The U.S. Is about to Secure a Bad Deal with the Taliban

March 25 2019

Eager to withdraw American troops from Afghanistan, the U.S. has been conducting negotiations with the Taliban, and may be close to finalizing an agreement. Although the details are not yet known, the impending agreement extracts a promise from the Taliban not to allow the territory under its control once again to become a home base for terrorists who will attack the U.S. Thomas Joscelyn and Bill Roggio argue that, on the contrary, the deal will lead to a resurgent al-Qaeda and Islamic State (IS).

Afghanistan is, today, already home to international terrorist groups. Both Islamic State and al-Qaeda fight and train throughout the country. The Taliban have no control over Islamic State’s regional arm, which operates across the Afghan-Pakistani border and has ties to the self-declared caliphate’s mothership in Iraq and Syria. Although there may be some episodic cooperation between the two sides, IS loyalists clash regularly with their jihadist counterparts in the Taliban. And IS rejects the Taliban’s legitimacy, so it will not abide by any agreement struck with the U.S. Thus, the Taliban cannot guarantee that they will hold Islamic State’s global ambitions in check.

More important, there is no reason to think the Taliban want to hold al-Qaeda’s global agenda in check. And this is where [the U.S. diplomat Zalmay] Khalilzad’s credulity becomes especially problematic. . . . As the United Nations Security Council found in two recent reports, al-Qaeda and the Taliban remain “closely allied” and their “long-standing” relationship “remains firm.” Al-Qaeda’s leaders still view Afghanistan as a “safe haven,” and their men act like a force multiplier for the insurgency, offering military and religious instruction to Taliban fighters. Indeed, al-Qaeda is operating across multiple Afghan provinces, including in areas dominated by the Taliban.

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More about: Afghanistan, Al Qaeda, ISIS, Politics & Current Affairs, Taliban, U.S. Foreign policy


At the UN, Nikki Haley Told the Truth about Israel—and the World Didn’t Burn Down

April 22 2019

Although Nikki Haley had never been to Israel when she took the position of American ambassador to the UN, and had no prior foreign-policy experience, she distinguished herself as one of the most capable and vigorous defenders of the Jewish state ever to hold the position. Jon Lerner, who served as Haley’s deputy during her ambassadorship, sees the key to her success—regarding both Israel and many other matters—in her refusal to abide by the polite fictions that the institution holds sacred:

Myths are sometimes assets in international relations. The fiction that Taiwan is not an independent country, for example, allows [the U.S.] to sustain [its] relationship with China. In other cases, however, myths can create serious problems. On Israel–Palestinian issues, the Trump administration was determined to test some mythical propositions that many had come to take for granted, and, in some cases, to refute them. Haley’s prominence at the UN arose in large part from a conscious choice to reject myths that had pervaded diplomacy on Israel–Palestinian issues for decades. . . .

[For instance], U.S. presidents were intimidated by the argument that recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital would trigger violent explosions throughout the Muslim world. President Trump and key colleagues doubted this, and they turned out to be right. Violent reaction in the Palestinian territories was limited, and there was virtually none elsewhere in Arab and Islamic countries. . . .

It turns out that the United States can support Israel strongly and still work closely with Arab states to promote common interests like opposing Iranian threats. The Arab street is not narrowly Israel-minded and is not as volatile as long believed. The sky won’t fall if the U.S. stops funding UN sacred cows like the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine (UNRWA). Even if future U.S. administrations revert to the policies of the past, these old assumptions will remain disproved. That is a valuable accomplishment that will last long after Nikki Haley’s UN tenure.

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More about: Donald Trump, Nikki Haley, United Nations, US-Israel relations