Far-right extremists in United States applaud Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan
Some US extremists frame the terror
Some US extremists frame the terror group’s latest conquest as an aspirational goal for their own movements
By Jared Holt
Supporters of far-right extremist movements in the United States applauded the Taliban after the group’s takeover of Afghanistan, cheering the development as an existential defeat of Western powers they believe are responsible for perceived declines in society. Some went so far as to frame the US defeat in the nation as a goal for their own movements to aspire toward.
Extremists’ reactions to the Taliban’s domination of Afghanistan fits into three distinct buckets: support for major pillars of the group’s driving ideology, sympathy for its struggles to maintain access to mainstream social media platforms, and allegations that events in Afghanistan are meant to conceal or distract from other nefarious government activities.
The Taliban and US far-right extremists are aligned on some but not all aspects of their political agenda, including the downgrading of women in the social order, hostility toward LGBTQ people, opposition to abortion, and support for a fundamentalist religious government. Both view the social progress of Western societies as the driver of cultural and political collapse and seek to foment deep resentment against the private and government entities and figures they believe to be responsible for that collapse. For these extremist movements, opposition to the structures of Western society can form the basis of ideological solidarity and make for what can seem like unlikely bedfellows.
Rooting for violent groups opposing US interests in the region is not particularly new for right-wing extremists in the United States, who often oscillate between vocalizing hate toward Muslims at-large and nominally supporting religiously motivated extremist organizations in the nations within which they operate. The Southern Poverty Law Center published video footage from 2017 of US-based neo-Nazis participating in a book burning while positively cheering “white Afghanistan” and “white Sharia.”
In a similar vein, in September 2020, the US Department of Justice announced the arrest of two adherents of the “Boogaloo” movement for trying to join Hamas, which the US government designates as a terrorist organization. After their arrest, Assistant Attorney General John Demers explained the dynamic at play, saying “[t]his case can only be understood as a disturbing example of the old adage, ‘The enemy of your enemy is your friend.’”
The US far-right admiration for the Taliban’s success
Andrew Torba, who operates alternative social media platform Gab, published a post on his platform likening the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan to what he believes is possible in the United States, writing “there’s no reason we can’t too.” New users to Gab are subscribed to Torba’s account by default.
As BuzzFeed News reported, the founder of a neo-Nazi extremist group in the United States said in a video posted to the alternative platform BitChute that people belonging to his movement “need to think bigger [and] try or organize on a regional level” like the Taliban did in Afghanistan.
Far-right YouTube personality Keith Woods wrote on Telegram that his like-minded followers were “watching the process of how corrupt Empires collapse from within in real time.” Another far-right video creator, Vincent James, wrote: “To be honest, the Taliban is epic. A bunch of kids cut off from the world, way more radicalized than their parents were, grew up and just completely dominated an entire country on multiple occasions, using guerrilla warfare against the US backed mujahideen and other militias.”
James went on to theorize that armed uprisings and militia groups in the United States are taken down because of the threat they pose to the current political system. “There’s a reason the FBI [Federal Bureau of Investigation] infiltrates and dismantles American militias immediately after they form,” he wrote on Telegram. “They understand what armed and decentralized guerrilla militias are capable of.”
After news organizations published several articles noting the far-right’s sympathies for the Taliban, a Telegram channel associated with the Proud Boys attempted to clarify why the broader movement was cheering on the terrorist group.
“We are celebrating the fact that despite trying for 20 years, the system has failed to subvert a local populace into accepting degeneracy,” the channel wrote. “We’re celebrating that a small band of armed militiamen was able to defeat the forces of Jewish power arrayed against them. We are celebrating the fact that their [sic] are millions more armed white Americans than their [sic] are Taliban, most with better weaponry. White Unity will be the future, that is what we are celebrating.”
Another Proud Boys affiliated Telegram channel elaborated further: “I think Islam is poisonous. I don’t want goat fuckers in white nations. BUT, these farmers and minimally trained men fought to take their nation back from globohomo. They took back their government, installed their national religion as law, and executed dissenters. Hard to not respect that.”
White nationalist youth movement activist Nicholas Fuentes remarked on Gab: “The Taliban is going to ban abortion, vaccines, and gay marriage… maybe we were fighting on the wrong side for 20 years.” While his claims were likely entirely rhetoric used to entrench far-right sentiment, Fuentes’s statement ignored that abortion was mostly illegal and gay marriage completely so under the previous US-backed government.
Elsewhere, on Telegram, Fuentes posted that the “people that run America are far more radical, dangerous, and evil than the Taliban.” He later explained, “The Taliban is a conservative, religious force, the US is godless and liberal. The defeat of the US government in Afghanistan is unequivocally a positive development.”
The Taliban also earned favor with extremists after a member complained to the press that social media sites were banning accounts used by the group. A Telegram channel popular with extremists wrote, “When asked about Taliban censorship, the spokesperson simply had to point out the obvious that Americans censor all the time. America hasn’t just lost militarily to the Taliban, it’s lost the moral high ground…. …..to the Taliban.” Mainstream conservative figures, like the former president’s adult son Donald Trump Jr., also echoed that sentiment.
Ron Watkins, of 8chan and QAnon notoriety, suggested to his followers on Telegram that the situation in States. Ron Watkins, a core figure in the QAnon movement and an individual that one documentary pinned as a person responsible for at least some “Q” posts, posted on Telegram: “The ongoing failure in Afghanistan is just the beginning of a planned distraction campaign so they can ignore the Maricopa County Audit results. All eyes on Maricopa County!”
On both mainstream and alternative platforms, supporters of far-right movements in the United States expressed finding common cause with the Taliban following their takeover of Afghanistan, which resembles a pipe dream of domestic extremists who fantasize about a future in which they take up arms against the US government or forcibly separate themselves from US society. The Department of Homeland Security issued a new bulletin on August 13 that identified “those inspired or motivated by foreign terrorists and other malign foreign influences” as one of several threats posed to national security by domestic extremists. For far-right extremists, the Taliban achieved an agenda containing similarities with to their own ones and did so with the kind of armed uprising that animates the fever dreams of extremists who long for violence.
Jared Holt is Resident Fellow with the Digital Forensic Research Lab.
Cite this case study:
Jared Holt, “Far-right extremists in United States applaud Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan,” Digital Forensic Research Lab (DFRLab), August 23, 2021, https://medium.com/dfrlab/far-right-extremists-in-united-states-applaud-talibans-takeover-of-afghanistan-7b28ae7f0128.
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