Afghanistan Has Become What It Was Before 9/11: A Terrorist Haven and Staging Area

AP Photo, File

Leaks of classified Pentagon reports found on the Discord messaging platform show the disheartening analysis by U.S. intelligence that just two years after the withdrawal of the American military from Afghanistan, terrorists are once again using that country to plan and stage attacks against Western targets.

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“ISIS has been developing a cost-effective model for external operations that relies on resources from outside Afghanistan, operatives in target countries, and extensive facilitation networks,” says the assessment, which is labeled top-secret and bears the logos of several Defense Department organizations. “The model will likely enable ISIS to overcome obstacles — such as competent security services — and reduce some plot timelines, minimizing disruption opportunities.”

Related: Now We Find Out That Joe Brought Bomb Emplacers on DoD Watchlist Over From Afghanistan

The leaked documents were examined and analyzed by the Washington Post.

The Post revealed “specific efforts to target embassies, churches, business centers and the FIFA World Cup soccer tournament” held in Qatar last fall. “Pentagon officials were aware in December of nine such plots coordinated by ISIS leaders in Afghanistan, and the number rose to 15 by February.” according to reports in the outlet.

But Afghanistan is only the tip of the iceberg. And we have to wonder if Joe Biden’s administration is asleep at the wheel and isn’t taking these threats seriously.

The Afghanistan findings are one facet of a complex and evolving terrorist threat described in the leaked documents, now linked to a criminal case in which a member of the Massachusetts Air National Guard is accused of sharing classified information with friends online. Other reports in the same documents trove reveal persistent efforts by the Islamic State in other parts of the world to obtain expertise for creating chemical weapons and operating drone aircraft, and a plot in which the group’s supporters would kidnap Iraqi diplomats in Belgium or France in a bid to secure the release of 4,000 imprisoned militants.

The documents will almost certainly be used as a political cudgel by congressional Republicans and others still seething about the Biden administration’s chaotic management of the U.S. exit from Afghanistan in August 2021.

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Republicans may use the information as a “cudgel” but it will be a righteous cudgel. Obviously, Biden did not receive the kind of criticism he deserved for his wildly confusing and precipitous skedaddle from Afghanistan. His panicked actions allowed $7 billion — at least — of modern U.S. military equipment to fall into the hands of a terrorist state.

Yes, we had to leave. But there’s leaving and then there’s running away. By running away, Biden set in motion a chain of events that could lead to more mass casualty attacks on the United States — attacks that are avoidable and unnecessary.

“ISIS-K has enjoyed safe haven in Afghanistan since the administration withdrew 20 months ago,” said Nathan Sales, the State Department’s coordinator for counterterrorism during the Trump administration. While its campaigns have mostly targeted Afghans, the group “has the ambition to attack American interests in the region and, ultimately, the U.S. homeland itself,” said Sales. He called for the urgent formulation of a plan to attack the group’s leadership and infrastructure.

Too bad Biden didn’t think about that before leaving.

The fact is, we could have left Afghanistan with a lot more organization and forethought. It may have necessitated redeploying troops to protect key assets like the Bagram air force base. It may have involved attacking Taliban positions to prevent the kind of panicky retreat we saw from Afghan soldiers. But after nearly 20 years of war, what would have been the problem if we stayed a few more months?

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