Afghan disaster likely to “open the flood gates” of Jihadist terror – US expert Michael Rubin

August 27, 2021 by J-Wire Newsdesk
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With Afghanistan falling to the Taliban, the latest Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC) webinar featured resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and former Pentagon official Michael Rubin  – addressing the “Implications of the Afghanistan disaster”.

Michael Rubin

Rubin described it as a “bipartisan disaster” resulting from mistakes by the Trump and Biden Administrations. He denied it was inevitable the US had to leave, noting that in the last five years, fewer Americans were killed in Afghanistan than in car accidents in Bethesda, Maryland, while the financial cost was little more than for ongoing US deployments in South Korea, Germany or Japan.

He explained, “What we had very much was just an amplifying presence of our troops, which formed the backbone and enabled the Afghan military to do what needed to be done to hold the Taliban at bay. And they had done so remarkably well.”

He said the more than 68,000 Afghan troops killed fighting the Taliban disproved Joe Biden’s comment they didn’t have the will to fight. The US provided air cover, intelligence and logistics, but then, when the Afghans were trained to work with that support, cut it off, effectively knee-capping the Afghans on its way out.

Pakistan continued to provide the Taliban similar support, with its military intelligence organisation, the ISI, having embraced fundamentalist Islam as a means to unite Pakistan’s various ethnicities.

He explained the US didn’t create the Taliban, as is sometimes claimed. When Afghan groups were resisting the Soviet occupation, it was Pakistan’s job to distribute the US weapons, and it only armed radicals. The Taliban started in 1994 as a radical vigilante movement and was co-opted by the ISI. The Taliban are to Pakistan what Hezbollah is to Iran – you don’t have one without the other. The Taliban are very unpopular inside Afghanistan, he noted.

He said it is unclear whether they can hold the country. Others within Afghanistan are attacking them, such as First Vice President Amrullah Saleh, who is with Ahmed Massoud, son of legendary anti-Taliban fighter Ahmed Shah Massoud, in the Panjshir Valley, which the Taliban don’t control. Surrounding countries may also activate warlords they support.

Biden, he said, had empowered Islamists, and using the 20th anniversary of 9/11 as a deadline was “stupid beyond belief”. The Pakistanis are justifiably crowing, but Rubin warned that when countries export radicalism to advance foreign policy, it blows back on them. This is especially dangerous with Pakistan – given its nuclear weapons.

He noted how Ronald Reagan’s leaving of Lebanon after US forces were bombed inspired Muhammad Aidid to attack US forces in Somalia, and inspired Osama bin Laden, so now it is open season on the US for countries like Russia, China, Pakistan, Turkey and Venezuela.

Rubin is also concerned about the US normalisation of betrayal, with Trump having betrayed the Syrian Kurds. Each betrayal lowers the stigma in Washington and makes it harder for others to trust the US and for the US to get help from local forces.


Biden claims Trump’s agreements with the Taliban bound him, but Rubin notes Biden broke other Trump deals, so this claim is simply buck-passing.

The withdrawal, he said, should at least have waited for winter, when fighting ceases and the passes from Pakistan become impassable, to give the Afghan Government a chance to prepare. The US should also not have left Bagram airbase until after the evacuations.

There are still 10,000 Americans in Afghanistan, Rubin noted, and with the White House saying they may not all get out, some may become hostages the Taliban can use to get funds unfrozen and humiliate the US.

He said that once the bus has been driven off the cliff, it’s too late for a Plan B, but added the US should show moral clarity and not recognise the Taliban. He also questions why Pakistan is a major US ally when the ISI openly admits playing both sides and making billions doing it. The US should sanction Pakistan, and Turkey, as state sponsors of terrorism.

He’s not concerned this will drive them towards US enemies because their economies are not particularly strong, and Pakistan has responded to US support by working to kill Americans. The US should at least give India a qualitative military edge over Pakistan, and do much more to strengthen India. Pakistan is in so much debt to China it’s effectively a vassal, the Taliban is effectively a vassal of Pakistan, and China wants to use Afghanistan to block Western access to central Asia.

When the US is heading towards isolationism, he said, its closest allies, including Australia, should give it a strong pep talk, publicly and privately.

Rubin also said it would be foolish to believe Taliban PR claims they have moderated. In 1996, when they invaded Kabul, they castrated and hanged the President even while saying they wanted dialogue, and are now going to the homes of Afghan Special Forces soldiers, raping children and killing the soldiers.

He says the situation shows that Israel shouldn’t trust Biden – no country should predicate its security on the word of the US – but Israel is strong enough not to need to. Rubin also thinks Taiwan is no longer safe without nuclear weapons, with China saying the US won’t defend it.

Iran, he said, didn’t want the Taliban or the US to win – just to keep fighting each other. He speaks to Iranian diplomats and suspects Teheran will try to use local warlords to create a buffer on its border in western Afghanistan around Herat, which is culturally and economically oriented to Iran.

He questions who will fill the vacuum in the Middle East as the US progressively withdraws. Countries there, including the UAE and Kuwait, will likely start making accommodations with others such as Iran.

Rubin said he is concerned about Biden’s lack of understanding about how badly Afghanistan was handled, as demonstrated by Biden saying it would have been the same result whenever the US left, will see him making the same mistakes with Iraq.

Rubin noted that when he was in southern Lebanon, everyone was complaining Hezbollah betrayed them because it wasn’t making promised payments. This was due to pressure on Iran. Iran’s militias in Iraq now finance Iran, rather than the other way around, through businesses they run. A US pull-out from Iraq would strengthen the militias, empowering Iran and its proxies.

The Biden Administration, he says, is desperate to re-join the JCPOA nuclear deal, but he doubts anything it offers will be enough to appease Iran, which may figure it no longer needs the deal.

Biden, he says, is now seemingly trying to undermine the Abraham Accords, because they came from Trump, and he maintains the belief peace must go through the Palestinians. However, concern in Arab countries about US weakness could make the Accords more attractive to some.

As to why the Afghan forces collapsed so quickly, he said they lost their US patron, while the Taliban kept theirs – Pakistan. These patrons provide logistics, medical evacuations, air support and intelligence. In Afghanistan, armies fight when they feel they have momentum, so the Afghan armed forces chose not to once they saw which way the wind had shifted. For the last year, the Taliban had been cutting deals with Afghan military commanders and local political chiefs, undetected by US intelligence.

However, he added, the Taliban can also fall quickly if another state supports a different powerbroker, such as Massoud.

He said it is essential that organisations speak out with moral clarity so their countries try to keep Washington’s feet to the fire. The US tends to be insular, he concluded, “but when it comes to terrorism, I’m afraid we’ve just opened the flood gates. We have shown that jihadism works. We’ve shown that allying with the United States can be a lethal mistake. We’ve encouraged not only great powers but lesser powers, to take potshots at the United States and perhaps its allies… We need to be much more robust in our defence. We need to stop the moral equivalency which so blights our reactions in the United States and elsewhere. I mean the stakes have never been higher [than] right now. I can’t underline just how great a disaster strategically and morally this is and how we can’t even imagine the ramifications that are going to emerge.”



One Response to “Afghan disaster likely to “open the flood gates” of Jihadist terror – US expert Michael Rubin”
  1. Adrian Jackson says:

    I think the first priority of the new government in Afghanistan will be to consolidate there position rather that holy war elsewhere.

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