June 16, 2021

Taliban’s Pakistani and Saudi puppet masters

IMMEDIATE RELEASE 15 April 2021WASHINGTON MERRY-GO-ROUNDToday’s Events in Historical PerspectiveAmerica’s Longest-Running Column Founded 1932The Taliban’s Pakistani and Saudi puppet mastersBy Douglas Cohn and Eleanor Clift          WASHINGTON — Calling for American troops to leave Afghanistan by September 11, the twentieth anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, President Biden says he is ending the longest war in U.S. history. That technically may be true, but he is not ending the warfare in Afghanistan, and he may not be able to insulate the U.S. homeland from the consequences of his decision.          Biden is gambling that the Taliban has been sufficiently disabled that it will not be able to regenerate itself alone or in concert with other terrorist groups, like al-Qaeda or Isis, to mount an attack on the United States. That may prove true, or it may be wishful thinking.          When U.S. forces pulled out of Vietnam, the North Vietnamese wasted no time taking over the country. The Taliban controls 21 percent of Afghanistan. The most probable event, once American forces leave, is that the Taliban takes over, and a resurgent Al-Qaeda will once again pose a threat to America and our allies.          The Vietnam analogy is not perfect. At its peak, there were 550,000 American service people in Vietnam. The U.S. involvement in Afghanistan never came close to that, and even today, we are only talking about a maximum of 3,500 troops.          But the bottom line is the same. What happens when we leave?          To forestall an outcome detrimental to U.S. national security, and to preserve the gains made in Afghanistan particularly concerning girls and women, attention must be paid to the real culprits in the region. The Taliban is a puppet. Deter its masters and the puppet fades away.          Biden prides himself on his diplomatic skills, and it must be as obvious to him as it is to us that those culprits are Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, and he has considerable leverage with both countries – countries that profess to be staunch American allies.          First, Pakistan. Remember when President Obama ordered the raid to kill Osama bin Laden? The Pakistanis were furious that Americans violated their air space, that no advance warning was given that a U.S. team was coming to surprise, capture, or kill the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks.          It turns out bin Laden was living quite comfortably in a large compound near the Pakistani military academy, and the assumption is that Pakistan’s leaders knew he was there, and they were protecting him at the same time the Pakistani government was receiving U.S. aid and military assistance and professing ignorance of his whereabouts.          Pakistan has been playing a double game for a long time, and it’s time for Biden to call them out – not publicly, but privately – and insist that they stop harboring the Haqqani network, an Afghan insurgent group that finds refuge in northern Pakistan.          Saudi Arabia is the other double-game player. Remember 9/11 and where the hijackers came from?  The Saudi royal family bankrolls terrorism, and without their money and their extremist religious schools (madrassas) located in Pakistan and elsewhere, the financial incentive and the religious extremism would lose its allure for the young men recruited to perpetuate these endless internal wars in the Middle East and beyond.          It is a terrible triangle of Saudi money, Pakistani schools and safe harbors, and Taliban terrorism.          We wish Biden well in his decision to withdraw from Afghanistan, but it’s not one and done. He is correct in wanting to re-focus resources on areas of the world that pose a greater direct threat to U.S. national security, and that’s not Afghanistan. It’s China and the economic and military competition a rising superpower poses, and Russia with its meddling in our elections, plus there are cyber warfare and climate change.          Even so, he had best keep a wary eye on the Taliban and our faux allies. The only thing worse than getting out prematurely is going back in.           Douglas Cohn’s latest books are World War 4: Nine Scenarios (endorsed by seven flag officers) and The President’s First Year: The Only School for Presidents Is the Presidency.          Twitter:  @douglas_cohn          © 2021 U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.          Distributed by U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.          END WASHINGTON MERRY-GO-ROUND    

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