Biden Counterterror: Over the Horizon, Over the Rainbow?

November 24, 2021 Updated: November 24, 2021


Calling the Aug. 29 mistaken counterterror attack in Kabul, Afghanistan, a wartime error—or an “endless war” withdrawal blunder—understates the inhumane effects and geostrategic significance of the tragedy.

On the other hand, labeling the incident a war crime absurdly overstates the case. Prior to the strike, an Islamic State group-sponsored terror bombing had killed 13 U.S. military personnel and Afghans seeking to escape the Taliban’s impending tyranny. Chaos and deadly threats haunted the whole of Afghanistan, but thanks to the Biden administration’s botched withdrawal operation, Kabul’s international airport had become the bull’s-eye target for terrorists.

Here are the historical facts. On Aug. 29, U.S. intelligence had tracked a vehicle in Kabul for several hours and concluded the vehicle carried Islamic State group terrorists intent on attacking U.S. forces and Afghan refugees.

An American drone aircraft fired a missile that destroyed a white Toyota Corolla and killed all the human beings inside it. Blasted them to bits.

Subsequently President Joe Biden claimed the drone strike demonstrated the United States could and would counterattack the Islamic State and other terrorist groups. Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, went as far as calling the vehicle’s destruction a “righteous strike.” U.S. Central Command claimed the drone strike eliminated an “imminent ISIS-K threat.” ISIS-K is the Islamic State group faction active in Afghanistan.

On Sept. 1, Milley said: “We had very good intelligence that ISIS-K was preparing a specific-type vehicle at a specific-type location. We went through the same level of rigor that we’ve done for years, and we took a strike.”

According to the Biden administration, the drone strike was also supposed to be a demonstration of American capabilities. After U.S. military forces left Afghanistan, the United States would retain an “over the horizon” capability to attack terrorist organizations in Afghanistan that threatened the U.S. and its allies.

Unfortunately, the strike was indeed a hideous mistake. In mid-September the Pentagon reported the strike killed 10 civilians and zero terrorists. Seven of the dead were children. On Sept. 17, Milley testified to these facts.

Now consider this fair alternative historical and political frame. If a Republican U.S. president had approved the erroneous counterterror strike reprisal, it’s slam dunk certain that corporate U.S. media, European elite media, and other anti-American propagandists from Beijing to Moscow would have condemned the strike as a calculated slaughter of innocents. Sanctimonious leftist spinmeisters like The Guardian and New York Times would have demanded serial investigations of the inept Republican administration’s Afghanistan fiasco and ordered the arrest of the military and CIA cretins who callously murdered innocents.

Moreover, the “over the horizon” strategy to counter terrorists would be treated as … what’s a good word? … How about balderdash? Twaddle? Over the rainbow?

Secretary of State Antony Blinken believes “over the horizon” counterterrorism works. Hey Blinken, when combating Afghanistan-based terrorism, that’s bunkum.

“Over the horizon” air-delivered munitions or commando strikes work when the target region has a seacoast or adjacent friendly nations. A seacoast gives the U.S. Navy quick access, providing airstrikes or air-delivered commandos. Friendly nations provide bases and air corridors for U.S. recon and air and ground raids. Air corridors are open lanes of access to the target area.

Geography matters. Afghanistan doesn’t have a seacoast and it’s surrounded by either neutral or adversary/enemy nations (e.g., Iran).

Satellites and electronic whiz are great, but they aren’t perfect. Camera eyes are narrow. It takes human intelligence to determine an enemy’s intent. To make an accurate and mistake-free counterterror strike requires real-time information, and that means having on-the-ground personnel with solid data links to either local intel assets or American personnel who can direct the missile to the target—or scrub the mission before a mistake is made.

Yes—boots on the ground, back in Afghanistan.

Combat vets know it’s the truth. However, the Biden administration is largely staffed by Beltway clerks—so-called defense experts with absolutely no military, much less battlefield, experience.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

Austin Bay
Austin Bay is a colonel (ret.) in the U.S. Army Reserve, author, syndicated columnist, and teacher of strategy and strategic theory at the University of Texas–Austin. His latest book is “Cocktails from Hell: Five Wars Shaping the 21st Century.”