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U.S. Army Soldiers assigned to the 10th Mountain Division stand security at Hamid Karzai International Airport, Kabul, Afghanistan, August 15.

The Afghan Debacle: Causes, Consequences, and Ways Ahead

Dr. John Arquilla, Distinguished Professor Emeritus, US Naval Postgraduate School


Article by Dr. John Arquilla, Distinguished Professor Emeritus, US Naval Postgraduate School [1]

In testimony before the US Senate Armed Services Committee, just one month after the fall of Kabul in August 2021, General Mark Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, described Afghanistan as a “strategic defeat” for the United States.[2] Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin added, “the Afghan army we and our partners trained simply melted away—in many cases without firing a shot.”[3] Republican committee members criticized President Joseph Biden’s decision to remove US forces as causing the disaster, but Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren countered, “Anyone who says the last few months were a failure, but everything before that was great, clearly hasn’t been paying attention,” implying that, over the course of the 20-year campaign against the Taliban and al Qaeda, errors in strategy preceded the “strategic defeat.” [4] President Biden missed this point months earlier when he justified the withdrawal, saying, “We cannot continue the cycle of extending or expanding our military presence in Afghanistan . . . and expecting a different result.” [5] He made no mention of a change in strategy, seeing only a repetitious “cycle.” What followed the withdrawal did suggest a pattern similar to what happened in Iraq in 2014, when the army built and trained by the United States collapsed. As a recent RAND study observed, when ISIS attacked, “the Iraqi Army imploded, breaking and scattering in the face of attacks from Islamic State fighters.”[6]
The failure to adjust strategy against Taliban insurgents, who had shifted their approach a decade before Kabul fell to them, was the proximate cause of the strategic defeat suffered by the United States, its allies, and the friendly Afghan regime that had been established. What was the flawed anti-Taliban strategy that had been failing for years? Basically, it was a centralization effort focused on the idea of building an Afghanistan that looked like most modern nation-states. But this effort was being undertaken in a land with little evidence that the currents of its people’s culture and history could be rerouted to support such an endeavor. In fact, the historical record, which shows that long periods of greatly decentralized governance were the norm, suggests quite the opposite. Late in the 19th century, as anthropologist Thomas Barfield noted, when Amir Abdur Rahman “abandoned this traditional model of governance for a more exclusive and centralized state . . . the Afghan people, particularly in rural areas . . . saw state interference in their affairs as illegitimate.” [7] Resistance to centralization succeeded in toppling modern-style Afghan governments on two occasions in the 20th century, with the only stable period being the forty-year reign of Zahir Shah (1933-1973), who was wise enough to cast only a faint shadow of central governance over Afghanistan’s rural provinces. Needless to say, the Russian “centralization project” failed, too—in just a single decade (1979-1989).[8]
In this same way, the Taliban pushed against the US-led nation-building effort by tapping into traditional Afghan resentment of centralized governance. The all-too-common problem of official corruption only played into the Taliban’s hands, allowing them to create shadow governance capabilities beginning in the late 2000s, first in provinces where the Taliban were strongest, and expanding outward over the following decade. [9] Soon, rural people began taking their property and other disputes to Taliban judges for adjudication rather than to Kabul-appointed court officials. As to state education initiatives, the Taliban elected not to attack schools because Afghans understandably detested such attacks, and instead pursued a policy that, as one key study noted, both “coopted and heavily regulated” curricula in ways accepted by Afghans in general as “religiously correct.”[10] Even rural health services, provided by both the government and NGOs, were subject to Taliban efforts “to regulate and coopt.”[11]
Militarily, the Taliban had clearly learned to avoid the kind of stand-up fight that had cost them so dearly when they fell from power in 2001. Instead, they took a page—actually quite a few—from Mao Zedong's On Guerrilla Warfare, which emphasizes hit-and-run tactics. [12] The willingness of Pakistan to allow, or perhaps Islamabad’s inability to deny, haven to Taliban fighters allowed the insurgents to recover, regroup, and engage in as much or as little action as they thought prudent at any given time. The key was for their soldiers to remain hidden as much as possible, fight from ambush, and absorb their occasional tactical defeats while limiting the damage they incurred.

Taliban strategy, a skillful mix of shadow governance and irregular military operations, kept the insurgents primed for the moment when the Americans and their allies would grow tired enough of the interminable conflict to give up on it. It was their good fortune that the United States never adjusted its strategy much, but doggedly adhered to centralized governance and a counterinsurgent concept heavy on “direct action” by relatively large ground forces (for many years of this long war) and air power rather than small-team unconventional warfare operations focused on working “by, with, and through” local tribes.[13] Fear of local warlordism and a misplaced faith in “Afghanization” via a coalition-created national army put an early end to promising initiatives like Village Stability Operations, which put small Special Forces A-teams in rural villages to live among and train the local Afghans in self-defense, and fight alongside them. [14] As to the failure of the central government (official corruption aside; by the end of the first decade of the war, the UN ranked Afghanistan near the top of its list of corrupt regimes, just below Somalia), as Hy Rothstein and I also observed back then, “extending the reach of the central government is viewed by most Afghans as an attempt to reshape their society in a way they do not want.” [15] The path to a strategic defeat was thus well-paved from early on in the conflict. The fallout from this defeat has been most serious, for both the Afghan people and American interests.

Consequences of the Collapse of US Efforts in Afghanistan         

There are three major categories of consequences that have arisen out of the defeat of the American effort in Afghanistan: 1) the suffering of the Afghan people; 2) fresh opportunities for terrorist networks to rebuild and plot; and 3) reputational harm to the American image in the world. The first of these consists of both material and moral tragedies. Today, nearly forty million Afghans live in a land broken by the effects of over forty years of continual warfare, starting with the Russian invasion in 1979. Because of the increasingly harsh policies of the Taliban, especially the growing constraints on women’s lives, chances of establishing steady flows of external aid remain low. Reversals to the progress that had been made in women’s rights are well known and reported widely; less is known about the continuing presence of al-Qaeda. The Taliban’s tolerance of the presence of al-Qaeda operatives within Afghanistan, in violation of the Doha Agreement reached with the Trump administration in 2020, provides yet more reason to steer clear of any kind of normalization of relations with the new Kabul regime. The killing of its leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, in 2022, with two US Hellfire missiles fired into his downtown Kabul home—a domicile owned by an aide to senior Taliban member Sirajuddin Haqqani—though celebrated as a counterterrorism triumph, did little to impede the rebuilding of the al-Qaeda network.[16]
This continuing partnership has led to the second, potentially dire, consequence of the precipitate American abandonment of Afghanistan: a new “greening” of terrorism. In several Global-ECCO-sponsored talks with leaders of the Afghan National Resistance Front (NRF) since the fall of Kabul, I was told by Commander Ahmad Massoud and his head of foreign relations, Ali Nazary, of the role al-Qaeda fighters played in overrunning Afghanistan in 2021 and in subsequent operations against the NRF. As a 2022 UN report concludes, “The relationship between the Taliban and Al-Qaeda remains close . . .Member State assessments thus far suggest that Al-Qaeda has a safe haven under the Taliban and increased freedom of action.” [17] This freedom of action includes the commission of brutal acts against the innocent population of the Panjshir Valley, home to the NRF, and executions of captured Resistance fighters. It is important to recognize that these atrocities are being committed by teams of al-Qaeda and Taliban; the latter are direct participants in terrorism and torture. In the clipped language of Human Rights Watch, “In Panjshir province, the Taliban carried out search operations targeting communities they alleged were supporting the armed opposition group National Resistance Front (NRF), detaining and torturing local residents. Authorities also imposed collective punishment and disregarded protections to which detainees are entitled.” [18]

