US Officials Concerned About White Supremacist Praise of the Taliban Takeover
By Staff, Agencies
As the US-backed government in Afghanistan fell to the Taliban and US occupation troops raced to leave the country, White supremacist and anti-government extremists expressed admiration for what the Taliban accomplished, a worrying development for US officials who have been grappling with the threat of domestic violent extremism.
That praise has also been coupled with a wave of anti-refugee sentiment from far-right groups, amid the evacuation of tens of thousands of people from Afghanistan ahead of the Biden administration's August 31 deadline.
Several concerning trends have emerged in recent weeks on online platforms commonly used by anti-government, White supremacist and other domestic violent extremist groups, including "framing the activities of the Taliban as a success," and a model for those who believe in the need for a civil war in the US, the head of the Department of Homeland Security's Office of Intelligence and Analysis, John Cohen, said on a call Friday with local and state law enforcement, obtained by CNN.
Cohen said on the call that DHS has also analyzed discussions centering on "the great replacement concept" a conspiracy theory that immigrants, in this case the relocation of Afghans to the US, would lead to a loss of control and authority by White Americans.
"There are concerns that those narratives may incite violent activities directed at immigrant communities, certain faith communities, or even those who are relocated to the United States," he added.
Far-right extremist communities have been invigorated by the events in Afghanistan, "whether by their desire to emulate the Taliban or increasingly violent rhetoric about 'invasions' by displaced Afghans," according to recent analysis from SITE Intelligence Group, an American non-governmental organization that tracks online activity of White supremacist and jihadist organizations.
Some people are commending the Taliban's takeover as "a lesson in love for the homeland, for freedom, and for religion," SITE said in its weekly bulletin on far-right extremists.
Neo-Nazi and violent accelerationists -- who hope to provoke what they see as an inevitable race war, which would lead to a Whites-only state -- in North America and Europe are praising the Taliban for its anti-Semitism, homophobia, and severe restrictions on women's freedom, SITE found.
For months, US officials have warned that domestic violent extremism is the greatest threat to the homeland, pointing to the January 6 attack at the US Capitol as a stark illustration of the potential for violence that can occur when conspiracy theories and false narratives flourish.
A significant part of the current threat environment comes from individuals who are influenced by what they see online, Cohen told CNN in an interview last month.
At this time, Anti-Defamation League's Center on Extremism, is not seeing any observed credible threats, or mobilization of online extremist activity, but is concerned that the current online rhetoric highlights ideological concerns and possible threats to public safety, said Joanna Mendelson, associate director of the center.