Trump is right that “endless wars” are not in America’s long-term strategic interests. But managing conflicts and not letting enemies win are broader objectives that should remain.
By JPOST EDITORIAL
The US has signed a deal with the Taliban to end 18 years of war. This is a momentous and important decision that will have far-reaching impact on the Middle East.The United States entered Afghanistan after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The Taliban was quickly pushed out of Kabul, Tora Bora and other areas, and al-Qaeda was forced to flee, in a war that became the face of the global war on terrorism.Today the US is shifting away from that war to confront China and Russia. The current and past US administrations were reluctant to use US power, and felt that the war in Afghanistan was a failure. In US President Donald Trump’s view, this was a cost that he wanted to put to an end.This view seems to be part of a larger Trump doctrine and set of policies that result in the US withdrawing from parts of the world. The danger could be that hostile forces in the world will get the message that if you push the US, it might disengage, an image that would pose a problem for Israel, which benefits when the US is engaged and strong. Israel might not have a real interest in Afghanistan, but the larger picture of the US withdrawing in Syria and other places is concerning in Jerusalem.The concern is that this could set in motion destabilizing forces, such as global jihadist enclaves or Iran’s further empowerment. Iran has been working with the Taliban and has an amicable relationship with Qatar, where the US-Taliban talks took place. Iran’s interest is to get the US out of Afghanistan and Iraq. As a result, the deal signed last week could turn into something of a win for the Iranians. That means Israel must be cautious about what could come next, since an empowered Taliban could mean an empowered jihadist movement.Trump is right that “endless wars” are not in America’s long-term strategic interests. But managing conflicts and not letting enemies win are broader objectives that should remain.Already on Monday, the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff said that it is unlikely that violence in Afghanistan would go down to zero.“It is probably not going to zero... to think it is going to go down to zero immediately, that is probably not going to be the case,” Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley said during a press conference.Defense Secretary Mark Esper, at the same press conference, said that the number of US troops in Afghanistan would go down to 8,600, and that the US would then stop and assess the situation.Now, with the Afghan war ending, Israel must make sure that Iran does not exploit the situation. For instance, Israel must keep an eye on Iran’s strategy and movements in Iraq and throughout the Persian Gulf. Iran will sense an opportunity to do something and gain ground, and its Revolutionary Guard Corps – alongside the more far-right politicians who won in the recent elections – will want to mobilize against the US as the withdrawal begins. They may test the US in other spheres, by arming the Taliban or by carrying out operations in the Gulf such as the seizing of oil tankers sailing through the strategic waterway.America may shift from Afghanistan to deployment in other areas which are deemed more strategic and important for advancing US interests. That could mean working more closely with Gulf allies such as the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.Insofar as Israel is concerned, it is important the US strengthen its nexus of remaining allies from Riyadh to Abu Dhabi and Cairo. This is the ring of states that are effective in working with the US to project American power and ensure that the region does not fall into the hands of enemies of Israel and the US.Afghanistan was a long and terrible war. We wish the Afghans peace and success after this deal. Israel would welcome an Afghanistan that is stable, democratic and renewed in the future. It is to be hoped that the dark days of Taliban terrorism and abuse of minorities and women are behind the Afghans.
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