There is no amount of rationalizing that can avoid the conclusion that the Taliban are terrorists at home and give al-Qaeda a base from which to plot terror abroad. Thus, after a twenty-year US military intervention that cost over a trillion dollars and many tens of thousands of lives, Afghanistan returned to oppressive Taliban rule and became, once again, a geopolitical nightmare-state now providing an even more secure haven for transnational terrorists than before 2001. The outcome of this Afghan war should prompt deep introspection about not only the specific strategies employed in US military interventions, but also about the American belief that the currents of culture and history in other nations can be rerouted by armed force.    
That the United States averts its gaze from these Taliban and al-Qaeda crimes against humanity touches upon the third consequence of the American withdrawal from Afghanistan: the reputational fallout from this strategic defeat. What effect does Washington’s willingness to remain inactive in the face of clear violations of the Doha Agreement, adherence to which was cited among the reasons for President Biden’s decision to withdraw from Afghanistan, have on views of the United States and the potential action plans of its adversaries? Beyond holding up aid, the Biden administration has made clear that no significant moves will be undertaken against the Taliban regime. Indeed, with regard to the possibility of providing assistance to the NRF, Al Jazeera reported that representatives of the US State Department and the Deputy Director of the CIA, in a meeting in Doha with a Taliban team in October 2022, gave assurances “that Washington will not fund any armed groups or non-state actors in the country.” [19] Two months later, despite great frustration with Taliban behavior, which prompted a direct meeting with the NRF, a State Department official reaffirmed that “The United States does not support violent opposition in Afghanistan.” The official went on to “call on all sides to exercise restraint and to engage in dialogue.” [20] Music to Taliban ears.  
Does American passivity toward Taliban cruelty and the regrowth of al-Qaeda affect how the US is viewed by observers abroad? One concern is that adversaries will be emboldened to commit acts of aggression with confidence that the American reaction will be limited, at best. Indeed, the Russian invasion of Ukraine six months after the fall of Kabul may be suggestive of a declining US reputation. Despite much American diplomatic effort to dissuade Vladimir Putin, he attacked Ukraine anyway. Likely he understood that economic pressure would be brought on Russia, but he was clearly confident there would be no US military intervention. To be sure, the Russians had a long-simmering resentment of NATO expansion eastward, and particular concern about Ukraine aligning more closely with the West. But the debacle of the American withdrawal from Afghanistan may well have contributed to Putin’s choice of timing, and his belief that any  US reaction would be limited.  

A scenic view of the Panjshayr River Valley, May 21, 2011, taken from the vantage point of Ahmad Shah Massoud's Tomb. Massoud was a Kabul University engineering student turned military leader who played a leading role in driving the Soviet army out of Afghanistan, earning him the name "Lion of Panjshayr." His followers call him Amir Sahib-e Shahid which means our beloved martyred commander. Massoud was assassinated in Takhar province two days prior to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States. Photo by Master Sergeant Michael O’Connor, US Air Force.

A month after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, a poll overseen by the University of Maryland also revealed that “large bipartisan majorities” of Americans—nearly 70% of those polled—opposed US military involvement in the war. And while 80% at that time supported sending weapons to Ukraine, that number fell to 45% by August 2023. [21] Thus, President Biden is likely to find himself constrained when it comes to continuing aid to Ukraine, especially given that 90% of the public in the Maryland poll expressed fear about escalation to direct war with Russia. This tracks with the growing American preference for a non-interventionist foreign policy, with the latest polling showing less than 20% favor “engagement” with the world. [22] Thus, Putin may feel time is on his side, especially when he observes the increasing difficulties the White House faces when requesting additional funding from Congress to support the Ukrainian military effort. 
The foregoing suggests that there may be a subtle interplay between US public opinion about the American role in the world and the way that potential aggressors calculate whether they can get away with whatever nefarious plans they have in mind. Writing at the time of the fall of Kabul in August of 2021, journalist and commentator Martin Jacques made the point—admittedly in a pro-Chinese outlet—that 

America is now widely seen as a superpower in rapid decline, a pale shadow of what it once was. Its defeat in Afghanistan will have major implications across the world. It brings into question the competence of its political and military leadership, its willingness to engage in further military entanglements, and its reliability and commitment as an ally. If it can make such a huge miscalculation and suffer such a catastrophic defeat in Afghanistan, then who is going to trust its judgment in East Asia, or the South China Sea? [23]

