As the recent heartbreaking images from Kabul prove, the Americans have lost a war. This, just a few short years after they lost Iraq. Like it did in Iraq in 2003, the US went after Islamist militants in Afghanistan, but it hung around for 20 years trying vainly to remake ancient Afghanistan into a protectorate of the United States.
Rather than ask, “Why?” these conflicts resulted in staggering defeats for the US. America’s bipartisan ruling elite appear interested only in whitewashing these catastrophic failures by switching the focus now to Africa.
The US is barely out of Afghanistan – its failure is so pronounced that it is leaving many of its own citizens in that country to the tender mercies of the Taliban – and many in Washington are already seeking to replicate the pattern of failure that resulted in America’s profound defeat in Afghanistan in Africa.
Afghanistan-ing somewhere in Africa
In 2017, as the Donald Trump administration was settling into what would become a chaotic presidency, the 33rd Joint Land, Air, and Sea Strategic Special Program (JLASS-SP) was conducted, which included 148 students from the US military’s various war colleges.
The war-game scenario was set in the period from 2023-26. It detailed a coordinated terrorist attack on the New York and New Jersey ends of the Lincoln Tunnel, killing 435 people and injuring an additional 618.
A cyberattack against a nuclear power plant in Berwick, Pennsylvania, occurs as well. There are also several follow-on attacks conducted against targets throughout Africa, the Canadian embassy in Mauritania, and suicide bombings in Nigeria.
It is soon determined that Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) is responsible for the coordinated, sophisticated wave of terrorist attacks. It should be noted that Boko Haram today is far more dangerous than AQIM, though this is a distinction without much of a difference.
Under the metrics of the war game, the fictional 46th President of the United States, an unconventional politician whose presidency is “buffeted by a seemingly endless string of crises,” commits the United States to a massive military response directed against AQIM in Mauritania. This fictional president is as much a stand-in for America’s current bumbling president, Joe Biden, as it was for the tumultuous former president Donald Trump.
In the war-game from 2017, the US president promises resolve and a well-planned, short conflict meant to decimate AQIM. Instead, just as with Afghanistan, Iraq, and countless other “counterinsurgency” wars, the Americans get bogged down for years after the initial invasion in 2023.
Just as US servicemen and women experienced in Iraq and Afghanistan, the fighting with AQIM is not constrained to the national boundaries of Mauritania. It transcends that nation and encompasses the neighboring countries Mali and Algeria.
And, just as Iraq in 2003 became a magnet attracting the jihadists of the Greater Middle East, the US-led fight against AQIM attracts militants from around the Islamic world. The US-led coalition in Mauritania eventually becomes stymied by the transnational nature of the war, just as the real-world coalitions were in both Afghanistan and Iraq.
The destructive pattern of those two failed wars repeats again when, in 2025, the Americans try to hand off the war to the locals. In this case, the African Union, and it goes as disastrously as the other wars did.
The longer the war drags on with US and allied forces directly involved, the more diffuse the terrorist threat becomes. AQIM’s success against the Americans reinvigorates Boko Haram, just as American intervention in Iraq propagated ISIS, al-Nusra, and a host of other Islamist terror groups throughout the wider region.
The war is inconclusive and, by 2026, US allies are withdrawing, and Washington is yet again at a terrible crossroads: Does it double down on failure and ensure the endless war, this time in West Africa, drags on for decades longer? Or does it suffer another humiliating defeat at the hands of Islamist militants?
Don’t you think this is on America’s plate after Afghanistan?
Proof is in Biden administration’s personnel
Just look at the last few months of the Biden administration. Over the summer, President Biden ordered the largest strike against Islamic militants of al-Shabaab in Somalia. Further, as he was rightly taking flak for his horrific evacuation plan in Afghanistan, Biden took to the airwaves to insist that the real fight in the Global War on Terror was no longer in Afghanistan and the Middle East. Instead, Biden argued that the center of gravity in the war had shifted to Africa.
Beyond that, the Biden administration’s shadow president, Susan Rice, cut her teeth in Africa policy. That region has been an area of great concern for Rice for years. What’s more, over the past decade, the US foreign-policy establishment has been concerned by the growth of Chinese power and influence on the continent.
More recently, the head of US Africa Command (AFRICOM) has fretted over the rise of Russian mercenary groups throughout Africa.
Washington has become awash with experts insisting that the US is losing Africa to its rivals – and the presence of AQIM and other Islamist militant groups provides the perfect pretext for expanding America’s military footprint there, especially as the graybeards in Washington seek to shift the narrative from Afghanistan.
While the threat of Islamist militants in Africa is indeed growing, and both Chinese and Russian influence in Africa relative to that of the United States is troubling, Biden and his team must avoid the siren song of military intervention in Africa.
Although the fact that the US security state has been preparing for an Afghanistan in West Africa, with the presence of Africa hawks like Susan Rice being nestled inside the Biden administration, it is more than likely that soon the US will be as committed to nation-building in West Africa as it was in both Afghanistan and Iraq … with similarly disastrous results.
The US desperately needs new leadership before it bleeds another generation in an endless war.