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Opinion Nikki Haley: America must not recognize the Taliban

Taliban fighters patrol Kabul on Aug. 19. (Rahmat Gul/AP)

Nikki Haley was governor of South Carolina from 2011 to 2017 and U.S. ambassador to the United Nations from 2017 to 2019.

President Biden badly bungled the withdrawal from Afghanistan, making the United States weaker and less safe while leaving more than 10,000 Americans and 38 million Afghans at the mercy of the brutal Taliban. He must not also bungle the coming decision on whether to recognize these barbarians as Afghanistan’s legitimate government. Doing so would bring the United States even lower while raising up a regime that deserves nothing but scorn and isolation.

Shockingly, the Biden administration has yet to rule out recognizing the Taliban. The administration is “taking stock” of the situation, while calling on the tyrannical group to protect the Afghan people’s rights. Hopefully, Biden is just posturing until we get all Americans out. If not, it’s an embarrassing reversal from the administration’s previous promise to oppose the Taliban if they took power at the point of a gun, which they did. This is not a run-of-the-mill transfer of power. It is a violent coup against a democratically elected government.

Recognizing the Taliban would ignore how sick and twisted it truly is. The Taliban of 2021 is little different from the Taliban of 2001. Then, those terrorists harbored other terrorists, namely the murderers behind the Sept. 11 attacks. They are still terrorists, as they proved in their violent 20-year insurgency that involved suicide bombings of marketplaces and throwing acid in the faces of schoolgirls. They are already chanting “Death to America” on the streets of Kabul. And they refuse to cut ties with al-Qaeda, which is still active in Afghanistan. Jihadist groups around the world are cheering the Taliban’s victory.

This time around, the Taliban is pretending to play nice. Its mouthpieces are telling the world it will be an “inclusive Islamic” state, yet what matters more is its bloodstained handiwork. The Taliban has reportedly already started to execute civilians in the streets, forcibly marry young girls and return Afghanistan to the dark ages. U.S. recognition of the Taliban would reward and encourage such evil actions. Worse, it would encourage other revolutionaries and radicals in other countries to follow the Taliban’s lead. Why not overthrow the legitimate government, when the United States will give its stamp of approval?

The United States should refuse recognition until the Taliban proves over many years that it’s part of the civilized world. There’s precedent for holding back. It took 30 years for the United States to recognize Communist China and 20 years to recognize Communist Vietnam. In other cases, we never acknowledged the claims of horrible regimes and rulers, such as Pol Pot in Cambodia. Given what we know and what’s happening now, the Taliban should be treated no differently.

Many of our allies have already shown more spine than Biden. Britain has rejected “prematurely or bilaterally” recognizing the Taliban, while the European Union has no plans to lend any legitimacy to Afghanistan’s new rulers. Meanwhile, enemies China and Russia have already cozied up to the Taliban, as they believe a terrorist-run Afghanistan weakens and endangers the United States.

The United Nations is probably not far behind. It must vote on whether the Taliban is the true representative of Afghanistan. The United States should rally a majority of countries to oppose this move. Such a campaign would always be difficult given U.N. favoritism for dictators. It is much more difficult thanks to Biden’s rushed withdrawal. Even our friends and allies distrust his judgment. Why follow the United States when its “leadership” is so disastrous?

Biden may feel pressure to recognize the Taliban because it would allow the United States to send aid to the Afghan people. This is foolish thinking. Every aid dollar will line only the pockets of their oppressors and empower the Taliban to double down on its pre-medieval tyranny. More to the point: The Taliban threw away any chance of U.S. aid when it harbored the terrorists behind the Sept. 11 attacks. No American foreign aid should ever go to the Taliban.

The upcoming 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks clarifies the stakes. Through his rushed withdrawal, Biden has already insulted the soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen who spent the past two decades fighting the Taliban and protecting the United States — especially the more than 2,300 brave Americans who gave their lives in Afghanistan. There are no words to describe how much worse it would be if Biden rewarded the enemy they sacrificed so much to defeat by recognizing it as a legitimate government.