Live from Music Row Friday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. – host Leahy welcomed national security correspondent for The Washington Times, Bill Gertz to the newsmaker line to discuss the ramifications of the US withdrawal from Afghanistan, the predictable terrorist attack, and how it strengthens China’s position against Taiwan.
Leahy: We are joined on our newsmaker line now by our good friend Bill Gertz, national security correspondent for The Washington Times and author of the new book Deceiving the Sky: Inside Communist China’s Drive for Global Supremacy. Good morning, Bill.
Gertz: Hi. Good morning.
Leahy: So I just have to say a salute to longevity. You have been with The Washington Times since 1985. That is a tremendous record of journalistic longevity.
Gertz: It’s been a good run. I’ve had a lot of great experiences as a national security writer. So much to cover over so many years.
Leahy: Well, I don’t know if there’s been a more substantive story than the collapse of American forces and the Afghan government in Afghanistan, the debacle, the terrible terrorist attack yesterday. They killed 13 Marines and 72 Afghans. What is your take on all this?
Gertz: This was predictable. I had expressed this in a Newsmax TV interview just the other day that I was really worried that a terrorist attack would be carried out because it was a soft target.
The airport had masses of people waiting to get in and also thousands of U.S. troops. And, of course, with the Taliban taking over, there’s a greater terrorist threat in Afghanistan today than there was in the past.
And there are at least four different terrorist groups operating in Afghanistan right now. Two Al Qaeda groups. One Islamic State group is called IS Khorasan. And then another group called the Hakani network.
And once the Taliban was in power and the U.S. withdrew from Bagram, the big air base there, this kind of opened the way for the terrorist groups to have a resurgence. And I can remember very well that ISIS was known for conducting mass car bombings and suicide bombings, like the type we saw on Thursday.
Leahy: In an exclusive interview with Matt Boyle at Breitbart News Wednesday night, former President Trump not only criticized the manner in which Biden withdrew by abandoning Americans and abandoning $83 billion of equipment. He also suggested that under his plan that we may have held on to Bagram airport. Have you seen that before?
Gertz: I know the former President has been very vocal in criticizing the Biden administration. And he’s correct. They did botch this chaotic withdrawal.
Trump wanted to withdraw as well, but was basically talked out of it by military commanders who said that this kind of chaos would happen and he let them have their way.
Biden, on the other hand, contradicted his military leaders and now we had this horrible terrorist attack that killed 13 U.S. troops and at least 70 or 80 Afghans.
Leahy: Bill, your recent book, it’s your eighth book, Deceiving the Sky: Inside Communist China’s Drive for Global Supremacy. What role does China play in Afghanistan today?
Gertz: China is picking up the pieces of the U.S. withdrawal and the collapse of the U.S.-backed Afghan government there. Basically, the Chinese are the big winners in this because they have succeeded in getting rid of American troops in an area close to their Western border.
The Chinese had frequently said that they regarded U.S. troops there as a threat to China. But on the other hand, those U.S. troops provided security for many Chinese businesses, which were moving into Afghanistan as part of what Beijing calls the Belt and Road Initiative which is a big infrastructure development plan for the world.
Which the US has called the stalking horse for Chinese Communist expansionism. The Chinese really gained a lot by getting rid of the U.S. troops. On the other hand, China now has to deal with the Islamic Republic which allows terrorists to flourish on its Western border.
And China is very nervous about that. They have what they believe to be a terrorist problem in Ching Jong. They conducted a genocide against the Ughyer minority there. A Muslim minority. But they will now have to deal with terrorist attacks from the Taliban.
In neighboring Pakistan from Afghanistan, a recent terror attack was attributed to the Pakistan Taliban that killed a number of Chinese.
So I think it’s going to be only a short while before the Taliban starts targeting the Chinese inside Afghanistan and other places like Pakistan.
Leahy: How long will it take the United States to recover from the loss of international prestige from the appearance and actuality of American military weakness caused by this Afghan debacle?
Gertz: Both China and Russia, in my view, and I outlined this in Deceiving the Sky, they’re engaged in political warfare against the United States. They’re trying to weaken and ultimately destroy the United States because they regard the United States as their main enemy.
So unless the U.S. government really gets its political warfare tools back in action, and again, we haven’t had that since we got rid of the U.S. information agency way back in 1999, we’re going to be in real trouble on the information plane.
China, especially, is engaged in political warfare against the United States. They’re investing billions of dollars in programs designed to attack the United States politically and economically and financially from an intelligence standpoint by using all of what the military calls gray zone warfare.
That is warfare below the level of armed military conflict. So the U.S. has to start fighting back on the information front. I think that’s the most important element of our ability to defend ourselves.
And it is going to take a long time for the U.S. to re-establish credibility with the international community.
Leahy: Let me ask a very blunt question. This is how I look at it from our studios here on Music Row in Nashville, Tennessee. I’m going to talk about Joe Biden.
I’m going to frame this question a certain way, and you can answer it as you wish. Is Joe Biden merely stupid and incompetent or is he stupid, incompetent, and intentional?
Gertz: That’s a tough question to answer. My assessment of the Biden administration is that the president has surrounded himself with a number of key advisors who don’t have a clear understanding of the threats facing the country.
We saw a major shift away from countering international terrorism, going after so-called domestic extremists in the military, which hasn’t been clearly defined. It’s a really small problem, and they’re trying to make it the centerpiece of their American security strategy.
On the other hand, I will say that they have done some good things in dealing with China. It hasn’t been as good as the Trump administration.
But they followed through with many of the Trump administration’s policies in confronting Beijing and pushing back against the Chinese Communist Party expansionism, human rights abuses, and arms proliferation around the world, and the like.
So it’s been a mixed picture. But they do have a lot of advisors in there who basically don’t like the United States. And I think that’s really the problem.
When you have people running our national security bureaucracy who view the United States as the world’s biggest problem, you get the kind of policies that we’re seeing from the Biden administration.
Leahy: How much closer are we to a situation where China invades Taiwan?
Gertz: That is a real flash point. We’ve had earlier this year, two commanders, the outgoing commander of the USINDOPACOM command, Adm. Phil Davidson, and the incoming commander, Admiral Aculino, both testified to Congress that it’s only a matter of time before China makes a move militarily against Taiwan.
And this is a real flashpoint because the Japanese have come out and said this is such a significant threat that’s it’s a threat to Japan’s security. That Japan is telling the United States we’re willing to go to war with you against China if they should move against Taiwan.
So things are really heating up in Taiwan straight, and the Chinese have really stepped up their rhetoric and military provocations.
They just blew a bunch of bombers around Taiwan recently, sending a clear message to Taipei that they’re really going after that country.
Leahy: Bill Gertz, The Washington Times National Security Correspondent, author of Deceiving the Sky, Inside Communist China’s Drive for Global Supremacy. Thanks so much for joining us today.
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