Back in the 1980s, the United States considered the Mujahideen the “good guys” because they were waging a guerilla war against the Soviets Union in Afghanistan. Fast forward to the present and the Afghan Mujahideen are now widely viewed as the Islamic fundamentalists who eventually begat the Taliban, Al Qaeda, ISIS, and other folks who will hopefully meet their end at the business end of a MOAB.
Yet for some reason, Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller awkwardly invoked the 80s image of Afghan freedom fighters while trying to strip away the Taliban and ISIS’ pretense of representing Islam in the middle of a May 2 press briefing on the state of the Navy of the Navy Department.
“The terrorists call themselves the freedom fighters, the Mujahideen – they’re not,” Neller added when asked about status of the Marines tasked with advising Afghan troops and police. “They’re criminals. They’re apostates. They hide behind Islam. They sell drugs. They kill innocent people. That’s not what Islam is.”
Neller lambasted Taliban leaders for continually ordering young men to their deaths while living safely outside Afghanistan – leaders who, in his view, do not deserve the noble moniker of ‘Mujahideen.’
“The Afghan army and the Americans, we’re the Mujahideen,” Neller said. “We’re the Mujahideen. That’s the message. Maybe they’ll get tired of this and they’ll decide that there’s a better way, and then we can move on to something else.”
Neller may want to reconsider the title given the last four decades of evolving conflict in the Afghanistan. After all, most of the weapons that the U.S. covertly supplied to the Mujahideen as part of Operation Cyclone during the Cold War ended up in the hands Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, who was not exactly a Pashtun version of Thomas Jefferson (but hey, ‘Rambo III’ was still awesome).
But after decades, the local combatants fighting for the future of Afghanistan have not tired, nor have they found a better way to resolve their problems. And while the United States has not been able to move on from Afghanistan since 2001, perhaps the term ‘Mujahideen’ should be relegated to the dustbin of history, along with ‘Rambo III.’