There’s no sugar-coating it: The bombings at the Kabul airport that killed at least 13 members of the U.S. military aren’t just a predictable consequence of this administration’s unforgivable blunders. President Joe Biden has unwittingly unleashed a new terror war.
The sacrifice of these brave troops cannot be in vain. The president must right the ship—now.
From the outset Biden’s “no plan” plan relied on the good graces of the Taliban to allow a graceful U.S. exit. He apparently assumed that, since he generously re-gifted the country to them, they’d go on holiday until the last American had left.
That’s when the death spiral started.
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Depending on the Taliban to allow a peaceful evacuation was foolish in the extreme. The more weak the Americans looked, the more the Taliban exploited developments to humiliate the U.S.
Intelligence was blinking red that in the final days the Taliban would allow (if not outright manufacture) an act of violence to shut down the evacuation, making it impossible to hold the airfield and turning Biden’s self-proclaimed “successful” airlift into a disgraceful retreat. Even if the Taliban didn’t play a direct role, the fact that it happened shows terrorism is alive and well in today’s Afghanistan.
Indeed, the Biden team might have inadvertently encouraged this act by crowing about how proud they were of the airlift. This was like waving the red flag and telling the bull it was time to charge.
If ISIS-K, another shadowy terrorist group, were responsible for the attack, that doesn’t mitigate the Taliban’s responsibility. In fact, it’s further proof Afghanistan has rapidly morphed into the pre-9/11 Wild West terrorist playground. That’s both Biden and the Taliban’s fault.
The “new” Taliban are just like the “old” Taliban, except they now excel at using social media and manipulating the Western press. It’s no surprise this disaster could happen without them taking direct responsibility. In fact, a Taliban spokesman blamed the U.S. military for the explosion.
Structuring a withdrawal that allowed the Taliban to control the perimeter of the airport made no sense—like the French occupying Dien Bien Phu at the bottom of a valley.
This crushing disaster is also a sign of things to come. In these parts of the world, “honor” is power. You are honored if you are strong and can humiliate and defeat your enemies. Nice guys don’t just finish last; they are ground into the dust.
The Taliban are not going to “normalize.” They are going to make demands and act aggressively. They will exploit the perceived weakness of the West. Part of that show of strength will be harboring terrorists, allowing them to operate openly and even to function on behalf of the Taliban.
In part, they know they can get away with this because Biden has abandoned any footprint that would allow the U.S. to track in real-time what is going on in Afghanistan. They have the terrorist get-of-jail-free card.
Afghanistan as a terrorist hotspot is only the beginning. The Taliban’s roughing-up of Biden will be a clarion call for transnational terrorism worldwide to get back in the game and go after the West. Small wonder that our European allies are outraged.
There is plenty of demand building to exploit the U.S. monumental misstep. There could be a new spasm of violence in Kashmir; another intifada in the Middle East, a terrorist dash across the southern border.
What’s for sure is this anniversary of 9/11 will be the most fearful in modern memory. The Taliban will control more territory, more money, more friends, more arms than it did on 9/11. That’s a world-shaking development.
The U.S. has to step up. That starts with making sure we leave no one behind. That’s likely to mean shutting down the airport and bugging out, while continuing to try to evacuate people across Afghanistan’s northern border—no easy task.
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Biden will have to hold Taliban accountable, not just for the airport bombings, but for all of their transgressions. He needs to stop talking about how they cooperate, and start dropping the hammer.
The president also has to prepare for another round of the terror war. So: Secure the border. Stop hounding and persecuting conservatives and have Justice and Homeland Security go back to focusing on the real terrorists—Islamist extremists. Rebuild effective counterterrorism partnerships worldwide.
We also have to rethink our relations with enabler states like Pakistan. And we need to abandon the Iran deal once and for all.
Finally, we need an independent nonpartisan commission right now to unpack Biden’s failures in Afghanistan. It’s not just about holding people accountable—we need to understand what we are now up against.
Sorry, Mr. President. No more vacations and campaign swings. It’s time to get back to the job of defending Americans.
This piece originally appeared in the New York Post