A key point brought up by many Republicans, namely Donald Trump Jr. and Lindsey Graham, is that even if it’s a good thing that Team Biden’s CIA was able to take out al Qaeda head al Zawahiri, the fact that the leader of that notorious terror organization felt comfortable sitting out in the open on a balcony in Kabul shows that the country, if it can even be called that, has reverted back into being a terror safe haven now that US forces are gone and the Taliban is back in power.
Were we still there in any force, or were US contractors backing up the Afghan government to the point where it could still stand up to the Taliban, perhaps the country wouldn’t be a terror safe haven, or so the argument goes.
But, of course, that’s not the case. Under Biden’s sage leadership, US forces attempted to withdraw “with honor” from the war-wracked nation but were pressed by a horde of refugees and inexorable Taliban advance, leading to our ignominious rout from the nation and a Taliban takeover.
And so al Zawahiri felt comfortable smugly sitting on his balcony in Kabul, not hiding but rather relaxing in open sight. That gave the CIA a shot to kill him, to be sure, but also reflects the worrying fact that Afghanistan is once again an al Qaeda haven, as Don Jr. and others brought up.
But it’s not just Republicans bringing up that problem. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Sen. Robert Menendez, a Democrat from New Jersey, did so as well when he appeared on PBS.
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He attempted to avoid doing so at first, however, describing the strike as a major blow to the terror network, saying:
“Well, the death of al-Zawahiri is a big blow to al-Qaeda. He was its present head. He was the number two to bin Laden. There’s an enormous amount of blood of American lives on al-Zawahiri’s hands. So, I’m glad he has met his maker.
“So, it also shows that even in the absence of being in Afghanistan as we were, that we have the wherewithal, in Afghanistan or elsewhere, to track down those terrorists who commit acts against the United States. I think it’s a tremendous blow to al-Qaeda, a big victory. I salute the Biden administration for carrying it out. And it shows that we can still reach into countries, including a place like Afghanistan, to pursue our counterterrorism efforts.”
The host then pushed back, however, questioning him about what Zawahiri’s location and brazenness really meant, asking:
“But what does it say to you, Senator, or signal to you that this terrorist leader was living in a safe house in the capital city, a wealthy area, in a building with links to the Taliban a year after the U.S. pulled troops out of Afghanistan?”
What it says is that Afghanistan is back to being what it was before 2001, a save haven for terrorists.
Such is what Menendez reluctantly admitted in his response, though he tried to pin it on Trump, saying:
“Well, it goes to prove that the deal that former President Trump made with the Taliban that they would not permit Afghanistan to be a safe haven for al-Qaeda was a lie. Because you can’t have the leader of al-Qaeda be living in Kabul, and suggest that you don’t know that that was happening. And so, it confirms that al-Qaeda’s safe haven is still alive and well in Afghanistan. But it also confirms to al-Qaeda operatives that they’re not out of our reach there.”
But Trump wasn’t president at the time of the rout. Biden was. So, even if he tried to camouflage it behind a snide remark about Trump, even Menendez had to admit that the Biden retreat has led to a major problem: the terror safe haven is back.