Tag Archives: taliban

The Taliban Takeover

Published in The Jerusalem Report on September 13, 2021.

US General Austin Miller (left) shakes hand with Afghan Defense Minister Bismillah Khan Mohammadi at a ceremony in Kabul on July 12, relinquishing his command during the final phase of America’s withdrawal from Afghanistan

Score one for Sunni Jihadism. Twenty years after 9/11 and two years after America’s victory over ISIS, another Islamist caliphate has returned to the scene, this time in Afghanistan, where scores of Muslim terror organizations will reconstitute under the umbrella of the new Islamic emirate.

Shi’ite jihadism in the Islamic Republic of Iran is also in ascendancy with the withdrawal of America from the Middle East. There is likely to be a lull in any overseas terror operations with a patient Taliban and al Qaeda, but what about the future?

Will Americans forgive their leadership, if terror strikes the homeland or if the US is forced to return to the Middle East as it did after the Iraq withdrawal to confront ISIS? ISIS and the Taliban are two sides of the same coin.

Was the withdrawal a wise and courageous decision, as US President Joe Biden’s defenders claim, or was it foreign policy malpractice? The administration is trying to make the case that the choice was a renewed war with many more troops on the ground or a complete withdrawal.

This was and is a straw-man argument to cover a blunder that will undermine US and allied security interests for years to come. More mistakes are on the horizon as Biden is an enthusiastic supporter of returning to the ill-conceived Iran nuclear deal, another foreign policy catastrophe he would add to his repertoire.

Just days before the chaos at the Kabul airport with Afghanis storming the airport in total panic, Biden said, “The Taliban is not the North Vietnamese army. There’s going to be no circumstance where you see people being lifted off the roof of an embassy of the United States from Afghanistan.”

Yes, the Taliban are not the North Vietnamese. They are more akin to ISIS and al Qaeda, jihadists who use religion to rationalize taking young women as sex slaves, living in the dark ages.

Let us remember who the Taliban are. They are one of the world’s great drug dealers, ruining countless people’s lives. According to an article in Foreign Policy by the Bureau Chief for AFP and AP from 2009-2017, the Taliban were first the opium kings, but recently their insurgency runs on the sale of billions of dollars in methamphetamine made from the ephedra plant, a cheaper and more profitable business.

Its product ends up on the shores of the US, just as their jihadist cousin Hezbollah sends its additive drugs from South America to poison young Americans, both fueling an opioid epidemic while bankrolling terror. Who said Sunni and Shi’ite jihadists didn’t have anything in common?

You know that something is amiss when CNN, a reliably pro-Biden media outlet, has wall-to-wall coverage eviscerating the president’s judgment on Afghanistan. Showing videos of streets without women who are too afraid to leave their homes, chaos at the Kabul airport with desperate people falling from the sky as they cling onto the fuselage of American planes as they departed Afghanistan, the public relations nightmare makes Joe Biden look like Jimmy Carter during the Iran hostage crisis. No one can say that Biden was not warned of what could occur.

In an NBC News interview, the head of US forces in Afghanistan, Marine Gen. Frank McKenzie said, “What we’re here for is to prevent al Qaeda and ISIS from being able to reconstitute in the ungoverned spaces, generally of eastern Afghanistan, and be able to plot attacks against our homeland… That threat is still here today.”

McKenzie said US counterterrorism forces had made it impossible for al Qaeda to regenerate and carry out its plans against the West. “If that pressure comes off, I believe they’re going to regenerate… and I think it’s only a matter of time before we see them assert themselves and begin to plan attacks against our homeland.”

Axios reported that chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley told senators on the day Kabul fell that terrorists will reconstitute in Afghanistan sooner than expected. Ryan Crocker, Obama’s ambassador to Afghanistan, said I think it is damning for him (Biden) to have created this situation…It’s an unforced error.”

Biden should have learned how a premature withdrawal can go profoundly wrong after he witnessed this firsthand as Obama’s VP, Obama’s withdrawal from Iraq in 2011 that created the conditions for the rise of the Islamic State, only to have America pulled back into another war under much worse circumstances. As politics, not American security interests, obscure an honest debate of what went wrong in Afghanistan, it is worth pausing and remembering America’s original goal for Afghanistan.

Our original goal was not nation-building but to take the fight to the terrorists, giving them no safe haven, so there would be no more attacks on the American homeland. There has not been an attack on American soil from Sunni terrorists given safe harbor in Afghanistan for twenty years. That mission was accomplished and could have continued with a small American footprint, but Biden thought he knew better.

