As resistance groups step up attacks on the Taliban in Afghanistan, the U.S. State Department said it does “not support organized violent opposition” to Taliban rule. Instead, the State Department called for all warring parties to negotiate. That policy both limits the effectiveness of anti-Taliban resistance – and further reduces the U.S. military and intelligence communities’ ability to monitor and strike Al Qaeda, the Islamic State and other regional and global terror groups based in Afghanistan.
State noted its opposition to resistance to the brutal regime of the Taliban, which calls itself the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, in a response to questions from The Foreign Desk.
“We are monitoring the recent uptick in violence closely and call on all sides to exercise restraint and to engage. This is the only way that Afghanistan can confront its many challenges,” a State Department spokesperson told The Foreign Desk.
“We want to see the emergence of stable and sustainable political dispensation via peaceful means. We do not support organized violent opposition to the Taliban, and we would discourage other powers from doing so as well.”
Anti-Taliban resistance groups such as the National Resistance Front, which is led by Panjshiri leader Ahmad Massaud, and the Afghanistan Freedom Front have increased attacks against the Taliban in several provinces, including Panjshir, Baghlan, and Parwan over the past several months. The Taliban has responded by bolstering its forces there and waging a brutal campaign against civilians in areas where resistance has intensified.
State’s opposition to supporting the anti-Taliban resistance is a de facto recognition of Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan’s rule, and it dooms these groups to having minimal impact on Taliban control of the country. The Taliban effectively controls all 34 provinces in Afghanistan, and has superior numbers, equipment, and the support of the Pakistani state and it regional and global terrorist allies, including Al Qaeda and the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan. Without significant military and diplomatic support, the anti-Taliban resistance is unlikely to expand its operations beyond sheer guerilla tactics.
The U.S. government’s unwillingness to meaningfully support the anti-Taliban resistance also limits the U.S. military and CIA’s ability to monitor and strike Al Qaeda. Since the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan at the end of Aug. 2021 and the swift Taliban takeover of the country, the U.S. military and intelligence community has admitted that its visibility on the activities of terror groups has approached zero. In Dec. 2021, General Frank McKenzie, the previous head of U.S. Central Command, admitted as much.
“We’re probably at about 1 or 2% of the capabilities we once had to look into Afghanistan,” McKenzie told The Associated Press. This makes it “very hard, if not impossible” to target terror groups such as Al Qaeda and the Islamic State Khorasan Province.
McKenzie’s estimate on the ability to monitor and strike terror groups is very likely the best case scenario. The U.S. military and intelligence community repeatedly overestimated the Afghan government’s ability to stave off the Taliban and underestimated the Taliban’s strength and cohesion.
Evidence of the U.S. military’s inability to see inside Afghanistan and strike targets of opportunity is seen in the U.S Department of Defense Inspector General’s recent report on now defunct Operation Freedom’s Sentinel and Operation Enduring Sentinel. According to the report, the U.S. has invested $19.5 billion in an Over the Horizon Counterterrorism Center, “a joint headquarters located in Doha, Qatar, with a staff of approximately 100 personnel …”
The Over the Horizon Counterterrorism Center has conducted zero strikes in Afghanistan since inceptionp.
U.S. support for anti-Taliban resistance groups can not only aid in meaningful resistance to the brutal, pro-Al Qaeda Taliban regime, it can help increase the U.S. visibility into the activities of terrorist groups operating in Afghanistan to better keep its citizens safe at home and abroad.