The seeds of a humiliating US withdrawal from Afghanistan were sown shortly after the US invasion of that country after 9/11, when (Washington – S.D.) refrained from confrontation with Pakistan because of its continued support for its proxy, the Taliban. *
The Taliban was founded in 1980 as part of a joint US-Pakistani-Saudi effort to combat Soviet forces in Afghanistan shortly after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in December 1979.
Pakistan has provided a geographic base and an almost endless influx of personnel, primarily the Pashtuns, who make up about 40-45% of the population of Afghanistan and about 20% of Pakistan. About 85% of them live in Pashtunistan, which borders the line Duranda… The United States provided weapons, while Saudi Arabia provided funding to purchase these weapons and cover the costs of maintaining Afghan refugee camps in Pakistan.
The Pashtun-dominated Taliban quickly became the largest and most heavily armed component of the Mujahideen, the umbrella organization of Afghan rebels who fought Soviet forces in Afghanistan.
Following the Soviet withdrawal, Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence continued to support the Taliban in the ensuing civil war in Afghanistan, even though the Taliban had already begun cooperating with al-Qaeda **. Pakistani aid has proven vital in securing a Taliban victory over their former less radical partners, the mujahideen.
Pakistan made a big show of its alleged abandonment of the Taliban after 9/11, but in reality it never turned its back on its Afghan proxies. Realizing that any attempt to confront the US military would be suicidal and could lead to the end of Pakistan’s vital alliance with the US, the Pakistani military convinced the Taliban to retreat without a fight to Pakistan, where, under ISI supervision, they were allowed to set up camps and training bases.
Pakistan, with financial support from Saudi Arabia, continued to support the Taliban as a viable force to be deployed when – in due course – the US gets tired of the endless war in that country.
In addition, Pakistan continued to play a double game with the US, allowing the ISI-backed network Haqqani operate in Pakistan.
Khalil Haqqani, who, despite being awarded a $ 5 million bounty on his wanted terrorist’s head, has long been a regular visitor to ISI headquarters. And now he is one of the new rulers of Afghanistan.
It is clear that this fiasco would never have happened if, even in June 2021, the US made it clear to Pakistan that it would have to pay dearly if Islamabad did not ensure that the Taliban allowed the peaceful and orderly withdrawal of all American personnel and their Afghan allies, who wanted to leave the country.
The United States has almost unlimited leverage over Pakistan, from the use of devastating sanctions to broad hints that it will give India the green light to return parts of Kashmir (Gilgit-Baltistan, which has been under unrecognized Pakistani occupation since 1948.
Pakistani nuclear forces can be ignored, since 165 warheads installed on relatively short-range Shahin-3 missiles (2,650 kilometers) pose no real threat to the United States. Pakistani generals may have audacity, but they are competent professionals, not suicidal maniacs. Faced with a real threat from the United States, they would seek a diplomatic solution.
This is not the first time that the US has lost the war against proxies by refraining from taking any meaningful action against the power behind it. The most obvious case is Vietnam, which was a Soviet proxy.
The lesson for Israel is clear and ominous. For nearly two decades, Iran has been waging a proxy war on two fronts against Israel. Hezbollah is a complete proxy of Iran, and Hamas is a partial one, since it also has to take into account the interests of the Turkey-Qatar-Muslim Brotherhood axis. *** And these interests do not always coincide with those of Iran.
Despite Israel’s current efforts, including significant attacks on Iranian forces in Syria, the threat posed by Iranian proxies is growing stronger. While these proxies are clearly unable to defeat Israel, with Iranian assistance their ability to make Israel pay an ever higher price continues to grow.
This will not change until the Supreme Leader of Iran Ali Khamenei knows that he can fight Israel to the last drop of Lebanese blood and be confident in his safety and the safety of his regime in Tehran.
Indeed, despite the significant qualitative superiority in conventional weapons over the Iranian armed forces, which have been shackled by decades of tough international sanctions, Israel has so far refrained from actions aimed at inflicting a decisive defeat on any of the proxies or designed to charge Iran a high enough price, which forced would have him reconsider his proxy war against Israel.
Militarily, the main reason for this was the Iranian missile program, which, although still fully equipped with conventional warheads, appears to have succeeded in sufficiently containing Israel. This is despite the fact that Israel has the world’s only fully operational multilayer missile defense system (Arrow, David’s Sling and Iron Dome).
This is not the only reason, however, as Israel is militarily capable of defeating both Iranian proxies. In order to destroy Hamas, Israel will have to restore occupying power in Gaza or secure in advance the presence of any multinational force capable of assuming responsibility for Gaza. It is unlikely that such a force will appear in the near future.
A unilateral Israeli occupation of Gaza is possible, but will require an exorbitant price tag economically, diplomatically and in terms of public opinion.
Destroying Hezbollah would require Israel to destroy half of Lebanon, since Hezbollah is a state within a state that is more powerful than the legitimate state itself. Militarily this is feasible, but it will lead to a humanitarian and public relations disaster.
Therefore, Israel bases its policy on containment and control, concluding that the economic, diplomatic and military sacrifices and consequences of the alternative are too costly.
Afghanistan serves as a compelling reminder of the futility of waging a proxy war while refraining from opposing the proxy-supporting power, even if you are the preeminent world power that is still the United States.
Israel’s priority must be to ensure that it does not end up facing a proxy backed by a nuclear power. To achieve this goal, Israel needs to urgently reconsider its current containment policy. He must formulate a new policy based not on deterrence, but on neutralization of the threat. This means confronting Iran.
As heavy as the costs of such a policy may be, it is clear that the costs of not adopting such a policy will – very possibly and unfortunately in the not too distant future – be much higher. The question that policymakers in Israel must ask themselves is not whether Israel can afford the cost of removing the threat, but whether it can afford not to.
By Jonathan Ariel – a native of South Africa who served as an intelligence officer in the ANC **** and subsequently worked with Nelson Mandela… In Israel, he was news editor for one of the largest weekly Israeli newspapers, Makor Rishon, editor-in-chief of the Israeli daily Maariv International and editor-in-chief of Channel 2 News, an English-language website Jerusalem Online.
* “Taliban” – an organization recognized as terrorist in Russia by the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation and banned.
** “Al-Qaeda” – by the decision of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation of February 14, 2003, it was recognized as a terrorist organization, its activities on the territory of Russia are prohibited.
*** The organization “Muslim Brothers” by the decision of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation dated February 14, 2003 was recognized as terrorist, its activities on the territory of the Russian Federation are prohibited.
**** The African National Congress is the oldest political organization of the African population of South Africa, since 1994 – the ruling party (in alliance with the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) and the South African Communist Party).