Less arch, but still serious, concerns about how the fall of Kabul would affect American standing in the world were noted by journalist Niha Dagia who, drawing from interviews with a range of experts, concluded that “some of Washington’s closest allies . . . are now questioning US credibility as an ally and its capacity to fulfill longstanding security commitments.”[24]

Stalwart US-led efforts to arm and equip Ukrainian forces have provided at least a brief reprieve from the consequences that Jacques and Dagia—and many others—ponder. But the above-noted polling data reflect the waning power of this “Ukraine effect.” Surely the ultimate outcome of the Ukraine war, if ending in anything less than clear victory for Kyiv, will only add to the reputational damage to the United States—and further increase the preference of the American mass public to become ever less involved in global strategic and geopolitical affairs. Surely China’s view of Taiwan will grow more covetous over time, as will the likelihood that Beijing will test American resolve to defend that island nation.
In sum, the consequences of the American defeat in Afghanistan can already be seen as dire—for the Afghan people, for the “re-greening” of terrorist networks, and for the reputation of the United States as a defender of human rights and the sovereignty of independent nations. The issue now is whether there are actions that may be taken toward Afghanistan that could ease the suffering of the Afghan people, stop or at least hinder the rise of new terrorist threats growing there and, in the course of acting on these two problems, repair some of the reputational damage incurred by American defeat there.

Some Policies to Consider

At first blush, it seems there is little to be done regarding the harshness of Taliban rule, as direct US military action against the new Kabul regime is apparently not an option at present. Despite the Taliban’s continuing relationship with al-Qaeda and the growing presence of a local Islamic State affiliate, the Islamic State of Khorasan—a group that poses yet another vexing problem—there has been no observable counterterrorist action taken from “over the horizon” beyond the killing of al Zawahiri.[25] Even the matter of humanitarian food aid is fraught, as withholding it only deepens the people’s suffering, while granting it helps shore up Taliban rule. Thus, there is a clear need for fresh thinking about possible ways ahead that may help to lessen—or even end—Taliban tyranny and prevent the resurgence of al-Qaeda and other terrorist organizations.
The situation, despite its overarching bleakness, is not without opportunities for remedy, even within existing constraints on US policy. The Taliban have now mounted their own attempt to centralize rule over Afghanistan, a move that, as noted above, runs against the historical and cultural preferences of the Afghan people. A good strategy, then, would be to nurture provincial resistance to this new attempt at centralized control. During the Taliban’s previous period in power, 1996-2001, the Northern Alliance provided much of the basis for armed resistance. Today, it’s the National Resistance Front that provides the principal opposition to the Taliban.  

In two important ways, the NRF has evolved from the earlier incarnation of resistance to Taliban rule. First, it seeks to form a true Afghan social resistance network reaching out across the country’s many ethnicities, including to the many Pashtuns who are increasingly uncomfortable with Taliban excesses. This makes the NRF potentially far broader-based than the old Northern Alliance, allowing for the rise of an insurgent movement capable of operating everywhere, not simply in the northeast, to which the old Northern Alliance had been largely limited.  

Second, the NRF has a vision of decentralized governance, championed by Commander Ahmad Massoud, that respects cultural differences and empowers the people at the provincial level. This concept falls under the rubric of decentralized governance that would look a lot like Switzerland’s cantonal, direct democratic governance structure. Massoud was very clear about this plan when we spoke of his future goals in 2023.  

While he and the NRF have a clear vision for Afghanistan in mind, they have for now little means to achieve it, other than to continue their insurgency and hope to spread it. As noted above, the United States is currently unwilling to give material military aid to the NRF, and has assured Taliban leaders that Washington would not do so. But if there is to be any hope for improvement in Afghanistan, this “hands off” approach to the Resistance will need to change.  Perhaps a first step could be to provide the NRF with intelligence about impending Taliban military moves—a step short of arming enemies of the Kabul regime, but one that would allow insurgents to avoid being struck in sweeps and raids. This might also extend to providing information enabling the NRF to mount attacks of its own.  

