Has America Lost Afghanistan?

Oct. 19 2018

In Kandahar yesterday, Lieutenant-General Austin Miller, commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, was meeting with General Abdul Raziq, one of the most important and reliable pro-American figures in the south of the country, when the Taliban attacked, reportedly with cooperation from one or more of the provincial governor’s guards. Miller escaped unscathed, but Raziq was killed along with other Afghan officials, and three American soldiers were wounded. To Thomas Joscelyn, the attack marks Washington’s defeat in its war on the Taliban:

When President Trump announced his strategy for the war in August 2017, he emphasized that the U.S. approach would be based on conditions on the ground, not arbitrary timetables. Trump argued correctly that President Obama had mistakenly declared from the outset that a short-lived surge in troops would end by a definitive date. . . . Theoretically Trump’s strategy was going to be more realistic—driven by the progress of the fighting. But the situation on the ground has not improved.

And while President Trump preached patience, it was always in short supply. . . . The president’s behavior only reinforces this perception. Trump hasn’t visited Afghanistan once since becoming commander-in-chief, not even after he announced his commitment to “win” the war last year. . . . Indeed, Trump says little to nothing about the war these days. There are no major speeches, press conferences, or op-eds explaining to the American people why the United States must prevail. In fact, America’s military leaders are arguing just the opposite.

During his farewell speech in early September, General John W. Nicholson, Jr., who first oversaw the war effort for Trump, announced: “It is time for this war in Afghanistan to end.” But wars are not “ended”—they are won or lost. And the Taliban certainly hasn’t been defeated. In many ways, the organization is stronger than at any time since late 2001. Acting as if America can simply “end” the war is the same approach pursued by Barack Obama, who claimed to have brought the Iraq war to a “responsible end” in 2011. Of course, that didn’t happen, either. The vacuum left by America’s withdrawal, in combination with the war in Syria, created an opportunity for jihadists that mushroomed into a self-declared Islamic State caliphate. . . .

The Defense and State Departments say a “political settlement” with the Taliban is necessary. But that is not realistic. [The truth is that the] United States is no longer trying to defeat the Taliban. Instead, the Trump administration, like the Obama administration before it, wants out. The Taliban knows this and is more than happy to dictate the terms of America’s withdrawal. That’s what is now being negotiated. The jihadists also know that wars end in either victory or defeat—and their victory is at hand.

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More about: Afghanistan, Barack Obama, Donald Trump, Taliban, U.S. Foreign policy

Palestinian Leaders Fight Economic Growth

Jan. 15 2019

This month, a new shopping mall opened in northeastern Jerusalem, easily accessible to most of the city’s Arab residents. Rami Levy, the supermarket magnate who owns the mall, already employs some 2,000 Israeli Arabs and Palestinians at his other stores, and the mall will no doubt bring more jobs to Arab Jerusalemites. But the leaders of the Palestinian Authority (PA) are railing against it, and one newspaper calls its opening “an economic catastrophe [nakba].” Bassam Tawil writes:

For [the PA president] Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah officials . . . the image of Palestinians and Jews working in harmony is loathsome. . . . Instead of welcoming the inauguration of the shopping mall for providing job opportunities to dozens of Palestinians and lower prices [to consumers], Fatah officials are taking about an Israeli plan to “undermine” the Palestinian economy. . . . The hundreds of Palestinians who flooded the new mall on its first day, however, seem to disagree with the grim picture painted by [these officials]. . . .

The campaign of incitement against Levy’s shopping mall began several months ago, as it was being built, and has continued until today. Now that the campaign has failed to prevent the opening of the mall, Fatah and its followers have turned to outright threats and violence. The threats are being directed toward Palestinian shoppers and Palestinian merchants who rented space in the new mall. On the day the mall was opened, Palestinians threw a number of firebombs at the compound, [which] could have injured or killed Palestinians. The [bomb-throwers], who are believed to be affiliated with Fatah, would rather see their own people dead than having fun or buying attractively-priced products at an Israeli mall.

By spearheading this campaign of incitement and intimidation, Abbas’s Fatah is again showing its true colors. How is it possible to imagine that Abbas or any of his Fatah lieutenants would ever make peace with Israel when they cannot even tolerate the idea of Palestinians and Jews working together for a simple common good? If a Palestinian who buys Israeli milk is a traitor in the eyes of Fatah, it is not difficult to imagine the fate of any Palestinian who would dare to discuss compromise with Israel.

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More about: East Jerusalem, Israeli Arabs, Mahmoud Abbas, Palestinian Authority, Palestinian economy