The War on Terror Zombie Army Has Assembled

“All of the ghosts—or perhaps zombies—of U.S. foreign policy for the past 30 years seem to be assembling into one big war. Since the Obama administration, Washington has promised to pull U.S. forces out of the Middle East, while quietly dabbling in proxy wars all over the region. That arrangement turned out to be neither stable nor sustainable. Right under everyone’s noses, and without permission from Congress, the United States has gone from proxy warfare back to direct combat in the Middle East.
The immediate cause of the crisis was unexpected: the mass Hamas-led killing and kidnapping of Israelis last October and the Israeli invasion of Gaza in response. But the underlying dynamics were there for everyone to see. American leaders believed that they could impose an unpopular order on the Middle East without putting in much effort and freeze the Middle East’s conflicts on Washington’s terms. And like an overconfident character in a horror movie, the Biden administration accidentally foreshadowed the bloody events to come.

“The Middle East region is quieter today than it has been in two decades now,” National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said a week before the war. “Now challenges remain—Iran’s nuclear weapons program, the tensions between Israelis and Palestinians—but the amount of time that I have to spend on crisis and conflict in the Middle East today compared to any of my predecessors going back to 9/11 is significantly reduced.””

“The Trump administration was unbothered. “The biggest threat that our allies and partners in the region face is not the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. It’s Iran. You’ve got to start there,” Trump administration official Brian Hook said in August 2020. As was the Biden administration. Current Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in January 2021 that “it’s hard to see near-term prospects for moving forward” on the issue.

Perhaps the United States alone could have solved the conflict; perhaps no one could have. Either way, Washington had tied itself to the outcome. Israel continued to receive U.S. military aid in greater amounts and with fewer conditions than any other country. And the Abraham Accords made Israel a key part of the entire Middle East’s security architecture.

Meanwhile, Tehran was licking its wounds. Although the Islamic Republic of Iran is internationally isolated and domestically losing control, it has many cards left to play. Iranian leaders can still count on a large arsenal of missiles and drones and an array of pro-Iran guerrilla forces across the region. (The Houthis are one such group.) Saudi Arabia, once an advocate for bombing Iran, decided to cut its losses and accept a diplomatic deal with Iran last year.

“The stage was set, then, for the October war to spread all over the region. The Abraham Accords were exposed as both fragile and unpopular in the Arab world, especially after Israeli leaders began to talk about expelling Palestinians from Gaza en masse. Iran had a golden opportunity to escalate on its terms. Hezbollah, the pro-Iran party in Lebanon, immediately began firing on Israeli territory. Biden sent two aircraft carriers to the region to deter any further escalation against Israel, while also talking Israel out of a preemptive war on Lebanon.

Iraqi militias broke their truce with Americans the following week. The U.S. bases originally set up to overthrow Saddam Hussein and repurposed for the war against the Islamic State were now redoubts against Iran’s Iraqi supporters. Like the Obama and Trump administrations before it, the Biden administration cited the original Iraq War authorization to justify its newest battle.

Then the Houthis began to menace international commerce. Houthi spokesman Yahya Sare’e claimed that Israeli shipping was a “legitimate target” until the siege of Gaza was lifted. Echoing the logic of liberal American hawks, he claimed that Yemen had a responsibility to protect Palestinian civilians. But the Houthi attacks also struck non-Israeli ships and drove international shipping companies out of the Red Sea, which normally carries around 10 percent of global trade.

As it turned out, the problem wouldn’t take care of itself. Despite the Abraham Accords, no Arab state except Bahrain was willing to intervene against the Houthis on behalf of Israeli shipping. (Saudi Arabia also seemed more concerned with maintaining its own truce.) Biden decided to cobble together his own fleet to fend off the Houthi assaults.”

https://reason.com/2024/01/12/the-war-on-terror-zombie-army-has-assembled/

Upcoming Biden book recounts untold timeline of Afghanistan withdrawal

“When National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan relayed the news to Biden that former Afghan President Ashraf Ghani fled the country, he writes, Biden exploded in frustration and said, “Give me a break.”
In the excerpt, Foer depicts a scene that went viral of the withdrawal: when dozens of Afghans climbed onto the side of a jet to escape the country.

“Only after the plane had lifted into the air did the crew discover its place in history,” Foer writes. “When the pilot couldn’t fully retract the landing gear, a member of the crew went to investigate, staring out of a small porthole. Through the window, it was possible to see scattered human remains.””

“When former ambassador to Afghanistan John Bass touched down in Afghanistan after the plane’s departure to lead the evacuation effort, he toured the gates of the airport where he was greeted “by the smell of feces and urine, by the sound of gunshots and bullhorns blaring instructions in Dari and Pashto.”

“Dust assaulted his eyes and nose. He felt the heat that emanated from human bodies crowded into narrow spaces,” Foer writes.

Biden would shower Bass with ideas to evacuate more people.

“The president’s instinct was to throw himself into the intricacies of troubleshooting,” Foer writes. “‘Why don’t we have them meet in parking lots? Can’t we leave the airport and pick them up?’ Bass would kick around Biden’s proposed solutions with colleagues to determine their plausibility, which was usually low. Still, he appreciated Biden applying pressure, making sure that he didn’t overlook the obvious.”

“In total, the United States had evacuated about 124,000 people, which the White House touted as the most successful airlift in history,” Foer writes. “Bass also thought about the unknown number of Afghans he had failed to get out.””

https://www.politico.com/news/2023/08/29/biden-book-afghanistan-00113295

Why are there still American troops in Syria?

“US troops are fighting ISIS in Syria. But Congress hasn’t approved it, the public hardly knows about it, and it’s not clear under what conditions the US would leave.
Americans tend to only be reminded of the 900 US troops and hundreds of contractors stationed there when they came under attack, often from militants who have Iran’s support, or when there is a mishap”

“The US is in Syria to curb the terrorist group Islamic State or ISIS, in a region that is semi-autonomous and run by the Syrian Democratic Forces, a Kurdish group.

Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has said that troops are needed because “if you completely ignore and turn your back, then you’re setting the conditions for a resurgence.”

But experts say that the US troops there are not building toward a sustainable outcome, and that resisting ISIS has become the pretext for a perpetual US presence.”

“Ford explains that the American mission to secure the outright defeat of ISIS is impossible. The 900 troops in the northeast of Syria and the US garrison at al-Tanf cannot stop a low level of recruitment into ISIS ranks. “So we can bomb some and we can kill some, but they’ll always replace the people that they lose,” he told me. “This is a classic forever war.””