The US Withdrawal From Afghanistan Doesn’t End the War With Al Qaeda

January 18, 2013 4:12 am 2 comments

President Barack Obama with Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai, Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari and Vice President Joe Biden. Photo: wiki commons.

As President Obama stood with Afghan President Karzai to announce the “Afghanization” of the war, it seems appropriate to weigh the president’s words on the way out against his words on the way in. We were in Afghanistan, of course, long before he got there, but the president’s 2009 address at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point announced the “surge” of 33,000 additional American troops to the war and he used the word “I” 321 times out of a total of 3,507 words. That qualifies as ownership.

In 2009, going in, the president made three points:

  • What: “Our overarching goal remains the same: to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and to prevent its capacity to threaten America and our allies in the future.”
  • Why: “There is no imminent threat of the government being overthrown, but the Taliban has gained momentum. Al Qaeda has not reemerged in Afghanistan in the same numbers as before 9/11, but they retain their safe-havens along the border…I am convinced that our security is at stake in Afghanistan and Pakistan.”
  • How: “These are the three core elements of our strategy: a military effort to create the conditions for a transition; a civilian surge that reinforces positive action; and an effective partnership with Pakistan.”

He spent two full paragraphs on Pakistan, noting that the U.S. would “act with the full recognition that our success in Afghanistan is inextricably linked to our partnership with Pakistan.” He asserted that both public opinion and the Pakistani Army agreed that “extremism” is the enemy and that it was no longer the case that, “Pakistan is better off doing little or seeking accommodation with those who use violence.” He added, “There is no doubt that the United States and Pakistan share a common enemy.” The president said he had, “made it clear that we cannot tolerate a safe-haven for terrorists… providing substantial resources to support Pakistan’s democracy and development.”

In 2013, going out, the president told Karzai, the American people and the world:

  • What: “Next year, this long war will come to a responsible end.”
  • Why: “With the devastating blows we’ve struck against al Qaeda, our core objective — the reason we went to war in the first place — is now within reach: ensuring that al Qaeda can never again use Afghanistan to launch attacks against our country. At the same time, we pushed the Taliban out of their strongholds.”
  • How: “An enduring partnership… deepening ties of trade, commerce, strengthening institutions, development, education and opportunities for all Afghans – men and women, boys and girls. And this sends a clear message to Afghans and to the region, as Afghans stand up, they will not stand alone; the United States, and the world, stands with them.”

Things that are missing:

  • What: “The war” is not ending, responsibly or otherwise. There will be no direct American combat presence in Afghanistan — joint operations are already being scaled back due to Afghan attacks on coalition forces — but the war goes on. One American officer said of the Taliban in October, “It’s a very resilient enemy… It will be a constant battle, and it will be for years.”
  • Why/How: President Obama made it clear that 2014 was the outer limit of our military intervention and the Taliban has been waiting us out. Like Hamas and Hezbollah when they confronted Israel militarily, the Taliban didn’t have to win, only survive. In October, coalition representatives acknowledged that the Taliban could not be “battered” into a negotiated settlement on U.S. terms. So borrowing from a spectacularly unsuccessful process in the Middle East, the Taliban will be enticed with an Afghan “road map to peace.”

The president said, “Today, we agreed that this process should be advanced by the opening of a Taliban office to facilitate talks.” That was a major Taliban demand, so score one for the insurgency.

  • What: The president’s 2009 assertion that “we cannot tolerate a safe-haven for terrorists” in Pakistan, has become a one-sentence afterthought in 2013. “Reconciliation also requires constructive support from across the region, including Pakistan.”
  • Why/How: Between 2001 and 2012, the United States spent almost $18 billion in Pakistan, but our “partnership” is increasingly defined by the political and military damage done by vastly increased U.S. drone strikes. Last week, a group allied with the Pakistani Taliban killed 14 soldiers and wounded 20 in retaliation for what they believed was government complicity in the drone war. Pakistan-based Taliban groups remain committed to attacks on targets in both Pakistan and Afghanistan. At the same time, Pakistani civilians have been targets of sectarian assaults with more than 300 people killed in 2012.

There are parts of Pakistan uncontrolled by the government and likely to remain that way — precisely the parts in which the Pakistani Taliban and al Qaeda reside, setting the stage for more long-distance American destruction in Pakistan and a spiral of declining relations.