Another useful step would be for this kind of intelligence-sharing to work in both directions. That is, when the NRF has information about where al-Qaeda, and other foreign fighters who fall in the category of terrorists, are operating, this could be shared with US elements capable of striking at them. Al-Qaeda’s presence in Afghanistan was not ended with the killing of Ayman al-Zawahiri; many more of its operatives can and should be targeted. American over-the-horizon capabilities could thus be greatly enhanced with intelligence coming from the NRF. Because the Taliban clearly harbors terrorists in violation of the Doha Agreement, the United States may justifiably act in its own defense based on Kabul’s abrogation of the pact that led directly to American withdrawal from Afghanistan. 

That said, there are other ways in which the Taliban has violated the terms of the Doha Agreement. Beyond hosting terrorists, the clear intent of the mutually agreed pact was that the Taliban would negotiate with other vital Afghan actors, starting with the Kabul government. This was violated from the very outset, as the Taliban mounted a country-wide offensive as soon as it learned that US forces would not stand in its way. On top of hosting terrorists and dismissing intra-Afghan negotiations, the Taliban also trampled civil, and even human, rights in another violation of the Agreement that grows worse every day, and not only for Afghan women.  

Commander Ahmad Massoud, son of Ahmad Shah Massoud, in Kabul. Photo by Yaqoobi, 12 January 2023.

All these violations should provide sufficient justification for taking steps beyond those outlined above. President Biden made clear that his decision to leave Afghanistan was dictated by the Doha terms, but since the Taliban violate those terms with impunity, he should not feel confined to inaction. And while the above-listed recommendations allow for some initiatives to be pursued, short of any more direct action, the Taliban violations should make it quite possible for Washington to begin arming the NRF. Even the tiniest fraction of the kind of military aid sent to Ukraine, if passed to the NRF, would make a major difference in the situation on the ground there. All the aid that has reached Ukraine has led to a grinding war of attrition in which Russia feels it has time on its side. But aid to the NRF would allow it to stay in the fight indefinitely, putting time on its side. 

Currently, there is very little vocal support in the US Congress for taking a more active approach to opposing the depredations of the Taliban. In the Senate, Lindsey Grahan (R-SC) has shown the most interest in the crisis in Afghanistan. In the House, Rep. Mike Waltz (R-FL), a former Green Beret, knows the Panjshir Valley, the home base of the NRF, very well, and in a joint statement with Senator Graham noted, soon after the fall of Kabul, “that the Afghan Taliban are deeply unpopular and resented throughout the country. Their cabinet and forces are comprised of al Qaeda and other listed terrorist groups.”  What could be clearer?[26]

That there is little momentum in the US government, even for providing aid to the anti-Taliban resistance, is an indication of a growing American moral-ethical malaise. Enthusiasm for supporting Ukraine, on the other hand, has a Realpolitik basis, as Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin admitted, perhaps unwittingly, when he said, “We want to see Russia weakened.”  But, as so often happens with such motivations, they spark reactions—like Putin’s aligning Russia closely with China, Iran, and North Korea—that can completely overturn the initial goal of weakening an opponent. Supporting resistance to the Taliban requires no complex and risky Realpolitik reasoning. All it takes is a sense of the need to act justly in the face of grave and growing injustice. And if the United States acts, its allies and friends will follow.[27]

About the author: Dr. John Arquilla is Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Defense Analysis at the US Naval Postgraduate School. His research interests extend from explorations of the history of irregular warfare to studies of the complex strategic implications of the information revolution. His books include Worst Enemy (Ivan R. Dee, 2008); Insurgents, Raiders, and Bandits (Ivan R. Dee, 2011); and with Hy Rothstein, Afghan Endgames (Georgetown University Press, 2012). Dr. Arquilla has acted as a consultant to military commanders in conflicts ranging from Operation Desert Storm to the Kosovo War and the Afghan campaign. His research currently focuses on the need for nations to develop networks of their own to combat terrorists and armed insurgents.

This is a work of the US federal government and is not subject to copyright protection in the United States. Foreign copyrights may apply


Image Credits:

1. Sgt. Isaiah Campbell, US Marines, via Wikimedia Commons.

2. Master Sergeant Michael O’Connor, US Air Force, 21 May 2011, via Wikimedia Commons.

3. Yaqoobi, 12 January 2023, via Wikimedia Commons.

[1]  The views expressed are those of Dr. Arquilla alone and do not reflect official policy of the US government or any other government entity.

[2] Senate Armed Services Committee, Testimony of General Mark A. Milley, USA, 20th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Department of Defense Afghanistan Hearing, 28 September 2021: https://www.armed-services.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/Printed%2028%20Sep%20SASC%20CJCS%20Written%20Statement.pdf

[3] Jim Garamone, “Austin Gives Senate Hard Truths of Lessons From Afghanistan,” 28 September 2021: https://www.defense.gov/News/News-Stories/Article/Article/2791808/austin-gives-senate-hard-truths-of-lessons-from-afghanistan/

[4]Senator Elizaberth Warren, “At Armed Services Hearing on Afghanistan, Secretary Austin Confirms that President Biden Followed the Advice of Military Advisors When Planning and Executing Withdrawal Operation,” transcript, video of the hearing exchange, round one questioning, 28 September 2021: https://www.warren.senate.gov/newsroom/press-releases/at-armed-services-hearing-on-afghanistan-secretary-austin-confirms-that-president-biden-followed-the-advice-of-military-advisors-when-planning-and-executing-withdrawal-operation

[5] Remarks by President Biden on the Way Forward in Afghanistan, the White House, 14 April 2021: https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/speeches-remarks/2021/04/14/remarks-by-president-biden-on-the-way-forward-in-afghanistan/

[6] Ben Connable, Iraqi Army Will to Fight (Santa Monica:  RAND, 2022): https://www.rand.org/pubs/research_reports/RRA238-1.html

[7] Thomas Barfield, “Afghan Paradoxes,” in Hy Rothstein and John Arquilla, eds., Afghan Endgames: Strategy and Policy for America’s Longest War (Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press, 2012), 40. 

[8] For more information on the Soviet-Afghan war, see, for example, PBS News Hour, “The Soviet Occupation of Afghanistan,” 10 Octobr 2006: https://www.pbs.org/newshour/politics/asia-july-dec06-soviet_10-10

[9] Weeda Mehran, Sarah Habib, and Zsuzsana Riedel, “Rebel Governance: An Analysis of the Taliban’s Governance from 2001-2021,” Small Wars and Insurgencies (27 November 2023):  https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/epdf/10.1080/09592318.2023.2282817

[10] See Ashley Jackson and Rahmatullah Amiri, Insurgent Bureaucracy: How the Taliban Makes Policy (Washington, DC: United States Institute of Peace, 2019), 4: https://www.usip.org/publications/2019/11/insurgent-bureaucracy-how-taliban-makes-policy 

[11] Ibid.

[12] Mao Zedong, On Guerrilla Warfare, trans. Samuel B Griffith II (Champaign, IL: University of Illinois Press, 2000). 

[13] For more on this concept, see Major Christopher B. Rich, Jr., Captain Charles B. Johnson, and Major Paul T. Shirk, "By, With, and Through: Section 1202 and the Future of Unconventional Warfare," Journal of National Security Law & Policy 12:3 (24 June 2022): https://jnslp.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/06/Rich_Section_1202_and_the_Future_of_Unconventional_Warfare.pdf

[14] For more detail on Village Stability Operations, see Sam Wilkins, “The Rise and Fall of Village Stability Operations: Lessons for Future Irregular Warfare Campaigns,” Modern War Institute at West Point, 9 August 2022: https://mwi.westpoint.edu/the-rise-and-fall-of-village-stability-operations-in-afghanistan-lessons-for-future-irregular-warfare-campaigns/

[15] The United Nations corrupt regime ranking is listed in Thomas Johnson, “Counterinsurgency in Afghanistan,” in Christopher M. Schnaubelt, ed., Operationalizing a Comprehensive Approach in Semi-Permissive Environments (Rome: NATO Defense College, 2009), 187. Quote from Rothstein and Arquilla, “Understanding the Afghan Challenge,” in Afghan Endgames, 8.

