited America’s longest war—the war in Afghanistan—at a critical moment. Under the Trump administration’s deal with the Taliban, the US government is supposed to withdraw forces from the country by May 2021. But the Taliban hasn’t taken the steps required in the deal against international terrorists, like Al Qaeda.
Biden's Afghanistan Decision
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Q&As

There's no reason' for Trump's move to pull troops from Afghanistan

Brett McGurk, former presidential envoy for the global coalition to defeat ISIS, joins Andrea Mitchell to discuss the last minute foreign policy moves, including the decision to draw down the number of troops in Afghanistan, that President Trump is saddling the incoming Biden administration with.
There's no reason' for Trump's move to pull troops from Afghanistan
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Sarah Chayes discusses life in Taliban-resurgent Afghanistan

Sarah Chayes discusses life in Taliban-resurgent Afghanistan
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National security law expert Allen Weiner, a research affiliate at CDDRL and CISAC, discusses the U.S. mission to Afghanistan, its withdrawal and consequences moving forward.

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CDDRL Postdoctoral Scholar, 2021-22
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I am a political scientist (PhD degree expected in July 2021 from Harvard) working on political parties, social welfare policies and local governance, primarily in the Middle East and North Africa. My dissertation project focuses on secular parties in the region and explores why they could not form a robust electoral alternative to the Islamist parties in the post-uprisings period. In other projects, I explore voters' responses to executive aggrandizement (focusing on Turkey), and social welfare in the context of ethnic and organizational diversity (focusing on Lebanon). Prior to PhD, I worked as an education policy analyst in Turkey, managing several research projects in collaboration with the Ministry of Education, World Bank and UNICEF. I hold a BA degree in Political Science from Boğaziçi, and Master's degrees from the LSE and Brown. 

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This event is cosponsored by the Abbasi Program in Islamic Studies at Stanford University and the Ten Years On Project, www.TheArabUprisings.org 

 

ABSTRACT

During the height of the mass uprisings against authoritarian rule, excitement about the prospects for a more just and representative political order across the Arab region was often tempered by questions concerning the role that Islamist parties would play in post-authoritarian transitions. Movements that maintained deep social roots but were often on the margins of state power were poised to implement an Islamist political project decades in the making. The outcomes of the subsequent transitions, particularly the legacy of destructive civil conflicts, foreign interventions, and authoritarian resurgence, have frequently obscured attempts to understand the impact of the Arab uprisings on Islamism. 

This talk examines these recent developments by placing them within a broader historical analysis that traces the evolution of Islamist thought and activism from its tentative embrace of the nation state to its wholehearted entry into national party politics. It argues that, by the eve of the uprisings, the posture of Islamist movements reflected a set of political commitments that had emerged largely at the expense of their ideological program and social mission. Rooted in the historical and recent acceptance of state institutions and political structures, expressions of Islamism by parties across the Arab region reflected a shift that subsumed long held beliefs beneath the needs of (alternately or in combination) democratic pluralism and political expediency, most clearly visible in the transformation of Tunisia’s Ennahda Party. That tension has been exacerbated in the wake of political defeats experienced by many of these movements, particularly Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood. While the “Islamist idea” is likely to endure its current bout with state repression, its survival as a political force in the future will depend on its determination to complete this evolution, a process that was both accelerated and interrupted during the critical moments of the Arab uprisings.

SPEAKER BIO

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Abdullah Al Arian

Abdullah Al-Arian is an associate professor of history at Georgetown University in Qatar where he specializes in the modern Middle East and the study of Islamic social movements. He is the author of Answering the Call: Popular Islamic Activism in Sadat's Egypt (Oxford University Press). His upcoming book compares the historical experiences of Islamist movements in six different Arab states and will be published by Cambridge University Press. He is also editor of the Critical Currents in Islam page on Jadaliyya ezine.

 

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Abdullah Al-Arian Associate Professor of History Georgetown University in Qatar
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