“Yes, of course, in a new chapter if America wants to have a relation with us, which could be in the interest of both countries and both peoples, and if they want to participate in the reconstruction of Afghanistan, they are welcome”, Shaheen said.

However, there was no chance for ties with Israel.

“Of course, we won’t have any relation with Israel. We want to have relations with other countries, Israel is not among these countries,” Shaheen said.

Is that a decision based on political calculations. If so, what would be the advantages of not establishing a relationship with Israel? If it's not based on political calculations, then why aren't the Taliban interested in establishing a relation with Israel. It seems very weird to me since they are willing and open to establish a relation with the United States.


1 Answer 1


This is probably a matter of politics more than anything else. Of course, from a rational perspective it would make more sense for the Taliban to dislike the nation that invaded their country, drove them out of power, and spent two decades killing their soldiers more than a country that, so far as I can tell and unlike several dozen other countries, did not even contribute troops to the conflict. And they very well might!

However, there are more prosaic reasons for their actions. Consider their attitude toward China:

China is our most important partner and represents a fundamental and extraordinary opportunity for us, because it is ready to invest and rebuild our country.

Afghanistan: Taliban to rely on Chinese funds, spokesperson says

I think this explains their attitude fairly well. Does the religious, conservative Taliban feel particularly ideologically aligned with a non-religious government that officially espouses socialism (even if the reality is more complicated) and mistreats Muslims in some of its territory? Well, perhaps there exists a certain degree of warmth. Even so, as their official statement makes fairly clear, Chinese investment is their main motive.

Similarly, it cannot have gone unnoticed by the Taliban's leaders that the United States poured more money into Afghanistan each year than the country's GDP, nor that many Americans surveyed indicate some degree of obligation to the Afghan people. They probably also remember that the United States was willing to ally with the Mujahideen against the Soviet Union, and they surely have not missed that the USA has relatively cordial relations with religiously conservative regimes like Saudi Arabia. This history gives them many reasons to believe that fostering a relationship with the USA could be economically and politically beneficial, despite recent history and whatever personal feelings they may have.

In fact, they all but make their reasoning explicit in the very statement mentioned in the question.

...if they want to participate in the reconstruction of Afghanistan, they are welcome.

By contrast, Israel does not have as much money to offer, and as their relative non-participation in the conflict indicates, probably would be uninterested in doing so.

Furthermore, the Taliban have more reasons than money to be hostile to Israel. The governments of the majority of religious, conservative Muslim countries in the Middle East and nearby regions (and a few less religious or less conservative ones) have a chilly stance toward Israel, due in large part to the latter's treatment of Palestine. These countries include Pakistan, which is a key potential future ally for Afghanistan. Many do not have diplomatic relations with Israel. For the Taliban, staying on the good side of its most obvious potential allies would be a logical play.

This also applies to certain organizations that the Taliban might like to not provoke unnecessary hostility with, such as the Afghanistan faction of ISIS or Daesh, ISIL-KP, which claimed responsibility for an attack on the Kabul airport that killed both Americans and Afghans, potentially including one or more Taliban fighter, though their spokespeople deny that they had any casualties. If the Taliban wants to avoid future attacks or even political challenges from such groups, declaring itself to be on Israel's side (as ISIS might perceive it) would hardly be politically savvy without significant future benefits.

Finally, it would unwise to discount the influence of anti-Semitism. It is difficult to evaluate the Taliban's current beliefs and policies based on what existed two decades ago, but at that time, anti-Semitism was widespread in the Taliban, as illustrated in two statements by Taliban members from a contemporaneous article:

These countries are puppets. They are not Islamic," he countered. "We must destroy Israel. The Jews want to take over the whole world."

"You're Jewish," he observed half-jokingly, handing me my visa. "Don't you realize that you're our enemy?"

Though not all opposition to Israel is founded in anti-Semitism (probably not even within the Taliban), it is nonetheless the case that some is. For any members of the Taliban who are both anti-Semitic and nationalist, and whose anti-Semitism approached the strength of their nationalism, they could very well believe that Israel was worse than the United States, particularly given the disparity in potential benefits from working with Israel versus the USA, as previously mentioned.

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    Taliban might like to remain on good terms with, such as the Afghanistan faction of ISIS or Daesh doesn't sound very credible as Taliban-ISIS have frequently been skirmishing. Otherwise, reasonable enough answer - the Taliban would do well to see Vietnam-US relations as a template rather than Iran-US or Cuba-US. Whether they will do that, whether they won't shoot that down with oppression of women and minorities, and whether the US will swallow its considerable pride is another question. Commented Sep 9, 2021 at 1:31
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    @Italian - True. Perhaps I should have said that they do not want to provoke unnecessary hostility.
    – Obie 2.0
    Commented Sep 9, 2021 at 2:27
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    Assuming that the reasoning for the "chilly stance towards Israel" really is "due in large part to the latter's treatment of Palestine", then why do these countries have relations with Egypt? Maybe this should be its own question on the site.
    – dotancohen
    Commented Sep 9, 2021 at 14:19

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