[16] See Shane Harris, et al., “US Kills al Qaeda Leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in Drone Strike in Kabul,” Washington Post, 2 August 2022: https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/2022/08/01/zawahiri-al-qaeda-killed/ 

[17] United Nations Security Council Committee, Letter Dated 25 May 2022 from the Chair of the Security Council Committee Established Pursuant to Resolution 1988 (2011) Addressed to the President of the Security Council, S/2022/419, 25 May 2022: https://digitallibrary.un.org/record/3975071 . See also, Ali Maisam Nazary, “What the Taliban Really Fear,” Foreign Affairs (19 August 2022): https://www.foreignaffairs.com/afghanistan/what-taliban-really-fear 

[18] Human Rights Watch, “Afghanistan,” 2023: https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2023/country-chapters/afghanistan#c7b6a8 ; see also, Human Rights Watch, “Afghanistan: Taliban Torture Civilians in Panjshir,” 10 June 2022: https://www.hrw.org/news/2022/06/10/afghanistan-taliban-torture-civilians-panjshir

[19] Osama bin Javaid, “US Will not Fund Non-State Actors in Afghanistan,” Al Jazeera, 17 October 2022: https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2022/10/17/us-not-to-fund-other-armed-groups-in-afghanistan-taliban

[20] Akmal Dawi, “Frustrated with the Taliban, US Officials Meet Anti-Taliban Figures,” Voice of America, 20 December 2022: https://www.voanews.com/a/frustrated-with-the-taliban-us-officials-meet-anti-taliban-figures/6885231.html

[21] Polling data from the University of Maryland Critical Issues Poll of 1,320 adults, conducted from 16-28 March 2022, and Jennifer Agiesta, “CNN Poll:  Majority of Americans Oppose More US Aid for Ukraine in War with Russia,” 4 August 2023: https://www.cnn.com/2023/08/04/politics/cnn-poll-ukraine/index.html

[22] See Elaine Kamarck and Jordan Muchnick, “One Year into the Ukraine War—What Does the Public Think about American Involvement in the World?” Brookings Institution, February 2023: https://www.brookings.edu/articles/one-year-into-the-ukraine-war-what-does-the-public-think-about-american-involvement-in-the-world/

[23] Martin Jacques, “Defeat in Afghanistan a Complete Humiliation for the US,” Global Times, August 15, 2021: https://www.globaltimes.cn/page/202108/1231540.shtml   

[24] Niha Dagia, “Does the Afghan Debacle Signal Declining US Influence?” The Diplomat, 22 September 2021: https://thediplomat.com/2021/09/does-the-afghan-debacle-signal-declining-us-influence/   

[25] The Islamic State of Khorasan (ISK) poses another type of problem for the United States. If it grows in Afghanistan, which is now something of a hothouse environment for terrorists, then a renaissance of ISIS through this affiliate will no doubt also reinvigorate its desire to attack the United States itself or US interests. The United States and its allies are the ones who destroyed ISIS’s nascent caliphate in northern Iraq and parts of Syria. Yes, ISK is an enemy of the Taliban and al-Qaeda, but it is growing in the same place they are: Afghanistan. 

[26] Graham, Waltz Statement on Call With Afghan Resistance Leader Ahmad Massoud, 22 September 2021: https://www.lgraham.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/2021/9/graham-waltz-statement-on-call-with-afghan-resistance-leader-ahmad-massoud

[27] Missy Ryan and Annabelle Timsit, “US Wants Russian Military ‘Weakened’ from Ukraine Invasion, Austin Says,” Washington Post, 25 April 2022: https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2022/04/25/russia-weaken


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