National Security & Defense

The Media Miss the Mark on Afghanistan

Afghan National Army soldiers in Helmand Province, May 2016. (Reuters photo: Abdul Mailk)
While hyperventilating about all matters Russian, reporters are ignoring the near-collapse of a crucial ally.

The press is missing something lately. The media myopia for the on-again-off-again Russia matters of late has drawn important attention away from one actual, ongoing threat: a deteriorating situation in Afghanistan and the possibility of a renewed terrorist safe haven there. A toppled Kabul would provide a sanctuary in the Khorasan for al-Qaeda and the rapidly growing Islamic State presence — both clear and present threats to the United States that we fail to see covered in the media. Journalists’ nearsighted focus on all things Russian has blinded them to the intensifying dangers in the Middle East.

Recently, al-Qaeda emir Ayman al-Zawahiri issued a new but familiar statement calling for Muslims to wage jihad in defense of Islam regardless of country of origin. Notably, al-Qaeda released the message with an English transcript. The terror network seems to be taking a page from the Islamic State playbook in terms of mass communications and calling for jihadist global unity. So too has the heir apparent to al-Qaeda leadership and son of Osama bin Laden, Hamza bin Laden, begun to release targeted statements encouraging jihad. Al-Qaeda is, unfortunately, alive and repackaging itself for 21st-century extremists.

That brings us to the current state of affairs in Afghanistan — the same country that served as a pre-9/11 hub for al-Qaeda under Taliban rule. Less than three weeks ago, on May 31, a truck bomb destroyed an entire city block in Kabul, resulting in a staggering 150 deaths. It was a tragedy for our allies in the Afghan capital, and it evinces the badly faltering infrastructure in Afghanistan.

In the days following the attack on May 31, protesters took to the streets of Kabul to call for answers from President Ashraf Ghani. Several protesters died as Afghan police attempted to regain control. The following day, terrorists launched three separate attacks during the funeral of one of the protesters, the son of an Afghan official.

In the northeastern province of Nangarhar, the fight with the Islamic State has ramped up significantly in 2017. On April 13, the United States executed a strike in Nangarhar, employing the much-touted “Mother of All Bombs” against Islamic State fighters. On multiple occasions in April and again this month, U.S. servicemen have been killed in the same province while conducting combat operations, also against Islamic State operatives.

All this to say that the security situation in Afghanistan is not stable, although it seems that few notice in the wake of the media’s Russian fixation. Should the government of Afghanistan fall, the Afghan Taliban would almost certainly regain control. The Taliban have had an increasing presence since Obama ordered the force withdrawal of 2014. By some reports, the Taliban now control or contest as many as 40 percent of the districts in Afghanistan.

“So what?” some might ask. The reason it matters is that if the Taliban again gain a foothold in Kabul and in the governance of greater Afghanistan, terror networks will once again have a safe haven — just as al-Qaeda did after their ouster from Sudan in 1996 and in the pre-9/11 years during the attacks on the U.S. embassies in Tanzania and Kenya and, later, on the USS Cole. The resurgence of the Taliban would be a near threat to our national security, and it would appallingly devalue the sacrifices our military and intelligence community have made in Afghanistan for almost 16 years to ensure that jihadist organizations have no such asylum.

The resurgence of the Taliban would threaten our national security and devalue the sacrifices our military and intelligence community have made in Afghanistan for almost 16 years.

As the media and partisans chase their tails on all matters Russian, they seem to be missing the critical news that Afghanistan appears to be drifting toward the brink of collapse — all while our allies in the Afghan government and their citizens continue to suffer at the hands of terrorists. In the eyes of too many reporters, the Kabul bombing in the middle of the capital’s diplomatic corridor, the deaths of more Afghans in the days after the bombing, and the escalating conflict against the Islamic State are far less newsworthy than the many fantastical notions of “Russian collusion.” The unbalanced coverage does not reflect the importance to our national security of stability in Afghanistan. That hard-won stability is under threat; the media should not avert its gaze.


Trump and the Foreign-Policy Establishment

Our Savage Wars of Peace

Afghanistan’s ‘Evil Omens’

Most Popular

Law & the Courts

Obstruction Confusions

In his Lawfare critique of one of my several columns about the purported obstruction case against President Trump, Gabriel Schoenfeld loses me — as I suspect he will lose others — when he says of himself, “I do not think I am Trump-deranged.” Gabe graciously expresses fondness for me, and the feeling is ... Read More
Politics & Policy

Students’ Anti-Gun Views

Are children innocents or are they leaders? Are teenagers fully autonomous decision-makers, or are they lumps of mental clay, still being molded by unfolding brain development? The Left seems to have a particularly hard time deciding these days. Take, for example, the high-school students from Parkland, ... Read More
PC Culture

Kill Chic

We live in a society in which gratuitous violence is the trademark of video games, movies, and popular music. Kill this, shoot that in repugnant detail becomes a race to the visual and spoken bottom. We have gone from Sam Peckinpah’s realistic portrayal of violent death to a gory ritual of metal ripping ... Read More

Romney Is a Misfit for America

Mitt’s back. The former governor of Massachusetts and occasional native son of Michigan has a new persona: Mr. Utah. He’s going to bring Utah conservatism to the whole Republican party and to the country at large. Wholesome, efficient, industrious, faithful. “Utah has a lot to teach the politicians in ... Read More
Law & the Courts

What the Second Amendment Means Today

The horrifying school massacre in Parkland, Fla., has prompted another national debate about guns. Unfortunately, it seems that these conversations are never terribly constructive — they are too often dominated by screeching extremists on both sides of the aisle and armchair pundits who offer sweeping opinions ... Read More

Fire the FBI Chief

American government is supposed to look and sound like George Washington. What it actually looks and sounds like is Henry Hill from Goodfellas: bad suit, hand out, intoning the eternal mantra: “F*** you, pay me.” American government mostly works by interposition, standing between us, the free people at ... Read More