The dramatic failure on display in Afghanistan has America’s allies and adversaries asking whether the United States can be trusted in the future and if our enemies will ever fear us again. The blame for this current tragedy extends beyond one administration, yet the final failure rests with the one that saw the implications, ignored the warnings and nonetheless chose to haphazardly proceed. The humiliating retreat in Afghanistan requires a recalibration in America’s engagement around the world. It is essential to U.S. national security that we draw our friends closer and take a firm approach towards those who rule in tyranny and attack with terror.
In the wake of the Taliban coup, Afghanistan has once again become a safe haven for terrorists, namely Al-Qaeda. And shamefully, females, minorities, political dissidents and the brave Afghans who aided coalition forces will now live in daily abject terror and fear for their lives. No rational parent throws their child over a barbed-wire airport fence in the hope that they will be caught and brought to safety; no rational person chases an airplane down a runway holding on to its landing gear, flying hundreds of miles per hour in sub-zero temperatures. But fear breeds irrational behavior, and this is now the reality for all of those left behind in Afghanistan.
There is no doubt that terror groups—ISIS, Hamas, Hezbollah and the world’s most prolific state sponsor of terrorism, Iran—are emboldened by the Taliban victory over the Western-backed government in Kabul. At a minimum, we must respond to re-establish confidence and deterrence, as well as to honor a generation’s worth of sacrifice from U.S. armed forces.
The first and easiest way to restore American strength is by dispatching senior officials to consult with our allies in the region and around the world. U.S. President Joe Biden should coordinate closely with partners around the globe, including listening to our Arab allies, meeting with Iranian dissidents and ensuring that there is no daylight between U.S. and Israeli priorities in combating terror.
Time is of the essence. As Taliban forces advanced towards Kabul, Hamas leaders offered their support, praising them and increasing their own attacks on Israel through incendiary balloons aimed at destroying Israeli fields. Hezbollah announced its intention to bring Iranian fuel to Beirut in an effort to prop up the failing economy and pacify Lebanese citizens. Iran was found by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to have increased its uranium enrichment capabilities to near weapons grade in continued defiance of the obligations it made to the international community.
And now, terror attacks in Kabul are bringing it all to the fore.
Despite the fact that their meeting was postponed, Biden has an opportunity in his upcoming rescheduled talk on Friday at the White House with Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett to set a new U.S. strategy on Iran. Publicly and privately, the president should express his commitment to standing with Israel in the face of Iranian-backed terror and the Iranian nuclear program, and announce specific new steps to do so. This can and should include a commitment to ensuring Israel has the freedom of operation to engage its terrorist foes and their backers as the Jewish state deems necessary.
In addition, an essential part of the Biden administration’s commitment to Israel should include rock-solid assurances that disagreements between the two stalwart allies remain private. Such is a long-standing principle in the U.S.-Israel relationship, which too often has been violated. Biden must make it clear that there is no place in his administration for any official who uses the press to undermine Israeli security or the U.S.-Israel relationship.
Furthermore, the Biden administration should reassess its approach to state adversaries—namely, Iran. Seven months into his term in office, Biden has little to show for extending his hand and turning a blind eye to provocative behaviors, particularly with regards to Iran. The regime is increasing its regional influence, has installed the war criminal Ebrahim Raisi in a faux presidential election and is decimating the integrity of the IAEA.
Despite his shameful retreat in Afghanistan, Biden should show the world and our enemies that America still has a backbone by clamping down on Iranian terror financing, arming terror organizations and human-rights abusers. He should apply the lessons learned from the failed engagement with the Taliban to Tehran by pursuing a comprehensive agreement with robust enforcement and sanctions snapback provisions—the deal that former President Barack Obama should have pursued. Biden should respond to each and every advance in the regime’s nuclear and ballistic-missile programs with more stringent enforcement and fresh, biting economic sanctions. And, of course, he should deny Raisi (“the butcher of Tehran”) the opportunity to visit New York in September for the U.N. General Assembly.
In July, the president asked advocates for a continued U.S. presence in Afghanistan to “consider the lessons of recent history.” He should take his own advice with the hard lessons we are learning now, and do what it takes to ensure that America and her allies are never again put in such a position.
Capitulation to radical groups guarantees that without the willpower to ensure there are consequences, chaos will ensue, respect will be diminished, and innocent lives will continue to be lost. Biden has been dealing out hope and goodwill in an effort to advance American interests. But hope is not a foreign-policy strategy. The current approach will only exacerbate the serious national security challenges we presently face.
Alexandria Paolozzi is director of government affairs for the Christians United for Israel Action Fund.