In Afghanistan, America Exchanges Victory for Defeat

Over the weekend, the Taliban seized Kabul as remaining Americans scrambled to get out of the country. David French, writing before the fall of Kabul, but after the Taliban offensive had already overwhelmed much of Afghanistan, comments:

With minimal exertion of military force (relative to our immense national strength), we could have prevented—and for a long while did prevent—this collapse. In fact, America hasn’t suffered a combat casualty in Afghanistan since February 8, 2020. Our military footprint was a fraction of the footprint at the height of the Afghan surge. The Taliban were never going to defeat even a small American force so long as that force remained in the nation.

Sadly, the failure of the nation-building mission obscures the Afghan war’s central success, the very success that we put at risk with our headlong withdrawal—the defense of the United States of America from terrorist attack. I’ve written this before, and I’ll keep writing it, but if you told Americans on September 12, 2001 that we were about to embark on a military mission that would help keep America safe from a significant terror attack for twenty consecutive years, they would have been astounded. It would have been tough for them to imagine that level of success.

Yet the failure of the secondary nation-building mission is causing us to risk, unacceptably, the successes of the primary self-defense mission of the American military. We are in the process of handing the Taliban back its territory and granting jihadists a safe haven. And we’re doing that when we know beyond a shadow of a doubt that terrorists can hit our cities even when their safe havens are located in backwards, tribal societies on the far side of the world.

Because of the lesser failure, we’re throwing away the greater victory. I pray that our nation does not suffer a deadly consequence.

Read more at Dispatch

More about: Afghanistan, Taliban, U.S. Foreign policy


The Possible Death of Mohammad Deif, and What It Means

On Saturday, Israeli jets destroyed a building in southern Gaza, killing a Hamas brigade commander named Rafa Salameh. Salameh is one of the most important figures in the Hamas hierarchy, but he was not the primary target. Rather it was Mohammad Deif, who is Yahya Sinwar’s number-two and is thought to be the architect and planner of numerous terrorist attacks, of Hamas’s tunnel network, and of the October 7 invasion itself. Deif has survived at least five Israeli attempts on his life, and the IDF has consequently been especially reluctant to confirm that he had been killed. Yet it seems that it is possible, and perhaps likely, that he was.

Kobi Michael notes that Deif’s demise would have major symbolic value and, moreover, deprive Hamas of important operational know-how. But he also has some words of caution:

The elimination of Deif becomes even more significant given the current reality of severe damage to Hamas’s military wing and its transition to terrorism and guerrilla warfare. However, it is important to remember that organizations such as Hamas and Hizballah are more than the sum of their components or commanders. Israel has previously eliminated the leaders of these organizations and other very senior military figures, and yet the organizations continued to grow, develop, and become more significant security threats to Israel, while establishing their status as political players in the Palestinian and Lebanese arenas.

As for the possibility that Deif’s death will harden Hamas’s position in the hostage negotiations, Tamir Hayman writes:

In my opinion, even if there is a bump in the road now, it is not a strategic one. The reasons that Hamas decided to compromise its demands in the [hostage] deal stem from the operational pressure it is under [and] the fear that the pressure exerted by the IDF will increase.

Read more at Institute for National Security Studies

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas