Afghanistan awoke this morning to the sound of rockets exploding in residential areas of Kabul. According to recent reports, ISIS operatives launched 23 rockets across the city. The death count at the time of publishing is eight; scores more have been injured. Sadly, this has become the norm in the nation’s capital. 

The rockets landed all over the city. According to reports from TOLONews, rockets were fired on several different parts of the city in what is believed to be a coordinated attack by IS-K, the Islamic State’s wing in Afghanistan. IS-K has been steadily increasing its deadly attacks across the country since the start of the intra-Afghan peace talks in Doha on September 12th of this year. 

This most recent attack comes on the heels of an announcement from acting U.S. Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller which outlined a U.S. troop drawdown in the country by January 15th. The announcement is widely seen as a reaffirmation of President Trump’s promise to bring the war in Afghanistan to a close before the end of his first term in office. 

But with the peace talks ongoing in Doha and violence on the rise, many are worried about the long-term ramifications of the Trump administration’s race to drastically decrease U.S. involvement in the region. It seems the cries to end the “endless war” are tempered by the violence witnessed in Kabul today. And that is the problem. 

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It’s easy to mistake our ISIS enemies as ruthless killers. Perhaps it is even easier to brush them off as mindless thugs. But the truth of the matter is that they are savvy strategists who routinely use violence and the threat of violence to manipulate governments, military commanders, and the hearts of innocent civilians in Afghanistan and here in the United States. Make no mistake: our enemies are shrewd. 

Perhaps it’s callous to be saying this just hours after innocent civilians lost their lives. But I would wager that SecDef Miller would agree that it is in these moments that we must be honest with ourselves and steel our minds on what must be done.

We need to leave Afghanistan.

Let us not forget what terrorism is designed to do. Terrorism is not the “continuation of politics by other means.” It is a tactic used to destabilize, disorient, and dishearten one’s enemies. The acts witnessed in Kabul this morning are gruesome. They are despicable. But they are tactics employed by ISIS operatives to keep the United States entrenched in an expensive war while simultaneously aimed at delegitimizing the Afghan government. In this way, they are emblematic of an enemy that is neither anti-U.S. nor pro-Afghanistan. 

ISIS is pro-anarchy.

The Afghan government is stronger than it has ever been. To those who say we have gained nothing from our nearly 20 years in the region, I would say that we have, at the very least, helped Afghans build a government capable of defending itself by itself. We are no longer needed. In fact, our presence in the country undermines the Afghan government’s ability to handle its own matters of national security. If we swoop in every time a rocket lands in an Afghan city we only undercut Afghanistan’s security apparatus and prolong our entanglement in the execution of its operations. 

This is what ISIS wants. Terrorism thrives in chaos and it relishes confusion. 

Today, I mourn the loss of innocents at the hand of senseless violence. But I urge our leaders and our Afghan counterparts to remain keen on the tactics of our enemies. Now is not the time to rethink our decisions. 

To do so would be to let our enemies win.