October 22, 2022
by Tera Dahl
While the world focuses on the situation in Ukraine, little attention is being spent on the situation in Afghanistan where foreign terrorists are flocking. After the initial preventable and chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan, the Biden Administration seems to be continuing a policy of appeasing the Taliban and at best ignoring any resistance to it.
The Biden Administration has recently implemented several key policies that will embolden the Taliban.
First, the recent decision of the Biden Administration to release $3.5 billion of Afghan central bank reserves to be used “for the benefit of the people of Afghanistan” should prompt serious congressional oversight on how they are possibly going to “keep it out of the hands of the Taliban and other malign actors” as they claim. The Administration claims that “the Taliban are not part of the Afghan fund” and that “robust safeguards have been put in place to prevent the funds from being used for illicit activity”. Will this $3.5 billion dollars have a greater accountability than the $2 trillion dollars that the U.S. has spent in Afghanistan over the last 20 years, or the $85 billion dollars of U.S. military equipment that is now being used by the Taliban and Haqqani Network against America’s Afghan allies? This release of funds calls for congressional oversight and hearings.
The Biden Administration is legally not allowed to support financially or provide any material support to the Taliban government in Afghanistan. The reason is because the Taliban government includes senior members of the Haqqani Network, a U.S. designated foreign terrorist organization as well as a UN designated terrorist organization. Recall too that al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri was taken out in a Kabul home owned by the leader of the Haqqani Network.
Why does it matter if we say Taliban or Haqqani Network? It matters significantly, and is a game changer, because if the Haqqani Network is actually part of the governing body in Afghanistan, that makes it illegal for anyone, including the United States government to have any dealings or providing any support to the organization. The Taliban, however, has never been designated a terrorist organization, therefore giving more freedom for diplomatic relations.
Sirajuddin Haqqani, the leader of the Haqqani Network (who is on the FBI’s most wanted list with a $10 million dollar bounty on his head) has been serving as the deputy leader of the Taliban since 2015, and is now also serving as Interior Minister of the Taliban. According to an official website of the United States, “Rewards for Justice” it states:
“Rewards for Justice is offering a reward of up to $10 million for information on Sirajuddin Haqqani, also known as Siraj Haqqani and Khalifa, Sirajuddin leads the Haqqani Network (HQN), a U.S.-designated Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO). Under his leadership, HQN has planned and conducted numerous significant kidnappings and attacks against U.S. and Coalition Forces in Afghanistan, the Afghan government, and civilian targets. In 2015, Sirajuddin was appointed deputy leader of the Taliban, cementing the alliance between HQN and the Taliban.”
The Taliban should have been designated a foreign terrorist organization a long time ago. Representative Lauren Boebert (R-CO) introduced legislation this week that would add Afghanistan to the U.S. list of State Sponsors of Terrorism. Boebert’s bill is similar to Senate legislation introduced by Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) last year, Preventing the Recognition of Terrorist States Act of 2021, which is currently pending in the House of Representatives and should be passed immediately. It would also impose sanctions against foreign individuals who knowingly provide assistance to the Taliban.
The Biden Administration has also been implementing subtle policy decisions easing the pressure on Pakistan. First, the Biden Administration recently released a $450 million F-16 upgrade for Pakistan. Second, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) recently approved in August the release of a long-stalled $1.17 billion bailout package to Pakistan. Several reports have stated that the Biden Administration had been using the IMF funds as leverage towards Pakistan’s policy in supporting the Taliban in Afghanistan. This is a reversal of policy implemented under the Trump Administration where they canceled hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to Pakistan over their terror record. Third, reports state that Pakistan is expected to come off the grey list of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) which is an inter-governmental policymaking body dedicated to combating global money laundering and terrorist financing. The Biden Administration should be considering sanctions on Pakistan for their support of the Taliban and Haqqani Network in Afghanistan, not releasing diplomatic and economic pressure. There should be congressional oversight into the role of the Pakistan government in supporting the Taliban/Haqqani Network today. Is Pakistan helping the Taliban/Haqqani Network learn how to fly and use the American military equipment?
The recent stop-gap bill that passed the Senate and included $12 billion in new military and economic aid to Ukraine, also included a transfer of $3 billion from a Pentagon aid program to the State Department for continued Afghan resettlement operations.
Providing resettlement for the validated Afghan military and police members who were promised American citizenship for their support in assisting the American war efforts in Afghanistan is 100% justified but continuing to spend billions on permanent resettlement for thousands of Afghans who have yet to be vetted is not. That money should instead be spent on the resistance forces who are fighting to free their country from the grip of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan so that the Afghan refugees can return to their homes.
Can you imagine when the Islamic State invaded northern Iraq had the United States flown all the Kurdish Peshmerga military members out of northern Iraq and then paid them to resettle permanently in the United States instead of supporting the Peshmerga forces to defeat the Islamic State so displaced Kurds, Yazidis, and others eventually could return home? That’s insane. The U.S. just spent $2 trillion dollars and, more importantly, over 2,000 lives of our bravest and best who sacrificed everything to train and build the Afghan military and police forces over the last 20 years, to defend and build their country, providing an ally in the region to defeat terrorism. The Biden Administration’s policy in Afghanistan has zero logic and is continuing to undermine the last 20 years that America spent fighting a war in Afghanistan.
Politically supporting the resistance forces in Afghanistan is the only viable option for the United States and international community in Afghanistan. The Taliban/Haqqani Network are not an option to be supported or recognized as the legitimate government of Afghanistan. They have the blood of Americans on their hands, and they are still at war with the United States.
The United States defeated the Taliban swiftly in the initial invasion of Afghanistan with an incredible against all odds story when 350 U.S. Special Forces, 100 CIA members, and 15,000 Afghans defeated the Taliban army of 50,000. It was an incredible and swift defeat of the Taliban. Unfortunately, over the coming decades, the defeat of the Taliban was not sustainable for many reasons, including creating a centralized government verses decentralized in a society still overwhelmingly tribal. The U.S. Rules of Engagement (ROE) arguably caused numerous U.S. and Afghan casualties. Ultimately, it must be said that the U.S. never really understood Afghanistan. These failures led to a wrong and ultimately failed strategy that was implemented in Afghanistan. What needs to be done is to let the Afghan resistance fight the way they know how, let them take the gloves off and fight unconventionally for their country. The resistance forces are the future and any hope that Afghanistan does not remain a terrorist incubator and safe haven that poses a direct national security threat to the United States.
Tera Dahl served as Senior Advisor in the Conflict, Prevention and Stabilization Bureau (CPS) at USAID as a political appointee during the Trump Administration. She also served as Deputy Chief of Staff at the National Security Council (NSC) working in the White House under the Trump Administration. She has advised members of congress, staff, and policymakers on complex national security and foreign policy issues. She served as a national security senior advisor to Congresswoman and former Presidential candidate Michele Bachmann. She has traveled extensively overseas to areas of conflict and war, raising awareness and reporting from an on-the-ground and frontline perspective, giving a voice to the voiceless.