On the 21st Anniversary of 9/11, America Remains as Deluded as Ever about Its Enemies

Yesterday, Americans commemorated the 2001 terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington. In the years before those attacks, the U.S. took little note of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, or al-Qaeda’s murderous assaults on the USS Cole and on the American embassies in Tanzania and Nairobi. H.R. McMaster and Bradley Bowman argue that Washington remains in the grip of a “bipartisan habit of self-delusion” about the dangers of al-Qaeda, which has recently restored its base of operations in Taliban-ruled Afghanistan:

The Taliban gave al-Qaeda a safe haven to plan 9/11, and the two groups have remained attached at the hip ever since. Indeed, no less than a United Nations monitoring team reiterated in an April 2021 assessment that “the Taliban and al-Qaeda remain closely aligned and show no indication of breaking ties.” You know there is a problem when a UN entity has a clearer view of the United States’ enemies than the White House.

The Biden administration failed to learn from the last complete withdrawal: from Iraq in 2011 and the subsequent reemergence of al-Qaeda there, soon to morph into Islamic State. By the summer of 2014, Islamic State had gained control of territory in Iraq and adjoining Syria roughly the size of Britain and became one of the most destructive and powerful terrorist organizations in history. It turns out that threats don’t subside when one simply ignores realities on the ground, decides to stop fighting, and returns home. In fact, they usually get worse.

The United States and its partners in the region have now deprived Islamic State of its so-called caliphate in Iraq and Syria because a small number of U.S. troops were kept there to support others bearing the brunt of the fighting. The Taliban-al-Qaeda terror syndicate now has an emirate because the United States failed to do the same in Afghanistan.

So why does this all matter today? If the United States fails to keep pressure on terrorist groups like al-Qaeda, it should expect more attacks on its homeland. But more than that, if Americans don’t demand an end to self-delusion in Washington regarding the nature and objectives of the country’s adversaries and what is necessary to secure its national interests, they should expect more self-defeat when confronting other adversaries—such as Beijing, Moscow, Pyongyang, and Tehran.

Read more at Foreign Policy

More about: Afghanistan, Al Qaeda, U.S. Foreign policy, War on Terror

 

Why Egypt Fears an Israeli Victory in Gaza

While the current Egyptian president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, has never been friendly to Hamas, his government has objected strenuously to the Israeli campaign in the southernmost part of the Gaza Strip. Haisam Hassanein explains why:

Cairo has long been playing a double game, holding Hamas terrorists near while simultaneously trying to appear helpful to the United States and Israel. Israel taking control of Rafah threatens Egypt’s ability to exploit the chaos in Gaza, both to generate profits for regime insiders and so Cairo can pose as an indispensable mediator and preserve access to U.S. money and arms.

Egyptian security officials have looked the other way while Hamas and other Palestinian militants dug tunnels on the Egyptian-Gaza border. That gave Cairo the ability to use the situation in Gaza as a tool for regional influence and to ensure Egypt’s role in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict would not be eclipsed by regional competitors such as Qatar and Turkey.

Some elements close to the Sisi regime have benefited from Hamas control over Gaza and the Rafah crossing. Media reports indicate an Egyptian company run by one of Sisi’s close allies is making hundreds of millions of dollars by taxing Gazans fleeing the current conflict.

Moreover, writes Judith Miller, the Gaza war has been a godsend to the entire Egyptian economy, which was in dire straits last fall. Since October 7, the International Monetary Fund has given the country a much-needed injection of cash, since the U.S. and other Western countries believe it is a necessary intermediary and stabilizing force. Cairo therefore sees the continuation of the war, rather than an Israeli victory, as most desirable. Hassanein concludes:

Adding to its financial incentive, the Sisi regime views the Rafah crossing as a crucial card in preserving Cairo’s regional standing. Holding it increases Egypt’s relevance to countries that want to send aid to the Palestinians and ensures Washington stays quiet about Egypt’s gross human-rights violations so it can maintain a stable flow of U.S. assistance and weaponry. . . . No serious effort to turn the page on Hamas will yield the desired results without cutting this umbilical cord between the Sisi regime and Hamas.

Read more at Washington Examiner

More about: Egypt, Gaza War 2023, U.S. Foreign policy