NEW Fox News articles can now be heard on audio! The hellfire missile strike was an unusual tactical counterterrorism success because it killed al Qaeda leader Ayman an-Zawahri with no known civilian casualties. Zawahri was a high-value target that the intelligence community had been after for decades. He was indicted in 1998 for his part in the plotting of the bombings of U.S. embassies in East Africa.
But the attack also revealed a strategic failure because, after the haphazard U.S. pullout from Afghanistan last summer, the same poisonous mix of a Taliban administration giving al Qaeda with safe haven led to the 9/11 terrorist strikes.
Afghanistan has changed into a failed state supported by terrorists. A growing al Qaeda and ISIS presence poses a threat to the area and beyond.
The Taliban view their past as a guide to the future. The Taliban are purposefully giving al Qaeda a safe harbor, like they did before 9/11. Within walking distance of the former British embassy, Zawahri was assassinated on a balcony in the Sherpur neighborhood of central Kabul. According to reports, Sirajuddin Haqqani, the Haqqani Network’s association with al Qaeda led to his designation as a global terrorist by the U.S. Department of State in 2008, monitored Zawahri’s security and set up what turned out to be a not very secure “safe house” for Zawahri and his family.
On November 25, 2021, in Kabul, Taliban militants stand guard next to a Taliban flag as Afghan Hazara elders expressed their allegiance to the nation’s new Taliban rulers. (Image credit: AREF KARIMI/AFP) (Image via Getty Images, courtesy of AREF KARIMI/AFP) Getty Images (AREF KARIMI/AFP)
In order to protect Pakistan’s civilian population, government, and nuclear program, the Taliban extended their safe haven to the Pakistani Taliban.
Afghanistan is a virtual recruiting ground for terrorists due to the humanitarian catastrophe there and the Taliban regime’s proficiency with insurgency but lack of knowledge of basic government.
Afghanistan, which is rife with terrorist fighters and ungoverned space, which, as we saw from 9/11, poses a clear and present danger to our homeland, is once again a source of regional instability.
The Biden administration’s “over the horizon” strategy, which has a nice ring to it but ignores the significant deterioration of the find, fix, and finish counterterrorism capability in Afghanistan, which has kept our nation safe since 9/11, is ineffective, as evidenced by the successful strike on Zawahri, the first reported counterterrorism operation in Afghanistan since the U.S. withdrawal.
To be clear, please. Over land or ocean, the horizon is just outside our field of vision. Over the horizon there is no vision. The attack on Zawahri occurred over the terrorists who were killed. According to reports, the intelligence community followed Zawahri for more than six months, keeping a safe distance from him without being seen in order to confirm his identity and precise position. Even though this one attack was significant, it does not demonstrate that the U.S. counterterrorism campaign in Afghanistan can advance at the pace necessary to significantly reduce al Qaeda’s and ISIS’s growing ability to damage Americans.
Gathering intelligence from human sources is essential to conducting successful counterterrorism operations. The CIA’s objective to gather spies and collect secrets without having an embassy or other official presence in Kabul has become increasingly complex and difficult. The former Afghan government, whose intelligence agents and soldiers were a potent force multiplier in the war against terrorism, was also lost as our most potent friend in the region.
So let’s not forget that Afghanistan now poses the greatest threat to our country since 9/11 thanks to the Taliban’s relationship with al Qaeda.
And despite how significant it was, we shouldn’t let this counterterrorism victory give us a false sense of security about our ability to identify and thwart threats coming from Afghanistan in the future before they reach our shores.
Since May 2018, Daniel N. Hoffman has contributed to Fox News. Hoffman had a successful career with the Central Intelligence Agency before joining Fox News, where he held the positions of senior executive Clandestine Services officer and station head three times. Daniel Hoffman DC can be followed on Twitter.