Afghanistan is back in the news. Wednesday, 2 U.S. servicemembers were killing in a suicide boming attack. Already this year, U.S. airstrikes are at their highest level since 2012, and President Trump is considering sending up to 3,000 more troops to support the 8,400 Americans already serving there.
Why does the AfPak region remain a hotbed of terrorist plotting and violence? General John W. Nicholson, commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, notes that of the 98 designated terrorist organizations around the globe, 20 of them operate in the region. It’s an exceptional concentration, and just one reason why the U.S. must remain engaged in Afghanistan.
Yet for some years now, voices on both the right and left have urged American withdrawal. That would be a mistake. As America and its allies have drawn down troops in Afghanistan, Al Qaeda has been quietly strengthening its hand.
The terrorist group has proved adept at retaining allies in the region, then working alongside them to strengthen the terrorist movement as a whole. Let’s focus on just three of these allies.
First, there is the Taliban. Many in the West believe they can be peeled off from Al Qaeda at the negotiating table. That seems highly unlikely. Despite multiple changes of leadership, the two groups have reaffirmed allegiance to each other after every change. It’s not just talk. The two continue to work together militarily.
Al Qaeda also retains its ties to the Haqqani network (HQN). In the immediate aftermath of the allied invasion of Afghanistan, the AfPak insurgent group helped al-Qaeda establish itself in Pakistani tribal areas. The groups continue to work hand-in-glove.
Intelligence officials recently told Fox News that Al Qaeda “provides fighters, expertise and material support to HQN when needed … and several times its…