The killing of Zawahiri will not close the terrorist safehaven that has been established in Afghanistan. When the U.S. killed Bin Laden in the terrorist safe haven of Pakistan, that only made the terrorism supporters in Pakistan more determined to ensure they pushed NATO and especially the U.S. out of Afghanistan. Both the Afghanistan and Pakistan safe havens must be pressured, this will only get worse with time, and right now the illegal Taliban-Haqqani regime is very unstable.

What we are missing

The world was warned many times after the Doha agreement was signed that the Taliban would not live up to their commitments. It was clear to anyone willing to admit it, that the Doha process was already failed, and that the Taliban had no desire to make peace with anyone—they only wanted uncontested power.

The reasons that the UN, NATO, EU, and others ignored everyone’s warnings from 2020-2021 are many. Top among them, in my view, is that they all grew tired of their efforts in Afghanistan and were happy to believe the promises from Pakistan—that they could handle the terrorism problems in South Asia. That was a colossal error. I was briefing two PakISI generals just days before the Doha agreement was announced. I warned them of the danger of Pakistan choosing China and terrorists over NATO and counter-terrorism. They were angry that I would dare raise the problem they did not want to admit. They were also embarrassed to admit in private that they had lost control of the pro-terrorist actors in the Pakistan security sector. They pretended to be powerless about stopping Pakistani support to terrorists and powerless to close their safe havens and recruiting system.

To solve the terrorism problem in South Asia the world must come to terms with what they are facing. Taliban, Haqqani, AQ, ISIS, Hizballah, al-Shabaab, and all the other violent Islamist groups are fellow travelers. This is a global movement of terrorists seeking to build a global Islamist Caliphate. They first subjugate all Muslims under their misogynistic and brutal regimes, and then they work to spread their ideas globally. They are not hiding their long-term goals, they broadcast it in numerous languages. They celebrate when one another are successful, and they mourn when one another lose a leader.

Nations that believe in human rights for all people cannot run away from this issue. Any country that the world abandons, that is trying to defeat groups like Taliban-Haqqani, AQ or ISIS, is going to become a cancer of violence and instability that will spread in their regions. The world abandoned Afghanistan that already had over 70,000 causalities trying to stop the terrorists that were destabilizing their country. The costs of that abandonment are easy to see.

What could be done

There are still things the world can do to close the terrorist safe havens in Afghanistan and Pakistan that are home to dangerous terrorists with global ambitions. Many of these ideas have been available for policymakers for years. It is time to put them into action.

Remove Qatar from diplomatic activity in South Asia, they have proven time again to be useful to terrorist groups—they are not good at diplomacy and their motives are suspect. Move all diplomatic engagements to a place more neutral, like Abu Dhabi or Muscat, where diplomats can move in and out more freely.

Designate more Taliban-Haqqani members as international terrorists; if not the entire organization. Stop their travel and sanction them.

Demand that Pakistan immediately take all remaining Taliban-Haqqani leaders on their soil into custody. They must be charged for their terrorist crimes and punished. Force them to take assistance from the world in rounding up these actors. The failure of Pakistan is at risk like never before.

Expose the Pakistani support for terrorists like the Taliban-Haqqani regime from both inside and outside their government. Then sanction them individually as supporters of terrorism. Be prepared to cut all funding and diplomatic ties to Pakistan if they won’t stop supporting terrorists.

Empower a non-U.S. mediator to move the diplomatic talks with Afghans forward on behalf of all the other nations. Stop all meetings between other diplomats and the illegal regime. All future meetings should be in private with no cameras. It is time for all Afghans to be engaged fully, stop focusing only on the terrorists and engage other key actors.

It is time to gather a carefully selected peacekeeping force from Muslim nations, excluding Pakistan, to start trying to gain entry into Afghanistan to secure the people and infrastructure in various locations in Afghanistan. AQ leadership living in Taliban-Haqqani guest houses is proof enough the current regime cannot secure Afghanistan.

Consider sending quiet special operations forces from across the NATO coalition back into Afghanistan to assist Afghans trying to fight the terrorists occupying the country. This will bring better accuracy to the drone strikes and help to avoid the civilian casualties that are sure to come if the pace of drone attacks increases. Drones are not the preferred CT weapon, people are.

Hold a special meeting at the UN Security Council to identify individuals and nations that need to be referred for terrorism sanctions or possible indictment in the International Criminal Court.

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Jason spent 23 years in USG service conducting defense, diplomacy, intelligence, and education missions globally. Now he teaches, writes, podcasts, and speaks publicly about Islam, foreign affairs, and national security. He is a member of the Military Writers Guild, works with numerous non-profits and aids conflict resolution in Afghanistan.