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Israel hopes Biden will take harder line on Iran after Afghan withdrawal

Israel seems determined to focus on the opportunities that could stem from the Afghan crisis, such as a wake-up call to its American allies.
A US Chinook military helicopter flies above the US embassy in Kabul on Aug. 15, 2021.

Israeli intelligence had long given up on Afghanistan. When President Donald Trump declared that US troops would withdraw by May 2021, no one in Israel entertained hopes of a change in policy under a Democratic administration. When President Joe Biden announced a final US pullout from the war-torn country, assessments differed on how long it would take the Taliban to crush the modern Afghan state envisioned by the United States and its allies. “It will not take three months and not even one month,” a senior Israeli security source told Al-Monitor several weeks ago on condition of anonymity. “It will happen much faster.” But even he probably did not believe that it could take the Taliban only hours to take over Afghanistan.

Israel has experience with such situations. The departure of its troops from Lebanon in May 2000 was planned as an orderly pullout over several days. It turned into a rushed flight of Israeli forces as the Israeli-supported South Lebanon Army, armed and trained by the United States like the Afghan military, fell apart within hours on live television, making way for the Islamist Hezbollah movement to seize control. A similar situation occurred in Gaza some 15 years ago, with Hamas overtaking the Strip, routing the far bigger and better armed Fatah force of Mohammed Dahlan that had controlled the enclave since the Oslo Accords. “One should not count heads or rifle barrels,” the late Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said at the time. “What counts is willingness to die for a cause. The Hamasniks are determined, Dahlan’s people are not. That’s the story in a nutshell.”

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