Nigeria: Boko Haram vs Taliban


What Does the Fall of Kabul Mean for the Nigerian Masses?


Statement of the Revolutionary Socialist Vanguard, Nigerian Section of the RCIT,, 25th August, 2021




The victory of the Taliban in Afghanistan has spread fears of a similar takeover by groups like ISWAP/Boko Haram in Nigeria and understandably so since both Boko Haram and the Taliban are Islamist groups.¹ However even with such similarities as subscription to political Islamism there are still significant differences between the Taliban and Boko Haram/ISWAP in Nigeria.


First, anyone who has made tangible findings into recent activities of the Taliban, at least, in the period of the 20 year war will find that they have most times been at loggerheads with Daesh/IS, a former ally of Boko Haram and the mother section of ISWAP.² Daesh/IS even tried to blackmail the puritanical authenticity of the Taliban’s takeover in Afghanistan as a secret agreement with the US government but the disturbing scenes at Kabul airport make this allegation highly unlikely.


An inquiry into the cause of the repeated clashes between the Taliban and Daesh the long time mentor of Boko Haram and the mother section of ISWAP leads us to a second would be difference — varying brands of Islamist ideologies. Scholars largely agree that the Taliban originates from a version of political Islamism which accommodates reason, rationality and science even though the overall groundnorm is the establishment of an Islamic theocracy. In contrast, Boko Haram/ISWAP like Daesh/IS subscribe to the most extreme forms of Wahhabi-Salafism which rejects any changes or innovation into what it calls “pure Islam” and treats all those who do not adhere to this version as infidels deserving only of execution.³


Some sources classify both the Taliban and groups like Boko Haram, ISWAP, as Salafists or even Wahhabi-Salafists probably in order to promote or justify the “war on terror” of Western imperialism. What is clear however is the concensus that the Taliban and Boko Haram/ISWAP have different Islamic ideologies and that Boko Haram, ISWAP just like their older counterpart Daesh practices a more extreme form of radical Islamism.


These differences do not give a concrete enough characterization of these groups and certainly cannot provide the correct orientation of revolutionaries towards them. They in most cases aid the understanding of the role of these forces in world politics. Let us note in passing that the Taliban are a more national force which seeks to gain control over limited regions like Afghanistan, Pakistan etc. Whereas Boko Haram and ISWAP seek to continue the conquest of vast regions throughout West Africa as a continuation of the campaign of Uthman Dan Fodio that vanquished the Hausa kingdoms in the 19th century. This is consistent in a way with the goal of global domination of Daesh.


It is because the Taliban have only risen or become prominent as a force for defense against foreign domination, has their methods been relatively moderate. This is why at present they have not expressed any goal for world domination. Their posture as a national resistance movement was formed from more organic national (read Pashtun, Tajik) traditions affords them a relatively less extreme practice.


Not so for Boko Haram/ISWAP which are the auxiliary forces or alternate base of the most powerful section of the Nigerian ruling class– the northern oligarchs. The main objective, nay, the only choice left, for this faction of the Nigerian ruling class is expand and dominate other nations and their counterparts in these nations. The hatchet men for this job have so far been Boko Haram/ISWAP and their more white-washed subsidiaries like the Fulani herdsmen and the so called Bandits.


While the Taliban is at the head of an anti-imperialist struggle against the US, the leader of the Western powers. Boko Haram and ISWAP are in alliance with imperialist proxies in Nigeria.


Revolutionaries support physically and militarily all genuine anti-imperialist forces irrespective of the type of leadership they have but refuse any political support to their reactionary leaderships. This is because the defeat of imperialist forces boosts the morale of the local forces especially the progressive ones. It also makes the workers of the imperialist countries lose sympathy for their government and fight for its overthrow.


Due to the gradual but systematic advance of the Taliban over the years the US has attempted to form a coalition government composed of the Taliban and its puppet Ghani government rather than totally disband the Taliban as many believe. This is why Donald Trump had talks with the Taliban and the same thing the Biden administration.⁴ A move like this by the US reveals clearly that the conflict between the Taliban and the US was never one between Islamic absolutism and democracy. Neither was it between “Sharia” and human rights but a war of domination by Western big business. In any case, this plan has ended in a fiasco because of the total distrust of the Afghan people and military in the Ghani government and its Western paymasters.


It is not impossible for Boko Haram/ISWAP to takeover Nigeria, however difficult it maybe it is still not impossible. The foregoing thus shows that the double standard of Western imperialism means that they cannot be the salvation of the masses in Nigeria. Furthermore, Russia and China cannot play this role as they too have served as the extra tyre for the Nigerian ruling class when the patrons of these terrorist groups reach conflicting deadends with their Western masters. Moreover, the Great Powers recognise the link between Boko Haram/ISWAP and the Northern oligarchs who are the guard dogs preventing the complete disintegration of Nigeria as a country. So the only conflict they have with the northern hegemony borders on the extent and methods of northern dominance not the dominance itself.


In conclusion, it is important to reiterate that the historical role of the Taliban in Afghanistan especially in the last 20 years is a national resistance movement against Western imperialism while the campaign of Boko Haram/ISWAP is in the concrete historical sense in service of imperialism. Although socialists oppose all forms of theocratic dictatorship with all its limitations to human rights, it is these concrete historical roles that translate into meaningful differences in their Islamist ideologies. Thus the victory of the Taliban in Kabul and of Boko Haram/ISWAP in Abuja can never be on the same pale.


Rather the fall of Kabul shows that a victory of the Nigerian workers and oppressed over Boko Haram/ISWAP, the Nigerian ruling class and world imperialism is possible. All those who see ousting the Buhari regime and independence for the oppressed ethnic nationalities of the south as an insurmountable task on account of the backing the Nigerian state enjoys from superpowers has been proven wrong by the defeat of the corrupt Ghani government and imperialism in Afghanistan. The historic importance of the fall of Kabul is that neither loans, airstrikes nor nuclear weapons, can stand in the way of a people determined to be free!
















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We refer readers to a special compilation of RCIT statements on the political situation in Afghanistan on a special sub-page on our webiste: