Afghanistan, a Model for Obama’s Failed Global Leadership

ISIS carnage claims the lives of 80 in Kabul as Taliban continue to exert greater control.

Twin suicide blasts struck Afghanistan’s capital city of Kabul last week killing at least 80 and injuring as many as 260. The death toll is likely to rise as many of the injured are in a critical state. The resultant carnage was gruesome even by Afghan standards. Bodies in grotesque, unnatural postures, were strewn about. Some had severed limbs while others were decapitated. The Islamic State, aka ISIS, ISIL or Daesh – the Obama administration is still in the midst of formulating a policy on what to call them – claimed responsibility for the atrocity.

Those targeted were Afghan Hazaras, Persian-speaking people who are followers of the Shia brand of Islam; the rest of the nation practices Sunni Islam. They are a victimized minority who comprise roughly 20 percent of the Afghan population and were protesting lack of electricity – a luxury most Westerners take for granted – when the blasts occurred. 

The impoverished Hazaras have also proven to be a fertile recruiting ground for the Islamic Republic of Iran, which has utilized members of the group as mercenary proxy soldiers to fight its sectarian conflicts in Iraq, Syria and possibly Yemen. And thanks to the $150 billion cash infusion from Obama’s Iran deal, the malignant mullahs will be able to sustain the payroll and likely expand their mercenary force, thus further fueling instability and sectarian violence.

The Taliban, Afghanistan’s other medieval terrorist group, disavowed any knowledge or responsibility for the Kabul outrage. Though they maintain similar extremist Islamic ideologies, the Taliban and ISIS are implacable foes and have clashed with one another. The Taliban prefer to target the security forces, symbols of the state and foreigners while ISIS has a history of striking so-called, soft targets.

Despite the Taliban’s disavowal, it is the Taliban and not ISIS, which poses the greatest danger to Afghanistan’s viability as a functioning nation. While ISIS remains a menace, its presence in Afghanistan is relatively contained. Conversely, Taliban strength continues to surge.  

According to Bill Roggio, the editor of The Long War Journal, the Taliban fully or partially control approximately 20 percent of Afghanistan. That estimate is acknowledged to be conservative and the group’s actual area of control may be as high as 50 percent. That disconcerting figure represents another foreign policy failure for Obama. After eight years of fighting, the administration has yet to devise a coherent strategy to deal with the Taliban menace and has precious little to show for its efforts. 

The United States currently maintains a military force of just under 10,000 in Afghanistan and in light of the precarious security situation, Obama has promised to leave them there. With a weak central government and an unmotivated, demoralized army, it is all but certain that if U.S. troops were withdrawn, Afghanistan would plunge once again into full-scale civil war with the Taliban and various ethnic warlords seizing control. Iran now wields considerable influence in Afghanistan and it too, would exert some measure of dominance.

In sum, Afghanistan is an unstable mess, teetering on the brink and held together by a thread. That morbid characterization represents the state of affairs in much of the Muslim Middle East. From Libya to Iraq, tribalism and religious ideology have emerged as the dominant forces that have unraveled and destabilized much of the region. That is in part, a reflection of a broader policy failure on the part of the Obama administration, which has militarily intervened in regions where non-intervention was called for, and failed to intervene when some form of military intervention was warranted.

Though Libya’s Kaddafi was a tyrant, he ruled over a relatively stable country, dismantled his illicit nuclear program and was seeking rapprochement with the West. When civil war broke out in 2011, the Obama administration intervened on behalf of the rebels thus turning the tables against the government. Five years later, Libya no longer exists as a functional state as a conglomerate of various Islamist groups, including ISIS, seek to exert dominance. 

In Iraq, Obama was warned by military leaders that a premature withdrawal of U.S forces would lead to instability. He failed to heed the call of the experts and set a definitive timetable for withdrawal thus setting the stage for a resurgent Sunni insurgency, Iranian meddling and the rise of ISIS.

In Syria, Obama drew a ridiculous red line that if crossed, would trigger a U.S military response. That red line was crossed repeatedly by Assad’s use of chemical weapons. Meanwhile, exasperated Syrian rebels and the world watched as America stood by with seeming impotence. Naturally, the rebels lost faith in U.S. resolve and gravitated toward ISIS, swelling its ranks.

In Egypt, Obama threw Hosni Mubarak under a bus, backing his Islamo-fascist Muslim Brotherhood rivals. When the Egyptian military, led by Gen. Abdel Fattah el-Sisi regained the initiative and deposed the increasingly authoritarian Mohammed Morsi, Obama inexplicably backed Morsi thus losing the trust of the Sisi-led government.

Obama’s Iran deal, which keeps getting worse by the minute and provides the Iranians with a legal pathway to produce nuclear bombs, has caused even greater instability. It has alienated allies, who no longer trust the U.S. and emboldened the region’s chief malign influence and state-sponsor of international terrorism.

During his tenure as president, Obama has misjudged, mismanaged and mischaracterized the pressing threats and dangers facing the United States and its allies. It would not be incorrect to say that after eight years of Obama’s dreadful foreign policy failures, the world is indeed a much more dangerous place.