Tag Archives: al-Qaeda

Afghanistan: Will it get better?

A young friend of ours came over this afternoon to wish us a happy 50th anniversary.

We sat in the living room and he turned back to face me and asked: What do you think about Afghanistan?  He meant the withdrawal, of course, which he described as a “mess.”

I didn’t know quite how to respond. I did not — I do not still — want to offend our young neighbor; he is too sweet of a young man and I don’t want to end up on his “bad side.”

All I could come up with was that the commander in chief, President Biden, had no choice but to end a war that had dragged on for two decades. “To what end does he stay in the fight?” I asked. I reminded our young friend that we had fought there for more than two decades. Do they keep fighting?

My friend smiled. We both changed the subject.

The inglorious end to an inglorious war is bound to bring friends to a rhetorical dead end when the subject comes up. My young friend and I agreed that it will take time for this post-Afghan War period to sort itself out.

I will continue to hope for the best outcome, which I hope means we can keep our eyes and ears dialed in to the nth degree and listen and look for any signs of trouble from the Taliban or any terrorist organization that seeks to do us harm.

My hope, then, is that we keep the drones armed and ready to strike.

johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Political snipers taking pot shots

The political sniper squad is at it hot and heavy.

They are suggesting that President Biden will be a one-termer. That his “performance” in announcing the U.S. withdrawal from the Afghan field of battle has sealed his political fate. They suggest the voters have lost “confidence” in his leadership.

Hmm. Allow me this pithy response: Bullsh**!

The president ended an unwinnable war. Our armed forces executed the evacuation of more than 100,000 Americans and Afghan allies.

We fought al-Qaeda for two decades. We killed the monstrous mastermind behind the 9/11 attack — which is why we went to war in the first place. The Taliban had revived itself long before Joe Biden took office. President Biden’s predecessor negotiated a withdrawal with the Taliban; he set a May 1 evac date, but he lost re-election in November.

President Biden was dealt a bad hand when he took office. Dare I mention, too, that his predecessor provided him with zero national security intelligence because, um, he is continuing to insist that the 2020 election was “stolen” from him?

So, for the first time in two decades, we have no Americans on a battlefield anywhere on Earth.

I could swear as well that I heard President Biden declare his intention to hold the Taliban accountable for the pledges they made in ensuring safe passage for any American still in Afghanistan who wants out. I also heard him say our intelligence forces will be on the highest alert possible for any potential terror threat that may surface in Afghanistan … or anywhere else in the world.

Lost confidence? This drama has yet to play out fully.

We have a pandemic that well could be eliminated in the months ahead. And, oh yes, our economy continues to produce jobs at a record-breaking rate.

All that said, I am not going to join the amen chorus that suggests that Joe Biden tenure as president is toast.

johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Recalling an expert on Afghanistan

Charles Nesbitt Wilson’s name isn’t likely to pique many people’s interest.

If you say “Good Time Charlie,” or just plain ol’ “Charlie Wilson,” then we’re talking. I am thinking of Charlie Wilson today as the nation watches its longest war end in Afghanistan.

U.S. Rep. Charlie Wilson was a Texas Democrat and a bona fide expert on Afghanistan, its politics, its people and its struggles against foreign powers. He died in February 2010 and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

I knew Wilson because of my work from 1984 until 1995 as editorial page editor of the Beaumont Enterprise. Wilson represented the Second Congressional District, which at the time included vast stretches of Deep East Texas territory where the newspaper circulated. Thus, he was one of our sources for issues relating to Congress. He and I knew each other well. I respected him greatly; I hope he thought well of the work I did on behalf of our readers.

Before he died, and before he retired from Congress in 1996, Wilson spent much of his career in public life seeking federal assistance to fighters seeking to rid themselves of Soviet domination of Afghanistan.

Wilson rode donkeys through the Khyber Pass with fighters who — regrettably — became the precursors to al-Qaeda. They were called the mujahadeen. They wrote a book and later produced a film called “Charlie Wilson’s War”; indeed, Wilson told me he was thrilled to be portrayed by Tom Hanks in the title role.

