September 13, 2021
On September 7, 2021, members of the American Mideast Coalition for Democracy met with Dr. Walid Phares, former national security advisor to Presidential candidate Mitt Romney (2011-2012) and former foreign policy advisor to President Trump, and expert on the Middle East and jihadism, to discuss the topic of Afghanistan.
Dr. Phares began by describing the Taliban’s takeover of the Afghan government as a “coup.” The Taliban were removed from power when the US invaded in 2001 and have spent the last twenty years working ceaselessly, penetrating and influencing the previous power structure in order to regain power.
Phares explained that the Bush administration’s strategy was to create a space for civil society by training and equipping the Afghan army that would defeat the Taliban and hold them down. Then the effort was to cut off recruitment by giving young people a chance to join the modern world by reforming the educational system for at least one generation. This is essentially the same strategy that had worked in Germany and Japan after WWII.
After the invasion, the Taliban leadership fled to Qatar and many of its cadres took refuge in Pakistan and plotted their return. When the democrats won the Congress in 2006 and then the Presidency in 2008 under the Obama White House, they reversed the Bush strategy, cut his programs, and began establishing a relationship with the Muslim Brotherhood and with the Ayatollahs’ regime in Iran. Though civil society continued to progress in Afghanistan during those years, policy was set that would eventually result in the return of the Taliban. We must remember that the Obama Administration helped to install the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt after the fall of Mubarak, which was then overturned by the people’s revolution assisted by the army.
In essence, the Obama-Biden strategy has been consistent: seeking partnership the ideological forces of Islamism.
Phares explained that when President Trump came to office, his plan was to make a strong military push against the jihadists and then to withdraw and let Afghanistan military stand on its own. The Trump withdrawal was conditions-based and dependent on the progress on the ground. The Taliban were to be disarmed and come into the Afghan government gradually. The former advisor at the time was skeptical of the Taliban abiding by the deal.
When President Biden came to power, he made another deal with the Taliban. The US would allow the armed Taliban to come back into power if the Taliban promised to defeat al-Qaeda and ISIS in Afghanistan.
(Editor’s aside: The Democrats have consistently and irrationally tried to separate the jihadist movement into subsections of good jihadists vs. bad jihadists and have persisted in the fantasy that the good jihadists would side with the US against the bad jihadists.)
Phares continued to explain that the administration began talking in terms of “when” the Taliban comes to power and then removed our air support. President Ghani saw the writing on the wall and fled at which time the coup was complete.
(At the time of this writing, there remains a pocket of resistance fighting valiantly in the Panjshir valley, but the Biden administration has given them no help whatsoever.)
Question: What is the immediate effect on the bordering countries?
Phares: Pakistan gives the Taliban limited ground support, but it is Qatar that has helped with strategy. The Qataris helped the Taliban outwit the Biden administration. India is nervous because a Taliban-dominated Afghanistan will support Jihadists in India. Tajikistan is also concerned about the fall of Afghanistan, and is giving some support to the resistance in the Panjshir valley, Iran will likely support pro Iran regime militias operating in the Hazara area. China wants contracts for Afghan’s rare-earth minerals, and overland passage to Iran. Though China is also nervous about potential Jihadi support from Afghanistan to its own Jihadists, it claim are operating within the Uighur areas. The Arab Gulf states are very nervous that jihadist will gather in Afghanistan and plot their over-throw. The Taliban is now more than ever influenced by the Muslim Brotherhood.
Question: Afghanistan was a bi-partisan effort for 20 years – hard to see it fall apart like this.
Phares: Yes, the public will see the atrocities that are coming and the Republicans will use the issue in the coming elections. The Biden-Obama-Pelosi team expected a different reaction from the American public. They expected praise. Now they are hoping the public will forget about it by the next election, but Afghanistan will not go dark.
Question: The Pakistani ISI will benefit and India will lose. Bush pressured India to ignore provocations by Pakistan.
Phares: India knows the threat, but they will not be able to counterbalance the new alliance between Qatar, Turkey and Iran brought about by the Biden administration. Trump created a long-overdue alliance with India, but Biden opposes Modi. India has created an alliance with Tajikistan which is anti-jihadist. The Taliban wants to ally with Pakistan to create a Caliphate with nukes but this could jeopardize the ruling establishment in Pakistan. President Erdogan has his own vision for re-establishing the Sunni Caliphate, not coinciding with the Taliban. Imran Khan, however, is not an Islamist, but a Pakistani nationalist. Russia, in the meantime, is holding military exercises in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.
America is seen as weak and all the other regional players are rushing in to fill the void we left behind.