By: Yigal Carmon
What is happening in Afghanistan is already beyond grief. The United States is negotiating with the Taliban, without the Taliban first agreeing to a cease-fire as a precondition for talks, and although President Trump has emphatically announced his determination to withdraw from the country, American soldiers are still being killed (in recent days, three American servicemen died).
One can understand President Donald Trump’s wish to leave Afghanistan. Whether the US can sustain its strategic and economic leadership in the context of an isolationist policy, is a legitimate debate. This is the president’s and Congress’s purview. There are, however, ways to leave without losing people, respect, and allies. Mr. Trump, instead of leaving unilaterally, while reinforcing the democratically elected government in Kabul without boots on the ground, is unfortunately empowering his Taliban enemy by protracted negotiations, where America makes successive concessions and ultimately throws its Afghan allies under the bus. Afghan officials are the first to sense that the sellout of the Kabul government is impending, and are scurrying to defect to the Taliban (in July alone there were 800 defections).
Some enemies have no interest in anything but an American withdrawal and will not pay anything for such a withdrawal; on the contrary, they will exact payment for each day the Americans remain until they exit with their tails between their legs. Apparently, the president and his administration are unable to see this. According to leaks to the media, the Americans are trying to negotiate with the Taliban a dialogue with the elected Kabul government. However, even if the Taliban sign on the dotted line, our experience in the Middle East shows time and again that there is no way to ensure that they keep their word. President Trump insists that the Taliban promise not to attack the US following its departure. The Taliban can definitely affix their empty signature: in the Middle East, people use proxies. Like the Iranians, the Taliban can be seemingly uninvolved, but 9/11 was hatched in Afghanistan by Muslim-Arab Al-Qaeda members.
Who blinded brilliant, shrewd and goal-oriented people such as President Trump and the people around him, as they did also during his first year in office? Why do they prefer to overlook the public announcements by the Taliban such as: “the reason behind war… in Afghanistan is the presence of Americans forces and it will only find an end when American forces leave Afghanistan.” The answer (surprise) is Qatar, which talked the U.S. administration into this self-destructive process. The administration bought into it on the assumption that a country that built and hosts the CENTCOM base is therefore an ally with shared interests and therefore its recommendations must be benevolent and bona fide. Little do they understand — Qatar is an enemy in allied clothing — and its interests are antithetical to America’s.
Qatar supports every major terrorist organization: the Muslim Brotherhood (it hosts their chief inciter for terror, Sheikh Yusef Al-Qaradawi) and its offshoots such as Al-Qaeda and now the Taliban in order to buy protection for the ruling Al-Thani clan. It also sustains Muslim governments antagonistic to America such as Erdogan’s Turkey. The Al-Thani family-owned Al-Jazeera news network has for decades served as an efficient weaponized media outlet targeting the US and its interests in the region and beyond.
According to Richard A. Clarke, National Coordinator for Security and Counter-terrorism in the Clinton and Bush (43) administrations, the previous Qatari Emir, father of the current one, personally snatched from the Americans an arch-terrorist named Khalid Sheikh Muhammad, (who plotted terror attacks against America) and spirited him away from Qatar to foil his arrest by the Americans, thus enabling him to mastermind the 9/11 attacks a few years later. Clarke concluded: “Had the Qataris handed him over to us as requested in 1996, the world might have been a very different place.”
As opposed to what many Americans think, Qatar did the US no favors in building the base in the mid-1990s. It needed an American base for its own self-protection and this dependence still persists. Without this base, this Lilliputian energy Gulliver would be taken over by its neighbors (whether Iranian or Saudi) within a day. The US military establishment ignores this reality to its own detriment, and behaves as if America is in Qatar’s debt rather than the reverse.
By enlisting America, Qatar protects itself.
The Qataris won President Trump’s friendship the same way they purchase anything in the West, from think tanks to World Cup competitions. They insinuated themselves into his good graces by promising a reported $85 billion for rehabilitating America’s infrastructure. President Trump’s eagerness for American jobs and prosperity understandably fed his enthusiasm for the Qatari emir:
“Tamim, you’ve been a friend of mine for a long time, before I did this presidential thing, and we feel very comfortable with each other… Investments that you make in the United States — one of the largest in the world — but the investments that you make are very much appreciated. And I know the planes you’re buying and all of the other things you’re investing in. And I view it differently; I view it as jobs. Because for me, it’s jobs. And today, we set a new record for jobs. We’re setting it almost on a daily basis.”
Even more unfortunate is Qatar’s ability to buy off the US military on the cheap by expanding the Al-Udeid base on its dime to allow more comfortable housing for the servicemen’s families; so far, no American commander has arisen to challenge the price in American blood and honor that Doha’s largesse is demanding. Instead, we get Brigadier General Daniel H. Tulley, the Al-Udeid base commander, cluelessly saying: “It never ceases to amaze Americans how gracious our hosts are here.”
Years ago, a senior administration official explained to me why the US turns a blind eye to Qatar’s nefarious activities. “We have in the Al-Udeid base total freedom of operations,” he said. “The Al-Udeid base is like a USAFB in Alabama.” This too is no longer true; Qatar is already threatening to limit potential operations against Iran from Al-Udeid, should they be needed, and Qatar’s Tamim told Rouhani that “only countries [placed] along the coast [of the Persian Gulf] should keep security in the region.” One can imagine the Qatari ruling family laughing in the safety of their US-protected palace, and prizing their good fortune in having such useful idiots as allies and protectors.
Yigal Carmon is the President and founder of MEMRI [Middle East Media and Research Institute].
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