June 12, 2024
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How Will Taliban’s Victory Affect Israel and the Middle East?

Thick black smoke rose from the roof of the American Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan on Friday, August 13, in a particularly symbolic end to the U.S.’s longest war.

With the knowledge that the Taliban were quickly approaching the capital, American diplomats and embassy staff scrambled to burn sensitive documents before being airlifted out of the building via a military helicopter.

The dramatic images of American diplomats hastily fleeing called to mind the fall of Saigon in 1975, and it’s no surprise that Secretary of State Antony Blinken felt he had to firmly dispel that comparison.

“This is manifestly not Saigon,” Blinken told ABC, although pictures and video from the city told a different story.

Video from the airport circulating on Twitter depicted an almost post-apocalyptic scene, with desperate people attempting to gain entry into a plane by scaling an exterior ladder leading to the gangway, while hundreds of people on the tarmac watched.

Afghan news reported that five people had been killed in the bedlam, with some sources blaming American troops who fired in the air to disperse the masses and others citing crowd trampling and stampeding as the cause.

But beyond the shocking visuals of a country suddenly heaved into chaos, this stunning reversal of fortune for the Taliban holds long-term implications for Israel and the region.

International media reported on Monday that the Taliban is gearing up to announce that the nation is now officially the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, governed by Sharia law.

The possibility that Afghanistan will now be a free-for-all for Islamist extremists for recruiting and training terrorists appeared to be confirmed by praise for the Taliban from a senior Hamas official.

Mousa Abu Marzouk lauded the Taliban on Twitter, writing that the takeover should serve as a “lesson for all oppressed people.”

“The Taliban are victorious today after being accused of backwardness & terrorism. It became more pragmatic,” Abu Marzouk wrote. “They have stood up to the US & its agents refusing compromise, they have not been fooled by slogans like democracy & elections.”

Later, Hamas issues an official statement “congratulating the Muslim Afghan people for the defeat of the American occupation on all Afghan lands, and we congratulate the Taliban movement and its brave leadership on this victory, which came as the culmination of its long struggle over the past 20 years.

“While Hamas wishes the Afghan Muslim people and its leadership success in achieving unity, stability and prosperity for Afghanistan and its people, it stresses that the demise of the American occupation and its allies proves that the resistance of the peoples, foremost of which is our struggling Palestinian people, will achieve victory,” the statement added.

Some analysts have posited that Iran, which neighbors Afghanistan, may seek to ingratiate itself with the new ruling power and use the country as an operational base to continue growing its regional influence.

However, Tehran has long been wary of the Taliban, with a diplomatic history of keeping the group at arm’s length. After eight Iranian diplomats were murdered at the Iranian consulate in Mazar-i Sharif in 1998, the Iranian government even launched a military offensive against the Taliban.

The visual of U.S. diplomats hightailing it out of Kabul as the city falls besmirches American hegemony on the world stage, possibly signaling a weakening of Israel’s biggest backer and leaving room for China and Russia to flex their muscles in the Middle East.

With the U.S. as its closest ally, Israel has long depended on America’s support when facing the existential threats from its neighbors.

Even on the heels of new normalization agreements with the United Arab Emirates, a major player in the region, the U.S. has served as Israel’s security blanket.

Former Israeli diplomat Arthur Lenk wrote on Twitter that the American failure in Afghanistan should serve as a reminder to the Jewish State to never let down its guard.

“The USA is our closest ally. They have been there for Israel time & again over the years. But the horrific events in Afghanistan must be a hard, scary lesson about changing interests & cold, hard calculations,” Lenk wrote.

“Dangerously, in 2021, self-reliance is more important than ever … Doesn’t mean Israel is alone and friendless. Need to protect partnerships, relationships, alliances and reputation.

“But [Israel must] have a plan for a rainy day when all of the above might fail,” he added.

National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan called the takeover “heartbreaking” in an interview with ABC’s “Good Morning America” on Monday, but said that President Joe Biden stands by his decision to withdraw.

Sullivan placed the blame for the fall of Kabul squarely on the shoulders of the Afghan army.

Despite billions invested by the U.S. and other nations in Afghanistan’s security forces, the army simply lacked the willpower to defend the capital against the Taliban.

While the U.S. provided the military with advanced technology, “we could not give them the will,” Sullivan said.

“Ultimately, they decided that they would not fight for Kabul.”

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