Those making the latter argument point to the inefficiency of the “peaceful” methods proposed by the “Islamist left”. They highlight the experience of the recently ousted Ennahda in Tunisia, an Islamist party who is the country’s largest opposition group – and compare this to Hamas’s hard-power performance against Israel in May 2021, which Islamists largely celebrated as a “victory”. Accordingly, the Taliban’s campaign against the Americans is seen as yet another example of successfully drawing on military resources as the mechanism to “defend Islam” and impose an Islamic government and way of life.
The comparison between the Taliban and the Muslim Brotherhood is useful in other ways. One thing that became abundantly clear from the Brotherhood’s short-lived experience in power was the extent to which Morsi was unable to cope with the business of governing. Burdened by internal disputes and divisive organizational politics, the Brotherhood learned the hard way that managing the Egyptian deep state is not the same as being an opposition party. Once in power, Morsi turned his back to previously made promises to include women and representatives from other political currents, instead stacking key ministries with hard-headed ideologues. This placed him in opposition to a growing majority of Egyptians, so that when the counter-revolutionary powers channeled their resources to oppose the Brotherhood, Morsi was swiftly swept out of office in July 2013, after just one year in power.
Having taken over a sophisticated military arsenal, the Taliban does not face the same challenges. But like the Brotherhood in 2012, the group is now confronted with the crucial task of governing. This predicates its ability to align its military structure with the existing political apparatus to implement effective economic and social policies benefitting the Afghan population.
The comparison with the Brotherhood shows the extent to which an opposition party finds it difficult to maintain organizational and ideological cohesion once it faces the task of governing a state. After Morsi had won the presidency in June 2012, organizational conflicts between a group of older hardliners on the one hand and a reformist youth wing on the other accelerated and, in the ensuing years, divided the group into competing factions.