A Wall Street Journal editorial pulled no punches, hitting the nail on the head. “President Biden’s statement (during the fall of Kabul) washing his hands of Afghanistan deserves to go down as one of the most shameful in history by a Commander in Chief at such a moment of American retreat.” Biden refused to listen to his advisors or the Afghanistan Study Group. “Mr. Biden, as always too assured of his own foreign-policy acumen, refused to listen.”

The US’s small presence gave it disproportionate leverage to keep the status quo. Biden was untruthful when he said the 3,500 US troops were doing the brunt of the fighting for the Afghani soldiers. The mission could have continued if Biden hadn’t removed the very small contingent of soldiers. America has not lost a single soldier in Afghanistan in the last 18 months. Although the nation-building experiment was at best a mixed result, there is no question that millions of women’s lives in Afghanistan changed for the better, and yes, the US did have that objective in mind while it was there.

Kimberley Motley, a human rights attorney who worked in Afghanistan for 13 years, called the current situation a “human rights nightmare.” The administration may still try to put lipstick on this generational foreign policy humiliation, but it still will stink like ten-dayold fish.

As chaos reigned in Kabul, Biden “warned the Taliban that any action on their part on the ground in Afghanistan that puts US personnel or its mission at risk there will be met with a swift and strong US military response.” Who was he kidding?

Biden was disingenuous when he said he inherited Trump’s deal with the Taliban and couldn’t have done anything about it. Just as Trump reversed Obama’s Iran nuclear deal, and Biden is trying to re-enter that same agreement, Biden could have easily bypassed the Trump agreement with the Taliban mainly because the Taliban had already reneged on its obligations. Trump was wrong on Afghanistan as he was about the Kurds, but Biden uses him as a fall guy for his own incompetence. It’s even unfair to Trump to presume to know what he would have done, as circumstances evolved; he changed course on many things in his tenure; that’s for sure.

During the August weekend of the fall of Kabul, the Democratic leadership paraded Jake Auchincloss, a progressive Massachusetts Congressman who was an Afghan war veteran, on all of the Sunday talk shows. He said, “This president inherited a decision that was wrenching – it was not status quo or withdraw, it was to ramp up American forces in Afghanistan to hold the Taliban at bay… or it was to end a failed forever war finally.” Or was it?

With many more Congressional war veterans excoriating the Biden administration for gross negligence and mismanagement, Mr. Auchincloss was sent out as a sacrificial lamb against the tide of evidence showing America as an unreliable ally, a paper tiger, bungling its withdrawal, looking more like the Keystone Cops than the world’s superpower.

Revealingly, the congressman misspoke when he said that if we stayed for 20 years, “we would keep the wolves at bay.” That is precisely the point. The US could have kept Afghanistan from becoming a terrorist nation for years to come with a minimal American commitment. We just needed to maintain the status quo and control the Bagram airbase to back up an Afghani army that could hold off those wolves enough for years to come.

So who are the winners and losers? In the region, American allies are the big losers. Israel, Jordan, what is left of pro-America Iraq, Egypt, and the Gulf states now realize that America can make profound decisions undermining their interests at a moment’s notice, leaving them to bear the consequences alone. Iran and Israel’s jihadist neighbors in Gaza and Lebanon have been filled with more self-confidence.

The Taliban can thank Pakistan for refuge and support. But will the Pakistani Taliban rise and try to establish a caliphate in Islamabad? Qatar may be prescient, knowing that the US has foreign policy ADHD, attention deficit disorder. Qatar for years hosted Sunni Islamist extremists like Hamas, the Taliban, and the Muslim Brotherhood, as an insurance policy against American impatience with the region.

It is a two-way street for the Taliban’s superpower neighbors. On the one hand, the hated Americans are humiliated. On the other, there is a concern in Russia and China that the Islamist victory will inspire their repressed Muslim populations to agitate for change. Russia has terrible memories of Afghanistan; its invasion was in part responsible for the fall of the Soviet Union.

As Victor Davis Hansen says, “China, Russia, and Iran surely interpret this shambolic performance as a sign of exploitable weakness and poor judgment. From the peaks of Pakistan to the sands of the Sahel, fanatical jihadists discouraged by the failure of ISIS sense a fresh and favorable turn of events with the arrival of their greatest victory since 9/11.” Russia will realize that it can take more risks in Ukraine and with its former satellites.

As for the Far East nations, Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, Indonesia, Singapore, Vietnam, etc, will they trust America to keep its word and help them defend themselves from a predatory China? At the very least, it will be a more challenging lift for the US to convince them.

As Noah Rothman writes in Commentary, “It is unnervingly obvious what we’ve lost: national prestige, vast sums of political capital, credibility on the world stage and, most tangibly, our security. The world is much more dangerous today.”

No amount of political spin can change that.

