Afghanistan: Joe Biden sent warning by Ari Fleischer
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President Biden is facing criticism from all corners after he withdrew troops from Afghanistan last month, allowing the Taliban to reclaim control of the country for the first time since 2001. Former Prime Minister, Tony Blair, is the latest to condemn the move as he warned that enemies in Afghanistan will be “emboldened”. He added: “For me, one of the most alarming developments of recent times, has been the sense that the West lacks the capacity to formulate strategy. That its short term political imperatives have simply squeezed the space for long term thinking.
“It is this sense more than anything else, in my judgement, which gives our allies anxiety and our opponents a belief our time is over.”
On The Guardian’s Politics Weekly podcast, host Jonathan Freedland spoke with Thomas Kean, who co-wrote the 9/11 commission report which detailed who was to blame for the attack.
He gave his verdict on the US’ withdrawal from Afghanistan, saying it was “tragic in every sense of the word” but added that the country has had “reason to withdraw” long before this moment.
However, Mr Kean also warned that the US may be forced to return to the country if it becomes a base for terror attacks on the West under the rule of the Taliban.
He said: “We sent troops in the first time because Afghanistan had allowed a terrorist group to use Afghanistan as a base for planning a devastating attack on our homeland.
“Now, if Afghanistan continues to be a mess, that’s the kind of place that attracts terrorists.
“And if we find once again that terrorists are using Afghanistan as a staging place to attack the homeland, we are going to have to send troops back in, without a question.”
Mr Kean isn’t the first figure to warn of such an eventuality, as the US’ former Defence Secretary, Leon Panetta, said last week that troops will have to go back.
He told CNN: “We’re going to have to go back in to get ISIS.
“We’re probably going to have to go back in when al Qaeda resurrects itself, as they will, with this Taliban.
“They gave safe haven to al Qaeda before, they’ll probably do it again.
“I understand that we’re trying to get our troops out of there, but the bottom line is, we can leave a battlefield, but we can’t leave the war on terrorism, which still is a threat to our security.”
His comments came following a devastating terror attack at Kabul Airport, carried out by ISIS-K.
The suicide bombing killed at least 182 people, including 169 Afghan civilians and 13 members of the US military.
Also known as ISIS Khorasan, the group is an Afghan offshoot of the ISIS terror group.
Raffaello Pantucci, senior fellow at the International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore, told NBC last month that the attack was designed to undermine the West as well as the Taliban.
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He said: “This attack will look bad to the West, but it makes the Taliban look as if they are not in control of their own environment. It undermines the idea that they rule this place.”
Me Pantucci added that ISIS-K “has been around since 2014 and it came about when ISIS was at its apex.”
He continued: “It has struggled in some ways to make a real presence for itself on the battlefield”.
The expert also explained that the Taliban are “fundamentally a Pashtun nationalist movement that is really focused on Afghanistan”, meaning “a lot of the people (ISIS-K) tried to attract were people who had fallen out with the Taliban, so that was their way in.”
The Taliban has nevertheless seized control of much of Afghanistan, boasting earlier this week that it had taken the last remaining province free of its rule.
The Islamist group claimed it had taken control of Panjshir Valley in north-central Afghanistan, with Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid saying: “With this victory, our country is completely taken out of the quagmire of war.”
But the National Resistance Front of Afghanistan challenged this claim, denying that the region has fallen.
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