U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM), which has grown to become the world’s top counterterrorism force over the past 20 years, is now facing some change in mission and reductions in personnel under the Biden administration’s National Security Strategy.
During that period, SOCOM grew from about 45,700 military and civilian personnel in 2001 to about 73,900 in fiscal year 2021.
SOCOM Commander General Richard Clarke and Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations Christopher Maier announced last April in their Vision and Strategy statement, Special Operations Forces (SOF) must evolve “from the world’s premier Counter Terrorism (CT) force into one optimally suited to support the Joint Force and the Nation as part of integrated deterrence...”
To read more visit The Cipher Brief.
In an exclusive Armed Forces Press interview, Ahmad Massoud – Leader of the National Resistance Front – warns the West that Afghanistan has returned to being an extremist incubator less than one year after the Taliban regained control of the country. Massoud is leading the “Second Resistance” against the Taliban like his father, Afghanistan’s national hero, Ahmad Shaf Massoud, the Lion of Panshir, who led the Northern Alliance against the Taliban and the Soviets before him. Like his father, he has a warning for the rest of the world. The Afghanistan of 2022 resembles the terrorist training camp sanctuary of 2001.
“The Afghanistan government collapsed. All the achievements of the past 20 years, alongside with the sacrifices was gone - lost. And once again we return to 2001, where Afghanistan is a state, is a country which is supporting terrorism and is again a hotbed for extremism.”
Massoud reports that more than twenty international terrorist organizations (TOs), including the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (Taliban), Al Qaeda (AQ), The Islamic State Khorasan (ISIS-K), Hezb-e-Islami Gulbuddin (HIG) Haqqani Network (HN), Hezb ul Mujahideen (HM), Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), Jamaat Ahraar (JA), Harakat ul Jihad ul Islami (HuJI), Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM), Lashkar Tayyiba (LT), Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP) and Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), among many others are operating openly in Afghanistan.
Proof of the Taliban’s “clear and blatant disregard of the Doha agreement” which said that the Taliban would not harbor terrorists if US forces withdrew from Afghanistan, is evident by the Islamic Emirate harboring Ayman al-Zawahiri. The leader of AQ, who orchestrated 9/11 and the deaths of 2,996 people, was living in downtown Kabul until a US drone strike killed him in July 2022.
Madrassas indoctrinating the next generation of Islamic Jihadists are opening in districts across the country. Massoud’s intelligence network reports that there are terrorist military camps, training in the open, and actively recruiting with tacit approval, and even encouragement, by the Taliban. The madrassas are producing young men who will fill the ranks of local and international terrorist organizations for decades to come. These TO’s represent the same cabal of regional and global terrorist groups that were operating free from scrutiny and interference from the West prior to 9/11.
History is repeating itself as the Biden administration and the rest of the world turn a blind eye to what the return to Taliban rule and the darkness of life under a burka for all women means for Afghanistan.
“Afghanistan people are being held hostage, we have been stripped of all our rights, our women cannot go to school. This is unbelievable, this is not Islamic law, not Sharia, not any law, it is beyond extremism. They cannot go to school, cannot study, and cannot go to work. They have been completely erased from society alongside other ethnicities and groups.”
Afghanistan’s economy has fallen apart. More than 75% of the country is living below the poverty line.
“We know that many people are starving, you know, 22 million people in Afghanistan do not have enough food to survive.”
Even more devastating, especially for the American veterans of the Afghanistan conflict, Massoud confirmed what no senior US official will admit, that the Afghans who served and fought alongside American and NATO forces are being murdered by the Taliban.
“The Taliban are still hunting now the Afghanis that worked with the Americans, that fought with the partner, [especially] the Afghan Special Forces/Commandos. We know they're being hunted.”
Yet, Massoud has not given up all hope on his country, it is a “blood debt” he must carry. He has lost too many family members over his lifetime in conflict with the Taliban and the Soviets before them to simply “reside in Europe or in America or somewhere with my family and care less about everything that is happening.” Massoud contends, “Probably no one more than me has to, to carry this burden, this responsibility. First and foremost, because I love my people and my country and I want a better country and I want a better government… I want a better situation.”
Massoud argues that the vast majority of Afghanis are under the age of 30. “We're the generation that grew up in the past 10 years. We grew up with freedom. We grew up with rights. We grew up living in a democratic society. How can we tolerate such a group that wants to take away all these values from us? This is why we're fighting regardless of receiving outside assistance, it isn't about the interests of others. It's for our freedoms, for our rights, creating a society where every single citizen is a member of a society that is for all ethnic groups, all citizens who want freedom and can enjoy their rights as humans.” It is why Afghans from across the ethnic and cultural spectrum are joining the ranks of the National Resistance Front that includes Tajiks, Uzbeks, Turkmens, Hazaras, Nuristanis, and even Pashtuns, the core of the Taliban ranks, are joining NRF.
Massoud concluded his comments with a warning that echoes the voice of his father.
“We truly need for the world to pay attention to our Afghanistan. Afghanistan needs a legitimate government, which is being elected by the people of Afghanistan.”
“Afghanistan is truly becoming a safe haven for terrorism the past year.”
“We're gonna be back where it's all started again because these groups will export this terror. Imagine when an attack happens, it could be in Europe. It could be in America. And imagine if the weapons that were left in Afghanistan are traced back against the attacks that happened?”
We did not heed warnings from his father Ahmad Shah Massoud about radicalized groups in Afghanistan only months before 9/11. Twenty years later, are we making the same mistake again? It would appear so…
Commander Dan O’Shea (SEAL) USN (ret) graduated from BUD/S class 179 in 1992. A former Platoon and Task Unit Commander at SEAL Team THREE recalled to active duty after 9/11. A multi-tour Operation Enduring Freedom – Afghanistan and Operation Iraqi Freedom – Iraq veteran, O’Shea established and ran the Hostage Working Group at the US Embassy in Baghdad 2004 – 2006. Served his final combat tour as a counter- insurgency advisor for the Commander of International Security Forces – Afghanistan 2011 – 2012. During the chaos of the failed Afghanistan exit, O’Shea was a member of Task Force Pineapple that helped rescue thousands of Americans and Afghan partners left behind.