Will Washington’s “counterterrorism” in Afghanistan include utilising ISIS to create regional instability?
The US withdrawal from Afghanistan, was vehemently opposed by architects of the War on Terror strategy, who had used it as a ploy to occupy and destroy in their long- term objective for hegemonic domination of Eurasia and to ‘contain’ China.
However, the tragic Kabul attack by ISIS-K which killed 175 Afghans and 13 US soldiers, expectedly re-energized the waning and discredited US war on terror and justified for the pro-war lobby that the US needs a presence in Afghanistan to avoid ‘terrorism reaching America’.
President Biden indicated this in an impassioned speech using a similar rhetoric President George Bush used in 2001 after 9/11, stating: “we will never forgive. We will never forget. We will hunt you down and make you pay.”
America’s war on terror which has killed millions of innocent people and destabilised nations, will continue according to President Biden because the “terrorist threat has metastasized well beyond Afghanistan.” In his August 16th speech Biden stated that withdrawal means US will free itself to focus on “counterterrorism” to “hunt” the likes of “Al Shabab in Somalia, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, Al-Nusra in Syria, ISIS attempting to create a caliphate in Syria and Iraq and destabilising affiliates in multiple countries in Africa and Asia”.
He also indicated that America would intervene in Afghanistan “if necessary.” Stating “We’ve developed counterterrorism over-the-horizon capability that will allow us to keep our eyes firmly fixed on any direct threats to the United States…”
This “over the horizon capability” using drones, which has killed thousands and the dead are viewed by the military as” collateral damage” went into action again in Washington’s second revenge attack in Kabul. This time the ‘collateral damage’ was 10 people including six children dead after US targeted an ISIS K car supposedly full of explosives.
While the US media is in frenzy about the 13 dead US soldiers in the initial Kabul airport terror attack, eyewitness accounts and a report by BBC correspondent Secunder Kermani states “Many we spoke to, including eyewitnesses, said significant numbers of those killed were shot dead by US forces in the panic after the blast.”
Meanwhile the ruling elite controlling the military industrial complex had made trillions through defence contracts, came out in force against withdrawing from Afghanistan, supported by the pro-war corporate media. Scare mongering headlines were splashed in US and UK media about how “Afghanistan will be a haven for terrorists who will target western countries” and urged for a continuation of conflict and “counterterrorism” intervention.
Former US National Security Adviser John Bolton said it was a “catastrophic failure of American leadership” and that US should intervene to oust the Taliban again, while Paul Wolfowitz said he feels a “deep trepidation” as it created a vacuum for China to step in as well as Islamic terrorists.
UK ex- Prime Minister Tony Blair who was complicit with George Bush in presenting a fabricated dossier about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, condemned the withdrawal as “obedience to an imbecilic political slogan about ending ‘the forever wars.”
The orientalist war on terror had set a precedent that European lives are more important than non- Europeans, therefore not much was mentioned in US and UK media about the 28 Taliban soldiers and around 169 Afghans including women and children who also died. Or the fact that according to the UN “at least 26,025 Afghan children were killed or maimed during US occupation of Afghanistan just between the years 2005 and 2019.”
The Taliban pointed out that Afghanis had lost more people than the Americans in the airport attack and that the Taliban was “not responsible for the chaotic evacuation plan” prepared by US.
World leaders also pointed to the chaotic evacuation, asking how a world- renowned experienced military could leave without first evacuating the civilians?
War correspondent Lara Logan on ‘Tucker Carlson Today’ programme said the United States wanted “this outcome”. She said the National Security Agency (NSA) “is known as the crown jewel of intelligence collection in the world,” and “there isn’t a digital signature in existence that they don’t collect and store and analyse…” she argues there’s no way the intel agencies did not know what was taking place. She also pointed out that the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGIA) which controls government satellites and other armaments, has been watching everything and taken no action.
It also appears that US had prior knowledge that ISIS K was going to strike, as the US embassy website had posted “US citizens who are at the Abbey Gate, East Gate, or North Gate now should leave immediately.” And according to critics, if they had prior knowledge how did the suicide bombers walk easily into an area that was controlled by US soldiers?
