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Tipsheet

How Is Afghanistan Doing Post-U.S. Withdrawal? Well...

AP Photo/Zabi Karimi

It will come as little surprise to anyone who followed the Biden administration's policy toward Afghanistan which culminated in the botched withdrawal of U.S. forces at the end of August 2021 that handing the country over to the Taliban has not resulted in some vibrant liberalized democracy. Instead, also unsurprisingly, Afghanistan has turned into a hotbed of terrorist activity. 

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After calling the Taliban "businesslike and professional" during the withdrawal, the Biden administration has seemingly been surprised to learn that the new government has not expanded rights for women and girls, religious minorities, or other groups — all while allowing terrorists to set up new training and operations centers within Afghanistan.

When he announced the withdrawal on April 14, 2021, President Biden promised Americans that the U.S. would "not take our eye off the terrorist threat" after the last soldier left Afghanistan. "We'll reorganize our counterterrorism capabilities and the substantial assets in the region to prevent reemergence of terrorists," he pledged. 

"We'll hold the Taliban accountable for its commitment not to allow any terrorists to threaten the United States or its allies from Afghan soil," an overconfident Biden also said. "The Afghan government has made that commitment to us as well," the president added of the government that quickly collapsed over a matter of days despite his administration's assurances that the fall of Kabul would take months. 

A few months after his initial announcement, Biden reiterated on July 8, 2021, that his "military and intelligence leaders are confident they have the capabilities to protect the homeland and our interests from any resurgent terrorist challenge emerging or emanating from Afghanistan." The president was certain, he explained, that his administration could develop "a counterterrorism over-the-horizon capability that will allow us to keep our eyes firmly fixed on any direct threats to the United States in the region, and act quickly and decisively if needed."

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Just a few short years later on Biden's watch, and he's again failed to deliver on a promise to hold the Taliban accountable, prevent a reemergence of terrorism, or act decisively to squash any threats emanating from Afghanistan.

The latest quarterly report to Congress from the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) states that al Qaeda maintains "a safe haven in Afghanistan," including for "around a dozen senior al Qaeda leaders."

What's more, there are now "up to eight new al Qaeda training camps, one stockpile weapons base, and five madrassas this quarter with help from al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent."

The Taliban and al Qaeda "remain close," according to SIGAR, and in the first quarter of 2024 "the Taliban general directorate of intelligence assigned al Qaeda members to various ministry and military positions in eastern Afghanistan."

These developments come as SIGAR notes that the "businesslike and professional" Taliban is failing to uphold its end of the 2020 Doha Agreement and allowing Afghanistan to "once again" become a "terrorist haven" from which "[t]error attacks continued to emanate" in the first quarter of 2024.

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Attacks include those carried out in Pakistan by Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), a group that Pakistan's government says the Taliban has enabled.

Despite the documented expansion of al Qaeda training camps and other alleged support for active terrorists in the region, the Taliban "maintain no terrorist groups operate in Afghanistan," according to SIGAR. 

After Biden declared that there would be no reemergence of terrorism in Afghanistan and then there was, in fact, an ongoing reemergence of terrorism in Afghanistan, what is he doing to hold them accountable as he promised?

According to SIGAR, Biden's State Department has "made clear to the Taliban that it is their responsibility to ensure that they give no safe haven to terrorists."

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