Israel must be nimble and prepared to respond to the all-too-sudden collapse of Afghanistan that occurred Sunday, Aug. 15, as Afghan president Ashraf Ghani fled in obvious fear for his personal safety.
The news that Taliban insurgents took control of Kabul, the nation’s capital, reverberated in the news last week, and clearly surprised President Joe Biden and his top advisors.
“The truth is, this did unfold more quickly than we anticipated,” Biden said on Monday in a public statement explaining his reasons for withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan.
Israel’s consulate in Houston did not comment on what effect the Taliban’s conquest would have on the Jewish state. Instead, it relied upon a formal statement that it joined with the U.S. and many other countries that called upon the Taliban “to respect and facilitate the safe and orderly departure of foreign nationals and Afghans who wish to leave the country. Those in positions of power and authority across Afghanistan bear responsibility — and accountability — for the protection of human life and property, and for the immediate restoration of security and civil order.”
The Taliban ruled Afghanistan between 1996 and 2001. Former President George W. Bush ordered a massive invasion of Afghanistan after vile terrorist attacks on America on Sept. 11, 2001. Bush relied upon intelligence that the Taliban was harboring Osama Bin Laden, who brazenly claimed responsibility for 9/11.
If the Taliban’s former rule of Afghanistan presages the future, Israel and the United States have serious cause for concern.
The Taliban established its first emirate in 1996 after conquering Kabul. In the fall of that year, Taliban combatants tortured to death Afghanistan’s former president Mohammad Najibullah, dragged his corpse through the streets of Kabul and finally hanged his remains from a traffic post. The Taliban is a fundamentalist Islamic movement. In 1996, shortly after seizing power in Afghanistan, its adherents established a “morality police” via an agency known as the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice.
Men were compelled to grow beards. Women were compelled to wear burqas, long garments covering their faces and bodies. Girls were not allowed to attend school. Women appearing in public alone were subjected to random beatings. Soccer, previously a popular sport in the country, was outlawed. Music, other than religious recordings, was forbidden. Public executions took place in Kabul’s Ghazi Stadium. The rights of Afghan women and teenage girls were virtually nonexistent. Male doctors could not treat a teenage girl or woman without a male chaperone present. Marriages of teenagers younger than 16 were encouraged. Driving by women was proscribed.
Arthur Lenk, Israel’s former ambassador to South Africa, Lesotho, Swaziland and the Republic of Azerbaijan, reminded his fellow Israelis that the Jewish state must, at its essence, be self-reliant.
“The USA is our closest ally. They have been there for Israel time and again over the years. But the horrific events in Afghanistan must be a hard, scary lesson about changing interests and cold, hard calculations,” Lenk wrote on Twitter, as the Jerusalem Post reported Aug. 16.
The Post reported that Lenk wrote that there is a need “to protect partnerships, relationships, alliances and reputation,” adding that one must “have a plan for a rainy day when all of the above might fail.”
Ambassador Lenk’s remarks are keenly noteworthy given the reestablishment of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, the former name of the nation that the Taliban announced on Sunday would again be its formal appellation.
Iran’s president Ebrahim Raisi hailed the Taliban victory. “America’s military defeat and its withdrawal must become an opportunity to restore life, security and durable peace in Afghanistan,” Raisi said, as reported on Iran’s state television network.
Hamas, the terror group that dominates Gaza, issued a statement saying it “congratulates the Afghan Muslim nation for the downfall of the American occupation in all Afghani territory.”
In the Middle East, where alliances between terror groups are de rigueur, Israel has little room for miscalculation. It must carefully assess development in Afghanistan, and weigh its own national security interests. The Afghan army’s sudden collapse adds a perilous variable to Israel’s national security equation. Its leadership must be nimble and prepared for all contingencies.
Ambassador Lenk is right. Israel is and must remain self-reliant. In the final analysis, only Israel can guarantee its own survival.
A version of this editorial appeared in the Aug. 19, 2021, edition of the Jewish Herald-Voice of Houston.