In the days after 9/11, I called Wilson at his East Texas home to get his reaction to what happened to us on that terrible day. We spoke for a long time over the phone and Wilson warned me at the time that we were in for the fight of our lives if we chose to go to war in Afghanistan. He knew of which he spoke. He sought congressional aid for the fighters doing battle against Soviet soldiers who invaded their country to prop up the Marxist government.

What might he say about the end of our war in Afghanistan? I am guessing he wouldn’t be shy about saying something like: I told you so. I told you it would be a hard fight. I told you that the Taliban wouldn’t just surrender and disappear from face of the planet.

Charlie Wilson wasn’t particularly bashful about imparting the knowledge he accrued over his years in Congress. I bear him no ill will. As far as Afghanistan is concerned, Rep. Wilson earned the right to rub our noses in it.

johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

It’s over … finally!

Say whatever you wish about the end of the Afghan War.

That we can declare an end to our fighting there is in itself a moment worth saluting. Our longest war came to an end this morning when the last C-17 transport jet took off from Kabul airport, cleared Afghan air space and we declared an end to our evacuation of all U.S. citizens and allies who wanted out.

I have said since we went to war in Afghanistan 20 years ago that there could be no way for us to “declare victory” in the way we were able to do, say, at the end of World War II. Our military brass accepted the terms of surrender of enemy forces in 1945; the fighting stopped and we danced in the streets from coast to coast.

There would be no such celebration after the Korean War, certainly not after the Vietnam War, nor after this war.

Indeed, our war against terrorism is likely to persist, but without the hackneyed “boots on the ground” fighting a cunning enemy.

I will stand with President Biden’s decision to end this war. He knew what his three presidential predecessors — George W. Bush, Barack H. Obama and Donald J. Trump — couldn’t understand. It was time to end a war that had gone badly not long after it started in the wake of the 9/11 attack.

President Bush went to war after 9/11 intending to rid Afghanistan of the Taliban government. He succeeded. He vowed to get the men responsible for the attack on New York and Washington. That task fell eventually to Obama’s national security team that killed Osama bin Laden in May 2011. Trump’s team got the leader of the Islamic State.

One thing remained constant. The Afghan War kept on going.

Joe Biden took over in January. He assessed the return on the investment we were getting in Afghanistan and determined it was time to end it. Now! So … he did.

Those who write the history of this big day will need time to evaluate all the nuance attached to it. I am going venture out on that limb and presume that history will look more kindly than President Biden’s critics are viewing this landmark day in real time.

It’s over. Thank God in heaven!

johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Did we not prep the Afghan army well?

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

As the world watches the Afghan War lurch forward to what looks like a tragic ending, I cannot get past a thought that has been troubling me since the Taliban began their march toward reasserting control over a country it ruled with ruthlessness and depravity.

My thought is this: What in the world did we do to prepare the Afghan armed forces to cope with the onslaught they are facing? 

We arrived on the battlefield not long after 9/11. President Bush ordered our forces into battle to rid the world of al-Qaeda. We succeeded in removing the Taliban from power then after the terror organization had given their fellow terrorists safe haven from which to attack the United States on 9/11.

President Bush left office in January 2009 and President Obama then ordered the killing of Osama bin Laden, the al-Qaeda mastermind; the SEALs and CIA operatives did the deed on May 1,, 2011.

President Obama left office in January 2017 and Donald J. Trump took over. The fight continued.

Trump left office in January 2021 and now we have President Biden on the watch. Through all those previous administrations, there had been an understanding — or so many of us believed — that our forces were on call to do two things: to engage the enemy on the field and to train and equip the Afghans to take over the fight when we were finished.

Biden adds forces for Afghan evacuation, defends withdrawal decision (msn.com)

President Biden made the call to end our involvement there. We began pulling troops out. The Taliban went on the march. The Afghan military has done a terrible job of defending their country. Reports from the field suggest that regular army troops aren’t fighting, that the bulk of the resistance is coming from militia forces.

We spent tens of billions of dollars training these forces to do something that was expected of them. To defend their nation against a savage enemy. They appear to be failing in that mission.

Do we return in full force? No! We must not! I happen to endorse the decision to leave the Afghanistan battlefield. I am aghast at the slipshod way it is occurring. President Biden is deploying 5,000 additional U.S. troops to assist in the evacuation of Americans and our allies, to get out of harm’s way.

