Starting the second 20 years of the war on terror on the wrong foot


As we approach the 20th anniversary of 9/11, we’re seeing assessments of the 20 year war on terror. We’ll see many more in the next few days.

The ones in the mainstream media will probably be along the lines of a piece in the Washington Post by the paper’s book review editor, a leftist of course. He argued that 9/11 put America to the test and America failed.

I think that’s nonsense. If we’re grading pass-fail, then America clearly passed. There hasn’t been an attack on the homeland of anything remotely like 9/11’s scale in three days shy of 20 years. If America has become less free, and I think we have, it’s because of speech codes, the cancel culture, and the pandemic, not because of any overreaction to 9/11.

Basically, we have won the first 20 years of this long war.

But the next 20 will be off to a bad start because of Joe Biden’s decision to mark the 20th anniversary of 9/11 by being out of Afghanistan, where that attack originated. This bizarre bit of timing/symbolism suggests that Biden considers the war on terror to be basically over. Unfortunately, anti-American terrorists don’t agree. Therefore, the war is far from over.

Our withdrawal from Afghanistan gives these terrorists both a morale boost and a strategic leg up. Ali Soufan, a former FBI counterterrorism agent and the author of a book on the war on terror, explains why in a Washington Post op-ed. His piece is called “The terrorism threat enters a new, more dangerous phase.”

Soufan writes:

It seems to be dawning on the Biden administration that the chaotic evacuation from Afghanistan ahead of the 20th anniversary of 9/11 sent the. . .message that the “war on terror” was a closed chapter in U.S. history. [Note: I’m not convinced that this reality has dawned on Biden himself.] Much more than Blinken-Austin glad-handing [of allies in the Persian Gulf] will be needed, because the terrorism era is far from over. A new, more dangerous phase has begun.

Despite the Taliban’s protestations to the contrary, al-Qaeda remains fused to the militants running Afghanistan, by an oath made by Osama bin Laden, and twice renewed by his successor, Ayman al-Zawahiri. In May, a U.N. monitoring group said of al-Qaeda that “it would be difficult, if not impossible, to separate it from its Taliban allies.”

Al-Qaeda is hardly the only terrorist group with a presence in Afghanistan. Most prominently, the local Islamic State affiliate, ISIS-Khorasan, or ISIS-K, is a deadly threat, as shown by the horrific bombings at the Kabul airport last month.

Al-Qaeda is hardly the only terrorist group with a presence in Afghanistan. Most prominently, the local Islamic State affiliate, ISIS-Khorasan, or ISIS-K, is a deadly threat, as shown by the horrific bombings at the Kabul airport last month.

Afghanistan is on the verge of again becoming a hub for terrorism. Even before the Taliban fully took over, various extremist groups were running training camps there, the way they did before 9/11. The U.N. report in May estimated the total number of foreign fighters in the country at 8,000 to 10,000, including groups from the Arab world, Central Asia and the Uyghur areas of China.

Following the U.S. withdrawal, my organization’s monitoring of Islamist communications on social media and in chat rooms indicated that groups as far afield as Syria and Southeast Asia began redirecting potential recruits to Afghanistan.

Biden touts an “over the horizon” use of drones and cruise missiles to combat terrorist outposts in Afghanistan. But in 2015, dismantling one large al-Qaeda camp in Afghanistan, near the Pakistan border, required 63 coalition airstrikes and a ground force of 200 U.S. troops. The Afghan skies would need to be filled with U.S. military hardware to destroy the terrorist bases that are likely on the way.

Soufan also points out that there are many other countries in which extremist groups now hold sway. Terrorist elements in these countries can only be emboldened by America’s withdrawal from Afghanistan. And with America clearly in retreat, the incentive for governments to prevent these elements from attacking the U.S. is greatly diminished.

In my view, Biden’s Afghan pullout has given anti-American terrorists their biggest boost since 9/11. What a terrible way to commemorate the attacks of that day and to kick off the next 20 years of our long war on terror.



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