Webinar Discussion on White Taliban: Inverted Orientalism; Useful Idiots & Great Game

On September 20, 2023, the Afghan Institute for Strategic Studies hosted a webinar titled "White Taliban: Inverted Orientalism; Useful Idiots and the Great Game." The speakers for this webinar were Dr. Christian Fair, a professor at Georgetown University, Shaira Karimi, a researcher at the Tony Blair Institute, and Scott Richards, founder of the Presidium network. The program was hosted by Ms. Peymana Assad, the founder and head of the foreign policy group of the UK Labour Party.

During the webinar, the speakers addressed the following questions:

Who is the White Taliban, and which group can be classified as such?

What are the goals of these individuals or groups?

What is the relationship between Western academics and the Taliban?

Dr, Christine Fair argued that many Western institutions have played a role in creating the conditions for the resurgence of the Taliban and strengthening the narrative of Taliban 2.0. Dr. Fair asserted that financial considerations and the pursuit of new projects were major motivating factors for these organizations.

Mr. Scott Richards noted that prior to the commencement of the Doha talks, Western research organizations were primarily focused on nation-building efforts in Afghanistan. However, with the initiation of peace talks between the Taliban and the United States of America, these institutions shifted their approach and propagated the idea that the Taliban had undergone significant ideological changes. Mr. Richards believes that this change in direction was highly advantageous to the Taliban and laid the groundwork for their resurgence.

Ms. Shaira Karimi emphasized the importance of amplifying the voices of Afghan refugees and exiled journalists, as well as ethnic and religious minorities who have been victims of violence. She argued that their perspectives need to be heard, especially in the face of lobbying efforts on behalf of the Taliban and claims that the group has transformed.

Lastly, Dr. Fair also added to the discussion by highlighting that the supporters of the Taliban lack logical reasons for backing the group. According to her, their support is often motivated by a desire to remain in the spotlight and continually attract media attention.