But … my goodness. I am troubled by the lack of effort reportedly being shown by the armed forces we supposedly prepared to defend their nation.

I want our young men and women to come home as much as the next person. However, it saddens me terribly to believe we spent two decades fighting and dying for a nation that is unable — or unwilling — to defend itself.

How can we declare victory?

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Twenty years ago, the United States decided to retaliate against the monsters who attacked us on 9/11.

I recall asking back then: How will we be able to know when to end this war against international terrorism? I also wondered how we can declare victory in a war that might seem to have no end.

Well, one aspect of that war is coming to a conclusion. President Biden has ordered all U.S. troops out of Afghanistan, which had given safe haven to the terrorists who hit us on 9/11.

My questions remain the same today as they were when I posed them back in 2001. President Biden has made what amounts to an executive decision. The time has come, he said, to end the war. How does he know that? Well, he hasn’t explained that to us in terms that I have heard.

As for a victory declaration … there won’t be anything of the sort. We will see no “Mission Accomplished” banner hanging across the White House portico.

Indeed, the decision carries plenty of risk. The Taliban are on the march in Afghanistan. The future of women and children in that country now become tenuous. Biden’s predecessor as POTUS sought to negotiate with the terrorists; it didn’t go well for either side.

To be honest, it has been a haphazard withdrawal. There is no clear plan to offer safety for the thousands of contractors who worked with our forces during the Afghan War. I will retain plenty of hope that the president will come up with a plan to provide refuge for the translators and others who assisted our men and women on the battlefield.

However, a war against international terror cannot possibly signal that we have defeated the terrorists, that we have eliminated the threat. Indeed, the threat was always there, always lurking just below the surface, just beyond our consciousness.

It will be there even as we exit the field of battle in Afghanistan.

Bin Laden mission needed time

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Americans are going to be marking a date over the weekend that should fill them with justifiable pride in the capabilities of our military special forces.

It was on May 1, 2011 that Navy SEALs and CIA commandos raided a compound in Pakistan and killed Osama bin Laden, the leader of al-Qaeda and the mastermind of the 9/11 terror attack that had occurred a decade earlier.

Ten years have passed since that raid.

I want to talk briefly here about something that flew out of Donald Trump’s mouth not long after Army Special Forces killed the Islamic State leader on Trump’s watch.

The then-president suggested out loud that the bin Laden raid should have occurred far earlier than it did. Trump was crowing about the success his team had in finding Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and dispatching him. Why couldn’t the Special Forces Command do the same with bin Laden, Trump said.

The military commander of that mission was Admiral William McRaven, himself a SEAL and head of the Special Ops Command. It took McRaven’s team time to assemble and analyze all the intelligence it had collected on bin Laden’s location. Indeed, as President Obama said at the time, he wasn’t absolutely sure that bin Laden would be in the compound once the SEALs and the CIA spooks arrived. It was a gamble … but it paid off!

Thus, for Trump to denigrate the great work that anti-terrorism experts from the Bush and Obama administrations did to locate and to ascertain with some degree of certainty that their findings were correct simply went beyond the pale.

I am going to celebrate the victory our forces scored when they eliminated Osama bin Laden. No amount of cheap second-guessing ever would denigrate the courage of the commander in chief to issue the order and the extraordinary skill of the men who executed it.

Fight the home-grown terrorists

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Domestic terrorism has entered the current political debate.

It is about damn time!

For the past four years, we have paid too little attention, or exerted too little emotional capital on the scourge of domestic, home-grown, corn-fed terrorists who hide in plain sight in our midst.

They presented themselves in full force on the Sixth of January when they marched to Capitol Hill, smashed their way into the Capitol Building, killed five human beings and threatened to stop the democratic process of certifying the results of a free and fair election.

President Biden has introduced the term “domestic terrorists” to the current lexicon, reviving it in the face of what the entire world witnessed early this past month.

FBI Director Christopher Wray told congressional committee members in 2019 that domestic terrorists posed an exponentially greater threat to Americans’ security that foreign terrorists working for, say, ISIS or al-Qaeda.

