Al Qaida Is Back - We Will Pay The Price
In 2001, We went into Afghanistan to destroy a terrorist safe haven and drive Al Qaida from that nation. Al Qaeda had blown up two of our embassies, almost sunk a U.S. Navy destroyer, and flown planes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Thousands of Americans had been killed.
We succeeded brilliantly. With relative handfuls of men on the ground, we crushed the Taliban and Osama Bin Laden had to flee for his life to Pakistan.
Then we lost our way.
We spent twenty years trying to turn Afghanistan into ‘Switzerland in Central Asia’. We paved roads, built schools and tried to teach Afghans about gender equality and liberal democracy. We lost focus, squandered blood and treasure, and made federal contractors rich.
We could have stopped, rationalized our approach, remembered why we were there and moved ahead. We did not. Under the direction of Joe Biden -easily the worst President in American history - we fled. We handed over billions in advanced weapons to Islamic jihadist thugs, abandoned our friends and allies, and flew away.
Ever since the Biden administration has attempted to paper over the debacle with vague assurances that somehow our national security is not negatively impacted. “Al Qaida is gone. The Taliban want only to be left alone. The threat is minimal.”
None of this is true.
Al Qaida is back in Afghanistan in strength and working closely with the Taliban again. Michael Sample, a professor at Queen’s University in Belfast and an Afghanistan specialist, characterized the situation this way in a recent interview. Taliban control of Afghanistan "guarantees their [Al Qaida’s] continued personal survival and ability to reorganize the Al Qaida network.” In fact, senior Al Qaida leaders are now reportedly living openly in the diplomatic quarter of Kabul.
A recent United Nations report went into considerably more detail on the situation inside Afhganistan.
“The relationship between Al-Qaida and the Taliban remains close and is underscored by the presence, both in Afghanistan and the region, of Al-Qaida core leadership and affiliated groups, such as Al-Qaida in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS). Al-Qaida is pleased with developments in Afghanistan, which it anticipated for over 20 years. The group quickly framed the Taliban takeover as a collateral triumph for Al-Qaida. On 31 August, one day after the last United States troops had left Afghanistan, Al-Qaida celebrated the Taliban’s perseverance and highlighted historical links between the groups. It further seized the opportunity to renew its allegiance to Hibatullah Akhundzada as “leader of the faithful.”
“Al-Qaida has used the Taliban’s takeover to attract new recruits and funding and inspire Al-Qaida affiliates globally.”
“It is assessed that Al-Qaida is focused on reorganizing itself in the short-to-medium term with the ultimate objective of continuing its idea of global jihad.”
“In February 2022, Al-Qaida conveyed its close links to the Taliban in its magazine edition of “Ummah Waahidah”, which advised the Taliban to become a regional military power and promised that Al-Qaida would carry out attacks against the West.”
The Taliban are in control in Afghanistan. They are unchanged. They retain the same worldview they had in the 1990’s - only now they are emboldened and in possession of vast arrays of weaponry they never had before.
The relationship between the Taliban and Al Qaida remains the same. They are two sides of the same coin. For Al Qaida the priority is still striking the “far enemy,” the United States of America.
Our claims to retain the capability to control the growing threat from afar are fanciful. We have no sources of any quality on the ground inside Afghanistan. All of our technical capabilities tell us nothing of consequence about planning inside highly-disciplined and compartmented terrorist cells. It took us a decade to find Bin Laden after 9/11 precisely because he insulated his communications from all our remote sensing and signals intercept capabilities.
All of the agencies that are publishing fantasy assessments now - claiming that the Taliban will restrain Al Qaida from using Afghanistan as a launching pad for attacks on the West - are the same agencies that claimed we were winning the war in Afghanistan for twenty years. They are the same agencies that swore allegiance to the now totally discredited COIN doctrine of counter-insurgency. They are the same agencies that were caught by surprise when the Afghan Army melted away and the Taliban effectively walked into Kabul unmolested.
In short, at this point, nothing those agencies produce in the way of assessments should be taken seriously.
We have granted a mortal enemy a safehaven and breathing room. Last time we did this thousands of American died, and Al Qaida moved perilously close to acquiring both nuclear and biological weapons capabilities. We should expect nothing different this time.
Al Qaida is back. We are watching it grow in strength. No amount of spin can disguise the ugly reality of what is about to happen next.