Following Donald Trump’s election win last week, many remain in a state of shock while others are celebrating. One group that is happy about the news, however, would probably not get along well with the kind of Trump supporters typically highlighted in the media, should their paths cross. Jihadists around the world apparently see a Trump presidency — and his history of outrageous statements on the campaign trail and elsewhere — as a propaganda gift from Allah.
“This guy is a complete maniac,” one of the Islamic State extremist group’s top commanders in Afghanistan, Abu Omar Khorasani, reportedly said in the wake of the election. “His utter hate towards Muslims will make our job much easier because we can recruit thousands.”
Trump said last year that he would “bomb the shit out of” IS (a.k.a. ISIS, ISIL or Daesh). He has also talked of banning Muslims from entering the US, though his present position on that issue is unclear.
In addition to ISIS, a spokesperson for Syrian jihadist group Jabhat Fatah al-Sham, which was formally affiliated with al-Qaeda until earlier this year, expressed a twisted kind of optimism about the president-elect. “Trump’s victory is a hard slap to those promoting the efficiency of democratic systems,” Hamza al-Karibi wrote on Twitter. “Starting today, we won’t need media releases clarifying the West’s machinations. All we need to do is retweet what Trump says,” he added.
Other known ISIS and al-Qaeda supporters on Twitter made similar predictions. One pro al-Qaeda account said Trump would “make the U.S. Enemy No. 1 again” in the Middle East. “Trump will serve as the perfect straw man for the next four years, like Bush did before him,” the jihadist promoter wrote.
Another Twitter user wrote that “The real winner in the American elections is the policy of Sheikh Usama Bin Laadin.” Though bin Laden was killed in 2011, he remains an Islamist icon.
“Congratulations to the Muslim nation over the infidel Trump’s victory,” an ISIS supporter on Twitter wrote. “His stupid statements alone serve us.”
“The dog Trump’s victory in the U.S. elections is a gold mine for Muslims not a setback if they know how to use it,” wrote another.
These messages are coming from Islamist propagandists, of course, who are clearly spinning the situation to their own advantage. If Hillary Clinton had won, these same trolls would more than likely be telling whoever would listen that her election was a sign of the imminent demise of America and nothing but good fortune to come for the jihadist cause. Yet these messages should also not be dismissed outright.
In at least one case, an Islamist group has already used Trump’s election win as the basis to issue a formal demand to the United States. “Our message is that the Americans should draft a policy not to take away the independence and sovereignty of other nations,” the Afghan Taliban said in a statement the day after the election. “Most importantly they should withdraw all their troops from Afghanistan.”
Trump does not appear to have responded to the Taliban’s statement, though President Barack Obama has committed to keeping the 8,400 troops now in Afghanistan there through the end of his term in January. Trump has previously called the US invasion of Afghanistan both “a terrible mistake” and said that “I’ve never said we made a mistake going into Afghanistan.”
His ultimate strategy, though, appears to involve maintaining some presence in the country. “At this point, you probably have to stay because that thing will collapse about two seconds after they leave,” he said in October of last year. As with many other policies of the incoming administration, we may have to wait until January to get the details of Trump’s plans for US involvement in Afghanistan and the broader Middle East.