Arnon Grunberg



On belated realizations – Zvi Bar’el in Haaretz:

‘All this adds up to a serious indictment against Biden, but the U.S. president came on the scene in the final stretch of a 20-year war with previous administrations misleading themselves and the world – but not the Afghans – into thinking that the system was working.
There was the establishment of an interim Afghan government in 2001 with Taliban sympathizer Hamid Karzai at the helm, the spending of billions without supervision, the recruitment and training of an Afghan army that was no match for the Taliban and let the group sweep through one district after another even before the U.S. withdrawal. And there was the belated realization that the Taliban were the real rulers of the country, confronting the Biden administration with an impossible situation.’


‘The answer lies in Donald Trump's urgency to quickly exit such a deadly arena – so much so that he basically abandoned the legal Afghan regime. This isn’t the only paradox in the agreement, which utterly collapsed. A main provision stipulated that the Taliban and any Afghan regime established after the U.S. withdrawal wouldn't allow attacks on American targets or let terrorist groups operate from the country.
Even the American intelligence community knew that this ambitious goal wasn’t sustainable, because defining terrorist groups – particularly in Afghanistan – requires its own special dictionary.’


‘Also, the Taliban's ideological goals aren't necessarily cohesive. Areas of control are governed autonomously by governors who appointed themselves or were chosen by a Taliban general council, and each has created an independent system of funding. Some enjoy assistance from Saudi Arabia and Pakistan while others get funding from Iran. And still others have received Russian or Chinese support.
The Taliban leaders have presented themselves as the rulers of the country, and their signature on last year’s agreement with the United States conferred a legitimacy that they never had before. This legitimacy grew particularly after European leaders and senior U.S. officials declared recently that they had no choice but to talk to the Taliban after they took power.’


‘Thursday’s terrorist attack at the Kabul airport forced the Taliban to face an old-new front with full force and visibility, a front it had been dealing with for more than six years. The Afghan branch of the Islamic State, which is known as ISIS Khorasan, or ISIS-K, was founded in 2014 when representatives of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the Islamic State leader killed by the Americans in 2019, began recruiting supporters in Afghanistan.
These feelers came as a dispute within the Taliban over cooperation with Pakistan led to the departure of a Taliban faction that swore allegiance to the Islamic State. Initially this was a modest-sized group of about 2,000 to 3,000 fighters, most of whose attacks were against the Shi’ite Hazara minority in western Afghanistan.’


‘In the past two years, after a period of relatively limited activity, the Islamic State's Afghan branch stepped up its operations with about 350 terrorist attacks in 2019. Last year, after the U.S.-Taliban agreement had been signed, it shifted to higher-profile attacks including a bombing at a school that killed around 100 people, most of them children. ISIS-K also attacked the university in Kabul, the maternity ward of a hospital in the city, and the municipal jail.
According to a UN report in June, the number of Islamic State fighters had soared to between 8,000 and 10,000 men, most of them from Central Asia, the northern Caucasus and China’s Xinjiang region on the same recruitment model that was employed in Syria and Iraq. The main threat now is that the Islamic State could recruit thousands or even tens of thousands of volunteers for a war in Afghanistan and build a state to replace the one it lost in Iraq and Syria – even if it remains active in those two countries.’


‘The fight between the two organizations, in which the Taliban and even Al-Qaida would look like the good guys compared to the Islamic State, could give ISIS the boost it needs following its defeat in Iraq and Syria. It could also revive its branches in Muslim countries and the West. No less important would be the expected consequences of such a battle on neighboring countries such as Pakistan, India and Iran, and on an outer circle of Muslim countries such as Syria, and on the Caucasus.
According to the domino effect of the past, the fall of one country into the orbit of either the United States or the Soviet Union could lead to the fall of a number of other countries. But in this formula, the world powers have been replaced by organizations.
In fact, the U.S. military withdrawal from Afghanistan and soon from Iraq is perceived as bolstering the isolationist policy that will release the Americans from regional conflicts. But any such release will be with the knowledge that they could be back.’

Read the article here.

Karzai, as a reluctant Taliban supporter. Yes, absolutely, and as the former mayor of Kabul.

And indeed, the Taliban are less homogenous than you might think when you hear about them on your local radio station.

The US will be back, yes, from the air, as earlier today, but once again it’s important to distinguish between counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism. See here.

With drones and Pegasus (see here) you don’t need boots on the grounds. What’s more, boots on the ground have turned out to be highly ineffective in these kinds of wars.

What the bombing of ISIS-K targets proves is that Obama’s policy of extrajudicial killings by drone will be continued. If you object to the words ‘extrajudicial killings’ we can call it ‘preemptive and less preemptive strikes’. And I don’t necessarily object to today's bombings of ISIS-K targets, it might help a bit, but it is not a solution either. Just take a look at Gaza.

One last thing: the desire to evacuate all Afghans who had worked for westerns organizations (news organizations, embassies, armies) is morally justified and necessary. My assumption is that many of these people worked for Western organizations in the hope to get out.
But I cannot help but think of this sentence by Hannah Arendt in ‘Eichmann in Jerusalem’: ‘According to Himmler, there were “eighty million good Germans, each of whom has his decent Jew. It is clear, the other are pigs, but this particular Jew is first-rate.”' (Arendt’s source is Hilberg.)
Yes, the Afghans who didn’t work for us are ‘pigs’.