ATbar The Escape from Kabul

The Escape from Kabul

19/08/2021 | by Kalo, Avi (ADV., Lt. Col. Res.)  

The Escape from Kabul:

 Double Wakeup Call for Western Intelligence Agencies and Israeli Policy makers (Gaza First)


Ismail Haniya, one of Hamas’ prominent leaders, called the Taliban leadership to congratulate it for the “heroic victory” over the US as well as for the rapid withdrawal of the US troops and the Taliban takeover of the disintegrating Afghan military strongholds. There is no surprise of course by this manifestation of Hamas' support of the Taliban. The deep religious pan-Islamic connection between both organizations isn’t new and expresses another expression of shared values and unwavering jihadist ideologic identity.


The  US withdrawal of Afghanistan while leaving chaos behind it, coupled with the erroneous assessment of the US intelligence community that the regime and Afghan army will hold much longer than they did, speaks volumes as to the lack of deep understating within the Pentagon regarding the ability to influence and shape Islamic cultures. That despite past lessons such as the Arab Spring, the failed attempt to stabilize Egypt post-Mubarak, a post-Qadafi democratic Libya and multiple other examples from the Sahel and the Middle East (did someone mention post-Saddam Iraq?).


Going back to the local Israeli swamp we see an ongoing failure of the Israeli concept, especially since IDF Operation “Protective Edge” in 2014, regarding Hamas et. al in Gaza. The gap between that concept and the reality only widened after IDF Operation “Guardian of Walls” when Israel produced a momentary image of an exaggerated operational success in this campaign while keeping posing various conditions that must be met prior to Gaza’s “rehabilitation”, such as the return of the Israeli KIAs and two mentally ill civilians that have been held by Hamas for seven years.


This condescending approach according to which Israel can “dictate” and shape the reality in Gaza as it sees fit is unfortunately destined to fail. Israel must internalize that it cannot enforce its logic on Hamas. In that regard Israel must learn from the American failures in the futile Afghanistan war over the past 20 years (which by the way is now a consensus in Washington) and learn its own lessons. First, stop “raping” reality to fit the Israeli desires or intelligence analyses (e.g., from evaluating Yahya Sinwar as having borderline personality through arguments regarding Hamas softening position on the KIA and POW issue); Second, recognize the limits of the military might and rechallenge the immortal Von Clausewitz maxim that “the war is a tool to extend the policy”, especially within the parameters of today’s asymmetric battlefield and the enemy’s characteristics as a non-state actor rather that a state actor; Third, allow a true critical discourse that enables a wide view of strategic political, military and economic alternatives vis a vis Gaza, especially in light of the current policy that seems to be irrelevant to meet the current challenges (from the Hamas military buildup to the wide regional aspect such as the worrying warming operational relationship between Hezbollah and Hamas and more).

As side note, the two major American intelligence failures in 2021, even though in two distinct intelligence domains[1] must turn on bright red lights in Washington. The same is true for Jerusalem that lately has not enjoyed accurate intelligence assessments regarding Palestinian related matters. In a big data and technology driven era the West’s “intelligence superiority” concept is being tested, especially when it contends actors that are not on the scale of Russia or China. Further, it seems that over time this concept erodes intelligence officers’ “softer” capabilities due to a sense of airtight grasp of the intelligence picture. As has been proven more than once in the past year, intelligence superiority doesn’t guarantee the prevention of surprises, either strategic or tactical. Intelligence agencies, in Israel and the in the US, must conduct soul searching and reevaluate their ability to balance between technological advancements, the preservation of traditional intelligence core capabilities and development of critical thinking that seems to have been eroding in this day and age.


The views expressed in this publication are solely those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism (ICT).


[1] First, internal threat scenario, the failure to identify and eliminate the Capitol riots on January 6th: FBI and HLS department responsibility. Second, overconfident assessment of the Afghan regime and military resilience post-American exit: CIA, DIA and State Department responsibility.