Opinion l How the fall of Afghanistan affects U.S. National Security interests

After the fall of Afghanistan to Taliban rule and the resurgence of ISIS-K, the danger to U.S. National Security has drastically increased.


Dylan Hood, contributed.

Dylan Hood, Opinions Columnist

Sept. 11, 2001 was one of the darkest days in U.S. history.

I remember getting off the bus when I was in second grade with the only knowledge in my mind being that I had gotten out of school early. As soon as my feet hit the pavement, my mother picked me up and rushed me into the house. She told me what happened, but I couldn’t conceptualize the gravity of what occurred.

The two-decade war in response to these events was one that cost trillions of dollars and took thousands of American lives. With the last holdout valley in Afghanistan falling to Taliban rule, the U.S. is in just as much danger now as it was before the war.

We knew the Taliban would surge back after the end of our occupation. Despite the equipment we provided them with, the training we gave, and infrastructure we built, the Afghan military was weak. We spent two decades attempting to strengthen a military force that was split between national and Taliban allegiance. Afghan military on U.S. military attacks, also known as green on blue, spiked. There was very little faith in the Afghan military to withstand the resurgence of the Taliban in our absence.

Though this was a predicted outcome, the speed at which the Taliban overtook the country was surprising. The U.S. was expecting them to make their big push months after we had left the country, not days before we left.

Now that the Taliban has solidified their rule in Afghanistan for the foreseeable future, the ability for extremist organizations to operate out of the region is an immediate danger to U.S. national security. ISIS-K, the ISIS affiliate operating out of Afghanistan, and al-Qaida now have  an unchecked opportunity to operate out of the country.

As a current member of the Iowa Army National Guard and previous member of the Virginia Army National Guard, I have personal experience with a region affected by ISIS. During my first deployment to Qatar in 2015-2016 with Virginia, I worked on an Entry Control Point, where we screened and validated base access for anyone attempting to gain entry to our base. As Christmas 2015 approached, the intelligence officials at our post informed us that ISIS had made a claim to attack the U.S. Military Installation in Qatar.

We were brought into the post movie theater by the company and given the details of the nature of the suspected attack. The attack was due to Qatar’s cooperation and willingness to partner with the U.S. in military activities and was to be carried out before Christmas Day. It was also expected to be triggered by a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device, or as we in the military commonly know it, a VBIED.

We all knew based on our training that VBIEDs are the deadliest kinds of IED because of the ability to pack more explosive material than by any other means.

To make all of this even better, the attack was expected to be on our gate, during our shift we were on. Tension for the next month was extremely high on every shift. Each car that came to our gate had the potential to send us home in a body bag.

During one of my shifts, an individual in a white ski mask on a dirt bike drove up to our gate at roughly 2 a.m. We signaled the man to drive forward but were promptly ignored. It wasn’t until we grabbed our M4 rifles and approached the man that he quickly turned around and sped out the inbound vehicle lane.

After we endured the uncertain weeks of December, we were able to work a bit more comfortably as ISIS was being quickly dismantled by U.S. air strikes and ground operations. The group was being displaced and were no longer believed to be a threat to our base.

After the suicide bombing that claimed the lives of 13 U.S. service members, there is an indication that ISIS-K is starting to increase the speed and scope of its operations. ISIS-K intends to create chaos and undermine the sitting government with the end goal of becoming a global caliphate that transcends national borders. The Islamic State’s strength relies on where it operates in a nation with political instability. The unstable political landscape allows the organization to recruit, train, and gain resources from its host nation.

Unsteady politics allows for those who are unhappy with the sitting government to be more susceptible to ISIS’s influence.

The future is very uncertain for not only Afghanistan, but for the rest of the world. With more questions than answers surrounding the embattled country, countries must continue to strengthen and enforce their national security policies.

Whether or not anyone likes it, a Taliban-ruled Afghanistan is here to stay for now. The major question is what kind of government will the Taliban create? Will they stay true to their word of being a legitimate government that can be recognized on the world stage? Or will they continue with its reign by terror policy, where they execute, beat, and segregate?

A unified Afghanistan with a functional and competent Taliban backed government is one that is better for the U.S. national security interests, as ISIS and the Taliban aren’t strategic partners. The Taliban wants to rule over Afghanistan while ISIS threatens on a global scale because of the scope of its operations.

Taliban leadership will not allow the freedom of movement that they did for al-Qaida.  But if the people continue to fear for their lives and remain unhappy, recruitment to ISIS becomes more of a possibility. A resurgent ISIS that is taking advantage of the political revolution going on in Afghanistan is the biggest threat to U.S. national security interests currently. If we hope to control the growth of extremism, it starts with a functional government in Afghanistan.

Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.