Did the Donald Trump administration act on that statement? Did it call out the proverbial cavalry to answer the call to root out the terrorists? No. It didn’t. Instead, we heard the president of the United States say in 2017 that there were good people on “both sides” of a dispute that erupted in Charlottesville, Va., between counter protesters and — get this — the Ku Klux Klan, Nazis and assorted white supremacists.

Yep. Donald Trump sought to elevate the Klansmen and Nazis to the same moral level of those who fought against them.

That cannot continue. Thank goodness we now have a president, Joe Biden, who knows better than to utter such moronic rhetoric out loud. You see, words have consequences and it is time this nation deal forthrightly with the terrorists who live among us.

The leadership required to commence that fight has just taken office in Washington, D.C. I believe the battle must be fought at least as long and hard as we are fighting the overseas enemies … and we mustn’t back away from calling what they are.

Terrorists.

Killing of murderer underscores nature of this fight

The killing this week of Qassem Sulemaini underscores a fundamental question about the crisis that was thrust on this country on 9/11: How we do declare victory in a war against international terrorism?

Sulemaini led the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. He had buckets of American blood on his hands. He needed to be hunted down and killed. And so it happened in a drone strike in Baghdad, Iraq, where he and his forces have been fighting against Iraqis and U.S. troops.

More than 18 years ago this country was dragged into a war of someone else’s choosing. Al-Qaeda terrorists pulled off a stunning and cunning surprise attack on this country from which we likely never will recover emotionally, at least not as long as there are Americans still living who remember that terrible day in 2001.

We went to war. President Bush said at the time that our fight was not with Muslims, but with those who perverted their faith into a demented justification for the act of evil.

And so the fight has gone on and on.

Our special operations forces killed al-Qaeda mastermind Osama bin Laden in May 2011. They went into action again in October of this past year and killed Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State. They, too, needed to die. Did their deaths or the death of Sulemaini spell the end of their terror networks? No. They all found someone to replace them; Sulemaini’s deputy commander has stepped into the commander’s role in Iran.

I don’t intend to suggest this country should give up fighting the terrorist monsters. I merely intend to seek to put this fight into what I hope is a proper perspective.

We should acknowledge that terrorists have existed since the beginning of civilization. The 9/11 attack at the beginning of this century emboldened them. They have become more brazen than before. Moreover, the rest of us are paying more careful attention to their hideous rhetoric and, yes, their actions.

We can take some comfort in the tactical victories our side is able to score: the deaths of terror leaders and the battlefield successes we can secure as we seek to defeat the terrorist monsters.

I cannot stop wondering, however, whether a declaration of victory against terror is even possible. The terrorists, I fear, possess a deep bench full of lunatics who are willing to die for some perverted cause.

Therefore, the fight must continue.

Support the strike; question the strategy

I want to be crystal clear, with no ambiguity about the events that resulted in the death of a bloodthirsty terrorist.

I support fully the air strike that killed Qassem Suleimani, the head of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard. No American I can think of is mourning the death of this individual. Indeed, politicians of all stripes are hailing the killer’s death.

What troubles me are the questions that are emerging about whether Donald Trump ordered the strike with a clear post-strike strategy in mind. I am developing growing doubt that the president had thought it out thoroughly.

Yes, the critics have emerged on the Democratic side of the congressional aisle. They were left out of the loop. Congressional leaders say they weren’t informed of the plan to hit Suleimani prior to the attack occurring. They want Congress to authorize any military action that might occur in the event Iran retaliates.

I, too, am concerned about all of that.

We also need to get real about one more important aspect of this raid. The death of Suleimani does not mean the end of the Revolutionary Guard. The Guard also already has elevated his deputy to top of the its chain of command.

Remember, too, that the May 2011 raid that killed Osama bin Laden did not extinguish al-Qaeda. Nor did the mission this past year that took out Abu Bakr al Baghdadi eliminate the Islamic State. The terror organizations are continuing their bloody campaigns against Muslims and against U.S. forces that are still fighting them on the battlefield.

It all arcs back to the most riveting question of the “global war on terror.” How will we be able to declare victory? My hunch is that we are engaging in a war with no end.

As for the death of this latest murderer, I am glad he is dead.

However, we now must be prepared to deal with the consequences.