The Taleban are at the very least no worse than the Syrian jihadis that US insists are 'legitimate opposition groups' – so how can the US possibly justify bombing them?
American officials, ideologues and the media insist that all Syrian rebel groups aside from ISIS and Al Qaeda (and they're not really sure about the latter) are legitimate "moderate" opposition groups that Russia should not be battling.
Well guess what, by the same definition the Taleban of Afghanistan are also "moderate rebels" – they're certainly no ISIS, in fact they've had very serious clashes with the Afghan ISIS. And albeit they harboured Al Qaeda 15 years ago and still have friends there that shouldn't be a disqualifying factor given that the vast majority of Syria's "moderate rebels" rub shoulder with the Syrian Al Qaeda on a daily basis. (And given that US itself periodically acts as Al Qaeda's air force.)
True the Taleban are ultra-conservative fundamentalists, but so are the jihad-loving "moderate" rebels of Syria – except the latter want to impose the fundamentalist vision on the considerably more secular Syrian society. In this sense Taleban rule in Afghanistan would be a less radical (ie more moderate) change for Afghanistan than the rule of the Salafist Ahrar Ash-Sham would be for Syria.
Additionally there is a decent argument to be made that the Taleban, albeit not great, are actually a considerably more legitimate and popular movement than the United Colors of Jihad in Syria.
To being with the jihadi insurgency in Syria was fueled by the CIA, the Saudis and the Turks. The Taleban meanwhile enjoyed only modest support of Pakistan but have managed to preserve for 15 years now while battling the world's only super power – that probably wouldn't be feasible if they didn't enjoy some sturdy support from sections of Afghan society.
Next, while the Syrian jihad relies on tens of thousands of foreign volunteers, except for the odd Uzbekistani the Afghan version is nowadays a completely home-grown affair.
Furthermore, while the Syrian "moderate rebels" are pursing a fratricidal civil war the Taleban can claim to be fighting for Afghanistan's independence and liberation from foreign domination. The Kabul government that the Taleban wish to oust was brought in on the wings of American invasion of their country, and to this day 15 years later, relies for its survival on the US which finances, equips and trains its military and props it up with airstrikes, advisors and special forces.
Now it may be infuriatingly hard for some people to accept that the medieval (bad) and ultra-sectarian (bad) Taleban are also Afghanistan's resistance to foreign occupation (good), but if so they should direct their anger at Washington. It is the continued US presence in Afghanistan that gives the (horrible) Taleban this role and prestige.
Besides, similarly America's own revolt against Britain was led by a slave owner George Washington and the Texan independence from Mexico was accomplished by another slave owner, Sam Houston. Therefore it does not seem possible to claim that affinity for horrible social orders precludes one from also being a 'national liberator' from a foreign occupier.
So let's recount, the Taleban are:
- enemies of ISIS
- are no loonier than Syria jihadis
- are almost fully Afghan-sustained
- are resisting a foreign military occupation
So please explain to me how can the US justify bombing them? That isn't to praise the Taleban, but it is to say that it's difficult to see how the American war against them in their own country is legitimate, or at least any more legitimate than the supposed travesty that is the Russian war on jihadis in Syria.