The 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001, which killed 2,977 people and wounded over 6,000 more, changed the US, the world of air travel, Afghanistan, and the Middle East.
It’s been 20 years, and US President Joe Biden is completing the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan that his predecessor Donald Trump began. But the move leave the Afghan government helpless against the Taliban.
As Taliban forces march across the country, seizing one provincial capital after another, it appears that a restoration of the hardline Islamist group’s Sharia law is not a question of “if,” but “when.” As of Friday morning, the Taliban were in control of most of the territory in Afghanistan, and it is not impossible that the country will once again become fertile ground for international terrorist groups like al-Qaida.
A senior Afghan government official spoke to Israel Hayom this week from Kabul.
“We expected an American withdrawal at a certain stage and there is no military solution to the war in Afghanistan, but we and the citizens of Afghanistan thought that the US would leave after an agreement was signed with the Taliban,” the official said.
“The agreement, which could have included contact with the government of Afghanistan and led to international consensus, since international players like Pakistan and Iran are playing a negative role in supporting the Taliban,” the official continued.
Iran indeed has its fingers in the Afghan pie. Lt. Col. Michael Segal, former head of the Iran bureau at the IDF Military Intelligence Directorate’s research division and now a senior researcher at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, recently published an article in which he presented different examples of how Iran was moving closer to the Taliban. Iran’s Tasnim news agency, associated with the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps, has taken a very moderate stance on the Taliban, even interviewing its spokesman. The Kayhan newspaper, which reflects the opinions of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, played down the horrific acts committed by Taliban insurgents, and Iranian MP Ahmad Naderi has referred to the Taliban as “the noble movement” in the region and said that cooperating with it could promote stability in Afghan society and prevent groups such as Islamic State from penetrating the country.
“Iran is playing a suspicious role in Afghanistan,” the Kabul official says. “Officially, Iran has normal relations with us. On the other hand, they are also in contact with the Taliban. For example, the reports about a Taliban office being opened in Mashhad. The Iranians also supplied them with weapons.”
Apart from that, Iran’s support for terrorist organizations that are not part of the Shiite axis is now an open secret after Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif hosted senior Taliban officials in Tehran. Even before that, al-Qaida no. 2 Abdullah Ahmed Abdullah was killed in the heart of Tehran in an action attributed to Israel.
Meanwhile, the Taliban are exploiting the vacuum that the US has created by withdrawing, one province at a time. Some claim that as much as 85-90% of Afghanistan is already in Taliban hands.
“Afghanistan is not the country it was in the 1990s,” the Kabul official says. “Sixty-five percent of the population are under age 25.”
Q: Are you afraid?
“Unfortunately, the young generation is watching the Taliban’s horrific acts. There is concern that another escalation will make the already problematic situation worse, but we are hopeful that we will be able to make peace in Afghanistan.”
Q: What is your position on establishing diplomatic relations with Israel?
“The government of Afghanistan has not made any statement about the Abraham Accords. It depends on how the other countries behave toward Israel. All eyes are on developments in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Another important factor is how the international community deals with the extremists.
“Aside from these points, there is no reason why Afghanistan and Israel shouldn’t have diplomatic relations. Afghanistan was home to large Jewish communities in Herat and Kabul.”
Q: What message do you want to send to Israel?
“The two countries have much to gain from normalizing relations, since we all want to live in peace and do not accept radicals.”
Source » israelhayom