The Fall of Afghanistan and the Rise of the Taliban Again

It has been so painful to watch the fall of Afghanistan and think of the sacrifices made by U.S. military personnel and our allies over the last twenty years. President Trump’s agreement with the Taliban put us on this road to returning the Taliban to power. President Biden’s shameful actions and inaction sped up this process. Politicians in Washington are tone deaf to candor. They never understand even what the issues are on the ground and never listen to individuals who provide honest assessments. 

Afghan leaders at all levels were only interested in lining their pockets. An old crow of the intelligence community once told me that anytime the US paid Afghans in the 1980s to do something usually the opposite happened. When the Russians left Afghanistan the Afghan fighters wanted blood. The Taliban for the most part will allow the US to flee the country with our tail between our legs but the Islamic State-Khorasan Province (ISKP), the Haqqani Group and even Al Qaeda will potentially be a threat. The prisons in Kandahar, Jalalabad and Bagram that have held Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters have now been freed.

The Taliban do not care for world opinion or diplomatic negotiations and never have. Ever since the Taliban captured Kabul in 1996 the United States has tried through interaction and negotiations to change the Taliban’s positions on peace, humanitarian assistance, women’s rights, drugs and terrorism. The US sought Osama Bin Laden over 30 times from the Taliban. In 1996, Secretary of State Warren Christopher wrote to the Taliban Foreign Minister that “we wish to work with you to expel all terrorists and those who support terrorism…” This fell on deaf ears. On March 3, 1997 the US was told by Taliban Shura Council member Ehsanullah Ehsan that “expulsion of Bin Laden was not a solution.”

In March 1998, the US expressed concerns to the Taliban after Bin Laden’s called for attacks against U.S. targets and the reports of Egyptian militants in Afghanistan. The Taliban’s UN Representative in New York Abdul Mujahid replied that Bin Laden was under restriction by the Taliban. In a March 26, 1998 meeting Taliban Deputy Foreign Minister Haqqani was told of the US concerns about a recent fatwa issued by Bin Laden against the United States. Haqqani denied Bin Laden’s involvement and stated that Bin Laden was under Taliban restrictions. Then Bin Laden sent suicide bombers to drive vehicles bombs into two US Embassies in Africa. The Taliban never would turn over Osama Bin Laden after the attacks on the US Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. On September 13, 1998 the US Deputy Chief of Mission warned the Taliban Permanent Representative to the UN that the “Taliban will be held directly responsible for any further terrorist acts instigated by Bin Laden.” On October 11, 1998, US Ambassador Milam met with Wakil Ahmed, a close aide to Mullah Omar and told him that the longer the Taliban shelter Bin Laden, the more they will be associated with his crimes. On October 21, 1998 Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Pickering and Assistant Secretary of State Karl Inderfurth told Taliban Representative Abdul Mujahid that the US would hold the Taliban responsible for acts committed by Bin Laden against the US. Mujahid replied that expelling Bin Laden would violate the Taliban’s rules of hospitality.

On December 14, 1998, the Taliban Embassy Charge in Islamabad told Deputy Assistant Secretary Lanpher that Bin Laden is under restriction and accused the US of coercing suspects in the Embassy Bombings to admit to having links to Bin Laden. On December 28, 1998, the US received a response from Mullah Omar’s aide Wakil Ahmed that the Taliban’s position was that Bin Laden was a guest who would not be expelled still held. In 1999 and 2000, the UN Security Council passed resolutions demanding the Taliban expel Osama Bin Laden. On May 27, 2000, Undersecretary Pickering gave Taliban Deputy Foreign Minister Jalil a point by point outline of the information tying Bin Laden to the 1998 Embassy Bombings. The Taliban rejected this evidence and all other advances to get the Taliban to hand over or expel Osama Bin Laden.

On February 26, 2001, more than 90 nations of the international community passed a resolution urging the Taliban to halt the destruction of the Buddhist statues in Bamiyan. So as the Biden Administration tries to contemplate their next whimpering to the Taliban they should review the US, global and Taliban interaction. To the Taliban negotiations show weakness. Zalmay Khalilzad, the chief American envoy in talks with the Taliban, a few days ago was seeking assurances that the Taliban wouldn’t attack the US Embassy in Kabul.

Biden’s State Department Representative Ned Price recently said: “What we know and what the international community knows is that there has to be a diplomatic solution to this if we are to achieve some semblance of safety, security, stability for the people of Afghanistan in Afghanistan.” When asked if the Taliban had been engaged in diplomatic talks Price stated “the Taliban is engaging. Obviously, progress has been slow. We would like to see it move faster.” From 1996 to the attacks on September 11th, the Taliban slow rolled and refuted all international pressure. Even after the September 11th attacks the Taliban didn’t arrest or seize Bin Laden but fought side by side with him and then fled alongside Al Qaeda into Pakistan.

 I feel sorry for all those who thought there would be democracy, free elections,  women’s rights, and human rights in Afghanistan. The Taliban were known for human rights violations, forcing girls and women into burqas, closing schools and opportunities for females and taking their cut from drug enterprises. The United States sent CIA teams and Special Forces into Afghanistan  in October 2001 because the Taliban had provided a sanctuary to Osama Bin Laden and Al Qaeda. Once again, American’s Intelligence Officers and Special Forces performed brilliantly routing the Taliban and Al Qaeda and forcing them to flee in Pakistan where they had sanctuary. One of the first of many Americans who lost his life was a CIA officer named Mike Spann. Spann died at the Qala-i-Jangi fortress during a Taliban prisoner uprising.

This morning the President of Afghanistan Ashraf Ghani flew out of Kabul after negotiations with the Taliban failed. Recent actions by the Biden Administration only empower our enemies. Years ago I interviewed an Afghan woman who went to the Stadium in Kabul to see her husband before he was executed by the Taliban. Does the Kabul Stadium revert from sports to this again under the Taliban? Honor and revenge are everything to the Pashtun. These next few days are going to be dangerous for American citizens in the country. Poor decision making once again forces the US military to put troops on the ground who will be in harm’s way because of poor decision making by politicians. Group think and a lack of candor in government has infected Washington once again. Thirty-two years ago on January 30, 1989, the US Charge d’Affaires Jon Glassman watched as Marines lowered the American flag at the US Embassy in Kabul. In the next few days another US diplomat will have to observe the lowering of the American flags on the Embassy grounds in Kabul. But as Jon Glassman said thirty-two years ago, “the United States shall return.”