Withdrawal can’t sweep away terrorists or their ambitions

MEMBERS OF TALIBAN forces sit at a checkpoint in Kabul earlier this month.
(photo credit: REUTERS)

Published in the Jerusalem Post on August 26, 2021.

by Eric R. Mandel

The 24/7 coverage of America’s withdrawal from Afghanistan has neglected to focus on four key points that will have lasting consequences and need to be addressed.

The first is the arsenal of weapons left behind for the Taliban and other jihadist organizations by America’s hasty exit and the disintegration of the Afghan armed forces.

The second is the underreported danger from releasing five thousand “high-value” al-Qaeda, ISIS and Taliban terrorists into the hands of the Taliban from Bagram prison.

The third is America’s mistaken notion that American itself can decide to end its forever wars on terror simply by leaving Afghanistan. They should ask the Israelis how well unilateral disengagements worked for them in Gaza and Lebanon.

Finally, is the need to recognize how compromised American intelligence will be going forward to prevent another major terror attack. There will be no human intelligence or any ally left in Afghanistan going forward.

Not only have we given the terrorists another failed state to plan regional and international attacks, but we have armed them too. According to an article in Forbes magazine, the US left behind a massive treasure trove of weapons that could sustain not just a terrorist force but even a real army for a decade.

“America left behind 75,000 war vehicles… Humvees, mine-resistant ambush-protected (MRAP) vehicles and armored personnel carriers… 1,000 mine-resistant vehicles cost up to $767,000 each – 208 airplanes and helicopters, including 20 A-29 Super Tucano attack aircraft. The A-29’s cost $21.3 million each. Black Hawk helicopters… costing up to $21m. Six hundred thousand rifles, machine guns…25,000 grenade launchers and 2,500 howitzers – the modern-day canon.”

The war on terror is not over just because President Biden says it is. According to Matthew Continetti, writing in the National Review, “Afghanistan is just one front in a global conflict that the United States did not initiate and cannot wish away… When participants in the worldwide Salafist-jihadist movement look at the developments of the last week, they don’t see reasons to quit their mayhem. They see the chaos, panic, violence, disorder and American retreat as a vindication of their ideology and a spur to further action.”

With the American withdrawal, American intelligence is blind, lacking HUMINT, human intelligence, a key component of effective prevention against terrorist attacks. The newly created Afghan terror sanctuary will challenge our analysts to get ahead of any new terror threats emanating from the region.

Unless you are an isolationist, American security interests extend worldwide. Our careful surveillance has prevented attacks on our friends and homeland for the last 20 years, something underappreciated, as preventing attacks receives much less news coverage than successful terror attacks.

Today’s al-Qaeda, Islamic State and every jihadist non-state terror variant are all transnational groups who have mastered social media for recruitment and planning. They will move wherever states fail, to plot their next attack. All these Islamist groups hate the US and want to bring medieval Islamic rule in one form or another everywhere.

International terrorist organizations will continue to probe and poke at the lion to see just how far they can go. The terrorists are counting on the lack of America reacting to attacks on regional allies like India, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan. Israel is the only player in the region that acts effectively and repeatedly against jihadists, whether in Syria, Iran or Lebanon. When Israel strikes Islamists, whether Sunni or Shi’ite, Hamas or Hezbollah, the moderate Sunni states quietly cheer.

The administration needs to learn quickly that jihadists are now empowered to act against what they perceive to be a weak American President who talks but won’t act against terrorism. His choice not to respond to Iran’s recent confirmed terror attacks in international waters has only reinforced their case.

In his press conferences, Joe Biden has doubled down that America has no national security interest in remaining in Afghanistan. But Islamists, whether of the Sunni or Shi’ite variety, will have the last say. They have been reenergized and given a significant morale boost knowing America is in retreat and won’t act in response. Terrorism is alive and well throughout the Middle East.

Is President Biden up to the task? 

Tevi Troy points out in a Wall Street Journal article, that President Biden seems to have surrounded himself with yes men. If Troy is correct, his remedy is for Biden to act like JFK after the Bay of Pigs disaster to create a mechanism within his policy teams that encourages dissenting opinions. 

Biden needs to listen, because his instincts on foreign policy have been more wrong than right despite decades on the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee. Even back in 1992, according to The New York Times, Senator Joe Biden wanted to outsource American security to the United Nations. The United States should pursue “the next big advance in civilization… collective power through the United Nations.” You can imagine how that would have worked out.

It is challenging for any president to realize that there have been profound mistakes. The great ones like Abraham Lincoln had humility and were open to new ideas, even if they were not popular. That is what a President is supposed to do. His predecessor was rightly criticized for not listening to his advisers or contrary opinions. Will Biden continue to make the same mistake?