SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - A locally renowned expert on international affairs gave NewsChannel 3 viewers his take on the situation in Afghanistan and the Taliban.
"This was not a military victory of the Taliban. It's a political victory," said Mark Juergensmeyer. "The dye was cast a year ago when Trump said he was going to pull out all American troops and then he pulled down the troops to 2,500, which is almost nothing as we've seen. 2,500 troops is not enough even to guard the Kabul airport."
The distinguished UCSB Professor (newly retired) and current Interim Director of the Orphalea Center for Global and International Studies at UCSB said deal-cutting between Taliban forces and regional warlords helped put them back in power.
He also stressed that this is a new generation of Taliban; those under the old Mullah Omar have passed on. And, it is a new era in terms of communications. Juergensmeyer estimated that 70% of Afghans now have cell phones.
"It's a different world and the Taliban knows that they have to run a country and the question is, are they going to run a country like ISIS? Are they going to run it like Saudi Arabia or Iran? Which are also religious states but states that we have learned to live with."
Juergensmeyer said he believes the Taliban will be more like the Saudis and work to keep this current coalition of warlords together.
He added that the newly empowered Taliban realizes that it has a public relations problem within its own country and pointed to a "big disconnect" between life in the multi-cultural city of Kabul versus tribal life in the countryside.
As for the U.S., he agrees with President Biden and believes U.S. troops were in Afghanistan much longer than they should have been.
"I think it's a strong lesson about the folly of getting engaged in wars that we can't win and that are not worth fighting in the first place. So, I think the U.S. will be vary wary about new military engagements following both on Iraq which, after all, it was our presence there that helped to create ISIS. And then, our presence in Afghanistan that helped empower the Taliban."
While he considers the sheer numbers of those trying to flee Afghanistan a "terrible situation," Juergensmeyer said he does not believe the overall scenario of withdrawing U.S. troops will endanger our standing in the global community.