Category Archives: Afghanistan

Intra-Jihadi Competition, Iran, and Western Staying Power in Afghanistan

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on September 1, 2015

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The Taliban on August 31 finally confessed all: its leader, Mullah Muhammad Omar, had been dead since April 23, 2013. The Taliban admitted that Mullah Omar had passed from this veil of tears on July 30 but was distinctly vague on when. Omar’s death was kept secret because of “jihadi considerations,” namely the “testing” time the mujahideen were having with the “foreign invaders,” the Taliban says. While the Taliban places the emphasis on its struggle with NATO, the reality is that NATO is drawing down and the Taliban’s burgeoning foe is the Islamic State (I.S.). The Taliban is tied to al-Qaeda’s faltering brand, and conditions are militating to help I.S., not al-Qaeda, in “Khorasan”. Continue reading

Leaving Afghanistan to Iran Won’t Bring Stability—nor Keep ISIS Out

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on August 26, 2015

Published at National Review

Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, one of the three major insurgent leaders in Afghanistan, a close ally of Iran

Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, one of the three major insurgent leaders in Afghanistan, a close ally of Iran

The admission by the Taliban on July 30 that its leader, Mullah Muhammad Omar, had died was widely seen as good news for the Islamic State (ISIS) against its jihadist competitors. But while ISIS’s growing power in Afghanistan over the last year has garnered significant attention, the rise of Iran’s influence in the country has been less noted. Worse, in the light of the nuclear agreement with the U.S., Iran’s expanded influence is held by some observers to be a stability-promoting development. This is a dangerous fantasy that has already been falsified in the Fertile Crescent, where the synergetic growth of Iran and ISIS promotes chaos and radicalism—to the advantage of both and the disadvantage of the forces of moderation and order. Continue reading

Saddam and the Taliban

oBy Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on June 29, 2015

Alleged photograph of Mullah Omar. Other photos are very rare

Alleged photograph of Mullah Omar. Other photos are very rare

In the last two posts, examining the Saddam Hussein regime’s long relationship with al-Qaeda, a noticeable sub-theme was the connections the Saddam regime had with the Taliban theocracy in Afghanistan. The evidence accumulated suggests that Saddam’s policies in his later years, namely the Islamization of his own regime and instrumentalization of Islamists in foreign policy, included welcoming relations with the Taliban. Continue reading

America’s Silent Partnership With Iran And The Contest For Middle Eastern Order: Part Four

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on February 10, 2015

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This is the fourth of a four-part series looking at the United States’ increasingly-evident de facto alliance with Iran in the region. The first part looked at the way this policy has developed since President Obama took office and how it has been applied in Iraq; the second part looked at the policy’s application in Syria; the third part looked at its application in Lebanon, Afghanistan, and Yemen; and this part is a conclusion. Continue reading

There Have Been Real Achievements In Afghanistan, But Leaving Puts Them At Risk

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on November 22, 2014

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Since President Obama’s 2009 announcement of a ‘surge’ in Afghanistan that simultaneously announced the date of withdrawal, the western focus in Afghanistan has shifted to the exits.

The steady drizzle of bad news since then has reinforced this sense that it’s over, we’ve had enough and we’re leaving.

American and British troops quit Helmand in late October, basically ceding it to Taliban control. On Tuesday John Sopko, the head of the American auditor mechanism (SIGAR) said that efforts to promote economic growth in Afghanistan have ‘accomplished nothing.’ Continue reading

Film Review: This Is What Winning Looks Like (2013) by Ben Anderson

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on May 22, 2014

Journalist Ben Anderson

Ben Anderson did his filming between 2007 and the present in Afghanistan. He presents a picture of a country in free-fall, of a West in denial, and of a war that the Allies have given up on. Continue reading