Former Mossad chief Shabtai Shavit warned that if the U.S. wanted to retain its supremacy, it would have to remain in place.
By Donna Rachel Edmunds, World Israel News
The Biden administration will not be able to fully withdraw from the Middle East as planned, because events in this region have a momentum of their own, a former Mossad chief has said.
“The Middle East will not let you leave,” former Mossad chief Shabtai Shavit warned.
His comment came at this year’s International Conference on Counter-Terrorism, hosted by the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism in Herzilya and online, on a panel on the security balance in the Middle East following the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.
However, his view was not shared by the other panelists, the panel’s moderator, Yonah Jeremy Bob, reported in The Jerusalem Post.
Former IDF intelligence chief Maj. Gen. (res.) Aharon Ze’evi Farkash and former Shin Bet director Yaakov Peri opined that the direction of travel is for the U.S. to withdraw, and that other countries are expecting them to do so.
“Everyone in the Middle East is waiting for the U.S. to leave,” said Farkash, who pointed to the U.S.’s disengagement with Syria and Saudi Arabia in the middle east, as well as a more general pattern of draw-down worldwide. He clarified that he was specifically talking about a presence on the ground.
Peri agreed, but said that as the U.S. retreats, terror groups are becoming emboldened to be more aggressive.
It was for this reason that Shalvit said he believed ultimately the U.S. will stay in the region.
“If the U.S. wants to be number one, it cannot leave,” he reasoned.
The fourth member of the panel, Efraim Halevy, former director of the Mossad, walked the middle ground between his co-panelists.
“The U.S. does not know what it will do. It is not interested in the Middle East, but in global issues,” he said, adding “the US will not rush out” of the region.
The panel on Sunday came amid ongoing criticism of the way the U.S. withdrew from Afghanistan in August, leaving many American citizens behind in a scramble to get out by the August 31 deadline.
Last week, an unnamed White House official told Politico “I am absolutely appalled and literally horrified we left Americans there. It was a hostage rescue of thousands of Americans in the guise of an NEO [noncombatant evacuation operations], and we have failed that no-fail mission.”
And on Friday, veterans working behind the scenes to put together a private rescue mission for the more than 100 American citizens still in Afghanistan told the Washington Examiner that the State Department has been blocking those efforts.
Retired Lt. Col. Jonathon Myers is one of those helping Americans leave the country by other means. According to Myers, a flight that left Kabul on Thursday had room for 350 Americans, but “they only took 113 people, and only a handful of them were Americans. My Americans remain in hiding.”
He added: “My team managed to get CENTCOM clearance for at least two [privately chartered] planes, but the State Department wouldn’t allow them to fly.”
However, on Saturday President Biden stood by his decision to beat a hasty retreat from Afghanistan.
“Can al Qaeda come back? Yeah. But guess what? It’s already back in other places,” the President whispered. “What’s the strategy? Every place where al Qaeda is we’re going to invade and have troops staying there? Come on!”
Conversing with journalists in Shanksville, Pennsylvania on the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terror attacks, he conceded that most Americans supported leaving the country, but insisted that criticisms of the way it was handled were unfounded.
“I’m told, 70 percent of the American people think it was time to get out of Afghanistan, spending all that money,” he said. “But the flip of it is, they didn’t like the way we got out. But it’s hard to explain to anybody, how else could you get out?”