The rapid amass of power by the Taliban in Afghanistan, as a result of the botched withdrawal of U.S.-led NATO troops is sparking concerns by experts over the possible proliferation of terrorism in the region that will pose a direct threat to America and its ally Israel.
The United States invaded Afghanistan 20 years ago after the 9/11 attacks in order to root out al Qaeda, the terrorist group that was sheltered by the Islamic militant group the Taliban throughout the country.
The Taliban, who played the long game for 20 years, has now taken control of Afghanistan due to the withdrawal of western troops, increasing concerns by the international community that the country could become a safe haven for other radical terrorist groups, including the Islamic State (ISIS), foster the rise of al Qaeda in the region again and embolden other actors, such as Hezbollah and Hamas.
Foreign policy experts warn that the terrorism risk to Israel and the U.S. will rise because the Taliban in Afghanistan is now likely to foster terrorist groups such who will plan attacks against western countries and their allies, as it has has done historically.
Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for East Asia Heino Klinck told Fox News in an interview that the United States’ “humiliating” withdrawal will inspire terrorist groups and adversaries who now view the U.S. and its allies, including Israel, as weak.
“When American power, credibility and reliability are perceived to be diminished or weakened, the threat to all of our friends, allies and partners increases. And that is certainly the case in respect to Israel as well because what appears to be a defeat of the Untied States in Afghanistan and one that is being portrayed internationally as, in essence, a truly humiliating withdrawal, is only going to serve to embolden as well as inspire the enemies of Israel that are U.S. enemies as well. Terrorist organizations such as Hamas and Hezbollah.”
Due to the Taliban’s quick takeover of Afghanistan, there is likely to be an increase in terrorist activity focused on Israel by emboldened jihadis in the long term. Our allies are not so sure that “America is back,” Klinck told Fox News, referring to a slogan previously used by President Biden to tout his foreign policy strategy to international partners.
Klinck also said that he anticipates that without a U.S. presence in the region, it is likely the Taliban will go back to its “old ways,” including maintaining relationships with al Qaeda and even fostering ISIS, even despite the historic animosity between the two groups.
Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for European and NATO Policy Michael C. Ryan said that the United States’ “ill-advised” decision to pull out of Afghanistan did not carefully consider geo-strategic ramifications, and instead made life more difficult for the U.S. and its allies.
“The biggest winners in all this are the terrorists who thrive relatively unobserved in an ever-enlarging set of ungoverned spaces,” said Ryan in a statement to Fox News.
“First, their willingness to play the long game was rewarded with victory, which will encourage recruits, fill their coffers, and enhance their posture. Second, in the developing world the collaboration between terrorists, illicit traffickers, and corrupt officials will seem to many to be a more successful formula than well-funded Western democracy a la Afghanistan encouraging copy-cats while dashing the hopes of thousands.”
New Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett is scheduled to meet with Biden at the White House next week, amid the escalating crisis in Afghanistan. Israel has not openly criticized Biden’s troop withdrawal, but it has legitimate concerns regarding the Taliban working with terrorist groups within and neighboring the state, including Hamas and Hezbollah.
Israel Defense Minister Benny Gantz spoke with U.S. Secretary of State Lloyd Austin on Aug. 6 about increasing Iranian aggression and its state-sanctioned terrorism group, Hezbollah. Ganz told Austin that Israel will “continue to operate against Hezbollah and any other Iranian proxies in order to defend Israeli citizens,” according to a readout of the call.
Boris Zilberman, Christians United for Israel’s (CUFI) director of public policy and strategy, told Fox News in an interview that the fall of Afghanistan will directly increase the threat against Israel, especially since it could become a safe haven for jihadi training camps.
He explained that Hamas leaders have met with the Taliban recently, sparking the question of whether there will be Hamas camps in Afghanistan and if they could backfill fighters, and organization’s security forces in Kabul also have close ties to al Qaeda. In addition, “[Afghanistan] has harbored al Qaeda and Taliban leaders in the past, which has been pragmatic as far as undermining the U.S. goes.”
Zilberman also said that Biden’s upcoming meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett will be a crucial opportunity for the leaders to strategize about how to deal with these emerging threats because “what happens in Afghanistan does not stay in Afghanistan.”
The Pentagon on Friday confirmed that al Qaeda still has a “presence” in Afghanistan, despite a contradictory claim made by President Biden during a speech moments before.
“We know that al Qaeda is a presence as well as ISIS in Afghanistan,” Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby said during a press conference. “And we’ve talked about that for quite some time. We do not believe it is exorbitantly high, but we don’t have an exact figure for you, as I think you might understand.”
The agency’s statement came just moments after Biden told reporters that al Qaeda was “gone” from Afghanistan, sparking confusion.
The State Department recently defended its commitment to Israel when asked during a press conference this week if the U.S. is concerned that adversaries could use the withdrawal of troops to become more belligerent in foreign policy.
“You have seen us stand by our partners, whether that is Taiwan, whether it is Israel, whether it is any other country, any other entity with whom we have a rock-solid partnership and a commitment,” said State Department spokesperson Ned Price.