WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Following Thursday's suicide attack at Kabul's airport that killed 13 service members, Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III said the military will not be dissuaded from the task at hand.
That task is a complete military withdrawal by Aug. 31 and an end to 20 years of military action in Afghanistan. The attack, just like the geopolitical climate, still leaves a lot of questions.
Dr. Robert B. Lloyd, dean of the School of Arts and Sciences at Palm Beach Atlantic University, said geopolitically the suicide bombings look bad for America but appearances aren't everything.
"It gives every appearance that although we announced we are going to withdrawal, it almost looks like we're being chased out of the country," Lloyd said. "The scenes that you see can communicate what we as Americans would prefer not to communicate."
Lloyd has extensive knowledge of geopolitics in Africa and the Middle East. He is also vice president of the Washington, D.C.-based Association for the Study of the Middle East and Africa.
He said ISIS-K, which the U.S. government believes is responsible for the bombings, doesn't have the power to overthrow the Taliban.
"ISIS-K also is a competitor for the Taliban, so also while they're close, there's also still factions, so it needs to be understood they're not all the same," he said. "The Taliban is sufficiently robust that it could fend off any sort of challenges by rival groups."
In regards to the Taliban's ability to run a country, Lloyd said there's likely internal dissent amongst the ranks and mounting pressure.
"There's a big difference running an insurgency and running a government. And when you run a government, you have to have things like make sure that the Social Security checks get out there, the roads get paved, the schools are running -- and that can distract a group and put pressure on them to deliver services," he said.
Ironically, Lloyd said the same pressure to deliver in the form of military mite, combined with internal dissent was possibly a reason the Taliban was able to overthrow both Afghan government and forces so soon.
"There were internal aspects," he said.
This leads to the looming threat the Taliban and ISIS-K could have overseas and stateside.
Scholars like Lloyd believe the U.S. ability to project force and to monitor intelligence networks is stronger than it was two decades ago.
"Obviously some have happened but at the same time at a much-reduced rate -- that's not changing," he said.
In response to the loss of troops on Aug. 26, Austin issued this statement:
"On behalf of the men and women of the Department of Defense, I express my deepest condolences to the loved ones and teammates of all those killed and wounded in Kabul today. Terrorists took their lives at the very moment these troops were trying to save the lives of others. We mourn their loss. We will treat their wounds. And we will support their families in what will most assuredly be devastating grief. But we will not be dissuaded from the task at hand. To do anything less — especially now — would dishonor the purpose and sacrifice these men and women have rendered our country and the people of Afghanistan."