The Global War on Terror: Two Decades On

September 13, 2021

A few days after 9/11 President George W. Bush, in impromptu remarks said, “this crusade, this war on terrorism, is going to take a while. His use of the word “crusade” raised concerns in Europe among those who saw this as walking into civilizational clash trap set by al-Qaeda. Thus, when he addressed a joint session of the Congress on September 20, 2001, the President struck a different tone. He said,

“We’ve seen the unfurling of flags, the lighting of candles, the giving of blood, the saying of prayers in English, Hebrew and Arabic…

“I also want to speak tonight directly to Muslims throughout the world. We respect your faith…

“The terrorists are traitors to their own faith, trying, in effect, to hijack Islam itself.”

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The End of America’s Longest War

September 6, 2021

In an earlier post I said, “Unfortunately for Mr. Biden, the chaos and shock triggered by the evacuations overshadowed the rational of his decision to withdraw…” On August 31, in “Remarks on the End of the War in Afghanistan”, the President said that the Kabul evacuations were a major success. He urged the Americans to focus on the underlying logic of ending America’s longest war and turn the page.[i] According to a Pew Research Center poll published last week 54% of Americans agree that the withdrawal was the right choice;  69% think America had failed to achieve its goals in Afghanistan.[ii] And according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll Americans overwhelmingly support President Biden’s decision to end the war in Afghanistan, but by a 2-to-1 margin they disapprove his handling of the withdrawal. As the dust of the Kabul operation settles, the percentage of those agreeing with the withdrawal would go up.

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The Retreat from Afghanistan and Turkey’s Victory Day

August 30, 2021

Many military and intelligence experts predicted that the withdrawal from Afghanistan would not be an easy operation. With chaotic evacuations and the devastating twin bomb attacks of last Thursday, they proved right.

Through the withdrawal Washington not only empowered the Taliban politically but also left behind millions of dollars’ worth of military equipment, arms, and ammunition leading to questions. Was this only in exchange for a safe evacuation or more? The “Agreement for Bringing Peace to Afghanistan between the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan which is not recognized by the United States as a state and is known as the Taliban and the United States of America” was signed in Doha on February 29, 2020. What was negotiated and agreed on since then? Is there a broader agreement? On July 8, President Biden was asked if he trusted the Taliban. This was his response: “It’s a silly question.  Do I trust the Taliban?  No…” Has this changed? Are the Taliban no longer an enemy but a partner? If so, has this been discussed with NATO partners? Have they agreed?

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Coming to Grips with Taliban’s Comeback

August 23, 2021

On February 19, 2021, in his first address to the global audience at the 2021 Virtual Munich Security Conference President Biden said, “I speak today as President of the United States at the very start of my administration, and I’m sending a clear message to the world: America is back.  The transatlantic alliance is back.  And we are not looking backward; we are looking forward, together.” Since then, the slogan, “America is back” coined Mr. Biden’s desire to reassert global leadership.

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The Dictate of Climate Change: Cooperation Between Neighbors

August 18, 2021

Most of world’s conflicts, some armed others luckily not, are among neighbors. They are about territory, borders, economic and political interests, power, threat perceptions. Some have an ideological dimension. If neighbors in conflict are located in unstable strategic regions, involvement of other neighbors is likely; involvement of major powers is a certainty. Over time some turn into frozen conflicts. All conflicts, particularly armed ones come at a price. They result in loss of life, displacement of peoples, undermine economic and political development. Their impact transcends borders.

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The Taliban are Back (2)

August 16, 2021

The principal challenge in Afghanistan has always been Afghan groups forging a united front not only to fight tribalism, warlordism and corruption but also to achieve better governance. The country has remained divided on ethnic, sectarian, and regional lines. While the Afghans have demonstrated an exceptional capacity for resistance to foreign interference, they have failed time and again to show the ability to agree on common denominators. Even the formation of consecutive Kabul governments proved a challenge.

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“No Military Solution”

August 9, 2021

In the past decade, the phrase “no military solution to the conflict” became a diplomatic cliché.

In November 2013, speaking to the BBC  about the situation in Syria, Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad said that there is no military solution

In September 2016, addressing the 71st Session of the United Nations General Assembly, President Obama said,

“… in a place like Syria, where there’s no ultimate military victory to be won…”

In July 2019, after meeting with Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, President Trump said, “There is no military solution in Afghanistan…”

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Turkey’s New Refugee Challenge

August 4, 2021

In my last post, dated August 2, I said that the increasing number of Afghans crossing into Turkey from Iran leads one to question whether the Kabul subcontract is just about the airport or more.

Later in the day, Secretary Blinken in remarks to the press[i], announced the “US Refugee Admissions Program Priority 2 Designation for Afghan Nationals[ii], a new resettlement opportunity for Afghans who assisted the US, but do dot qualify for Special Immigrant Visas (SIV).

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The Kabul Subcontract

August 2, 2021

Whether Turkish troops would stay at Kabul airport beyond withdrawal has become another controversial topic of our foreign and security policy. In my last post I asked the following questions:

•          Would Turkish troops fight the Taliban in case of an assault on the city?

•          Would Turkish troops remain in Kabul to ensure the orderly operation of the airport?

•          Would they remain there to secure the safe and timely evacuation of diplomatic missions remaining in Kabul in case of a battle for the capital’s control?

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Turkey’s Dance with the Taliban

July 26, 2021

Turkey’s “offer” to remain at the Kabul airport beyond US and other nations’ withdrawal from Afghanistan has become another controversial foreign policy topic. Like the rest of our foreign and security policy issues, this too has immediately turned into another “riddle, wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma”, to use Winston Churchill’s words referring to Soviet policies in 1939. Because Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (JDP) government keeps the public in the dark about its “intricate” foreign policy schemes.

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