Another incident has raised questions, CNN’s Clarissa Ward’s interview with a senior ISIS-K commander took place when NATO was still in control of Kabul. The commander said that the group was “lying low and waiting for its moment to strike.” He even boasted that “it's no problem for him to get through checkpoints and come right into the capital.” He went so far as to let the CNN crew film his entrance into the city.
Former Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who was originally installed in power by US and therefore was privy to many secrets stated in 2017 that ISIS was a “tool” of the United States.
Journalist Alex Rubinstein in ‘Did the US Support the Growth of ISIS-K?’ writes that a whole list of governments, including Russia, Iran, Iraq, and Hezbollah operating in Syria had accused US of supporting ISIS. He points to evidence provided by these countries of NATO forces giving aid and transporting ISIS out of the country. Researcher Hadi Nasrallah said that Hezbollah who had been fighting ISIS in Syria and Iraq reported “that the US have been using helicopters to save ISIS terrorists from complete annihilation in Iraq and transporting them to Afghanistan to keep them as insurgents in Central Asia against Russia, China and Iran.”
In 2018, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov demanded that US give a response to reports by leaders of some Afghan provinces, “that unidentified helicopters, most likely helicopters to which NATO in one way or another is related, fly to the areas where the insurgents are based.” He also stated that “According to our data” there are thousands of ISIS gun men in “northern and eastern Afghanistan”.
The US had denied the growing presence of ISIS in Afghanistan and in a BBC interview in 2018 General John Nicholson, the commander of NATO’s mission in Afghanistan, responded saying that Russia was exaggerating the threat of ISIS in the country.
In a recent conference on ‘Regional security after US’s withdrawal’, organised by Pakistan with Iran and Turkey, Senator Mushahid Hussain Sayed stressed that it is imperative that Afghanistan is not used for cross border terrorism and raised concerns about a July 2021 UN report which highlights that there were 12,000 foreign terrorists in Afghanistan and 3,000 Daesh and ISIS forces.
In 2018 Russian Special Envoy Zamir Kabulov had warned that around 7,000 terrorists and thousands of reservists of ISIS are living in Afghanistan. He argued that since Afghanistan’s air space is exclusively controlled by US, then either it did nothing to prevent ‘mysterious helicopters’ landing in the night transporting ISIS fighters into the territory, or it is facilitating the process.
US policies after 9/11 have been paradoxical; even though George Bush instigated a war in Afghanistan to destroy Al Qaeda and kill Bin Laden, the US has also been utilising Al Qaeda groups to achieve its objectives. Washington’s relations with Al Qaeda in Iraq and Syria are well documented. One example was President Obama’s request in June 2014 for $500 million to aid the Syrian moderate rebels, many linked to Al Qaeda in a proxy war for regime change in Syria.
The Pulitzer Prize winner journalist Seymour Hersh in a New Yorker article in 2007 titled ‘The Redirection’ exposed a plan implemented by the Bush Administration to arm, train, and utilise a regional army of terrorists, many linked to Al Qaeda, to destabilize and overthrow both Syria and Iran. The plan formulated by CIA and Mossad was covertly funnelled through Saudi proxies to conceal Washington and Tel Aviv’s role.
Many of these so- called moderate rebels were linked to the ‘head chopping’ Al Nusra Front who had carried out many atrocities against civilians. Recently America’s PBS Frontline featured a programme presenting Syrian Al Qaeda- Hayat Tahrir Al Sham originally known as Jabhat al Nusra’s leader Abu Mohammed Al Jolani in a suit and tie as a ‘competent American asset’.
There are also pictures still circulating of US Senator John McCain in 2013 standing with Al Qaeda leaders, and tweeting “Important visit with brave fighters in # Syria who are risking their lives for freedom and need our help”.
According to an accumulation of verifiable reports there is every indication that in order to counter China Russia and Iran which was the main reason why US occupied Afghanistan for so long, US’s counterterrorism strategy will utilise Al Qaeda forces in the region.