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Broken promises. Betrayal. Moral Injury.
This is how I described the 2021 botched Afghan withdrawal in my book “Operation Pineapple Express.” These feelings are shared by many of the 750,000 Afghan War veterans, especially as we observed Veterans Day earlier this month. Why? Because they understand the stakes, something our government doesn’t seem to grasp.
America’s broken promises are a threat to national security. The wholesale abandonment of Afghanistan not only casts serious doubt on the United States’ willingness to honor its promises to its allies, but it has hastened a return of a terrorist safe haven in Afghanistan that is worse than before.
Post-9/11 veterans saw the horror of the al Qaeda attacks on the homeland and responded. They gave away their youth and much more. And when Afghanistan collapsed, and the U.S. Government didn’t answer the phone, the veteran population rushed into the breach, once more, to save their Afghan partners. Now, those partners are giving alarming information about what is coming our way.
LT. COL. SCOTT MANN REFLECTS ON STRANDED AFGHAN COMMANDOS, TASK FORCE PINEAPPLE ONE YEAR LATER
In a recent interview, Ahmad Massoud, leader of the Afghan National Resistance Front, warned the West, citing the emergence of over 20 violent extremist groups within Afghanistan. “We’re gonna be back where it all started again because these groups will export this terror. Imagine when an attack happens, it could be in Europe. It could be in America. And imagine if the weapons that were left in Afghanistan are traced back against the attacks that happened?”
Massoud should know because his father was the Lion of the Panjshir, Ahmad Shah Massoud, Leader of the Northern Alliance, who warned the European Parliament in April 2001 of a brewing AQ attack against the U.S. No one listened then, and the United States endured the worst terror attack in American history.
Now, once again, Afghanistan is flashing on the instrument panel of national security. Afghanistan is re-setting to its previous capability, allowing terror groups safe haven within its borders. And our government ignores this and negotiates with a Taliban-Haqqani Government, which is operating in direct violation of the Doha Agreement.
We may be done with the war on terror, but it’s not done with us.
Unlike other past wars, Afghanistan follows us home.
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Al Qaeda is reconstituting, and it is the next generation of terrorism. Foreign fighters from Syria, Iraq, North Africa, and even Southeast Asia are openly training in former Afghan National Army bases in Helmand and Kandahar. A newer, more invigorated al-Qaida is emerging from the ashes. Leaner, hungrier, more agile, and led by the sons of our enemies. Zawahiri’s son, Abdul Rahman Al Magribi, has been spotted numerous times in Afghanistan, and Bin Laden’s son, Abdullah bin Laden, has been seen bouncing between Ghazni and Helmand Provinces. Why is no one talking about this?
ISIS-K is growing in numbers, but more concerning, ISIS is reported to have moved its headquarters from Syria to Afghanistan, corroborated by both U.S. and Afghan sources with deep access and placement. This signals two major terror groups, with histories of striking the U.S., in Afghanistan.
Many in Washington have put their faith in “over-the-horizon” strike capabilities to deter this growing threat. This falls far short of expectations. While we may have successfully targeted Zawahiri, let’s not forget the failed retribution strike against ISIS-K on August 29, 2021, where ten innocent Afghans were killed (including seven children).
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Defeating violent extremism will likely be done through relationships. Relationships with former friends and allies. Relationships with partner forces. Relationships with NATO. Relationships that we have squandered.
Relationships require trust, and America has betrayed that trust.
Currently, Afghan intelligence networks, special operations partners, and the Afghan Resistance Front are all reporting this information to U.S. veterans, and yet there has been no substantive outreach to them by the American Government. If these terror groups continue to grow with their mandate of violence against the West, imagine a scenario where we are struck.
What if Americans are sent back to Afghanistan following another catastrophic terrorist attack at home? They respond blindly with no substantive ground intelligence capability, no partner force, and almost no institutional memory of the painful lessons from the 20-year war. Will our sons and daughters face angry, well-equipped, U.S.- trained ex-commandos carrying the grudge of betrayal?
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If the U.S. government continues to ignore these warnings and keep its head buried in the sand, the greatest shadow to loom over the Biden presidential legacy and the senior leaders implementing this flawed policy, might not actually be the botched Afghan withdrawal. But rather it will be the catastrophic strike on the homeland made possible by this wholesale exchange of a 20-year partner force for a Taliban-sanctioned terror sanctuary.
Regardless, the next post-9/11 testimony of “how did this happen?!” seems to be writing itself, and our veterans seem to be the only ones raising the alarm.
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