  • What: “Devastating blows” aside, Al Qaeda has morphed and moved across the region. Al Qaeda is fighting on new fronts, with franchises operating in Libya, Chad, Nigeria, Syria, and Iraq (at least partly a function of U.S. withdrawal) among other places. France, supported logistically by the U.S., has drawn a line in Mali, trying to push back al Qaeda-related forces from the north.
  • Why/How: The U.S.-assisted overthrow of Moammar Gaddafi “liberated” an enormous store of weapons from his arsenal and provided al Qaeda-related groups access across Libya to other countries. Some of the weapons went to Syria as well with the direct assistance of al Qaeda-associated Libyans in the new government. Handing off the arming of Syrian rebel groups to Sunni internationalists (Qatar, Turkey, Saudi Arabia) ensured that some weapons would end up with al Qaeda.

President Obama wants his legacy to be “winding down” America’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and bringing American troops home. He will do those things, but there are more “ungoverned” or “undergoverned” spaces (see Pakistan, above) in the Middle East and North Africa than there were at the start of his “surge.” It is in those spaces that al Qaeda lives now and thrives — and nothing will keep it from returning to Afghanistan as it did to Iraq if conditions change when the U.S. leaves.

The president’s legacy will not include winning — or even ending –America’s war with al Qaeda. Just withdrawing.

This article by Shoshana Bryen originally appeared in the American Thinker.

2 Comments

  • Thanks for sharing your thoughts on Al Qaeda Afghanistan.
    Regards

  • If you deny them territory they are forced to move, they have not be able to gain control of another country. Access denial from Yemen to Somalia. So they were always going to end up in North Africa. You go back to 2007 before the surge. Are we going to get out of Iraq, perhaps, maybe not. Then you have the second front in Afghanistan. It was possible that the US would be stuck in both Iraq and Afghanistan still. So the third front in North Africa. So the French, can’t call on the UK because they are stuck with the US in both countries and going broke too. Without the help of the French the US could be in big trouble bogged down on two fronts with al-Qaida establishing a third country and front in North Africa.

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Book Reviews Jewish Identity When Torah Teaches Life and Life Teaches Torah (REVIEW)

    When Torah Teaches Life and Life Teaches Torah (REVIEW)

    JNS.org – Rabbi Gordon Tucker spent the first 20 years of his career teaching at the Conservative movement’s Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS) and the next 20 years as the rabbi of Temple Israel Center in White Plains, N.Y. I confess that when I heard about the order of those events, I thought that Tucker’s move from academia to the pulpit was strange. Firstly, I could not imagine anyone filling the place of my friend, Arnold Turetsky, who was such a talented [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs Oscars 2015: Reflecting on Love at First Sight

    Oscars 2015: Reflecting on Love at First Sight

    JNS.org – I’m in love, and have been for a long time. It’s a relationship filled with laughter, tears, intrigue, and surprise. It was love at first sight, back when I was a little girl—with an extra-terrestrial that longed to go home. From then on, that love has never wavered, and isn’t reserved for one, but for oh so many—Ferris Bueller, Annie Hall, Tootsie, Harry and Sally, Marty McFly, Atticus Finch, Danny Zuko, Yentl, that little dog Toto, Mrs. Doubtfire, [...]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Book Reviews Examining America’s First Foray into the Middle East (REVIEW)

    Examining America’s First Foray into the Middle East (REVIEW)

    At the turn of the 21st century through today, American involvement in Middle Eastern politics runs through the Central Intelligence Agency. In America’s Great Game: The CIA’s Secret Arabists and the Shaping of the Modern Middle East, historian Hugh Wilford shows this has always been the case. Wilford methodically traces the lives and work of the agency’s three most prominent officers in the Middle East: Kermit “Kim” Roosevelt was the grandson of president Theodore Roosevelt, and the first head of [...]

    Read more →
  • Relationships US & Canada Seniors at Los Angeles Jewish Home Give Witty Dating Advice Ahead of Valentine’s Day (VIDEO)

    Seniors at Los Angeles Jewish Home Give Witty Dating Advice Ahead of Valentine’s Day (VIDEO)

    Residents of the Los Angeles Jewish Home give dating advice to a young Jewish man in a comedic video posted Monday on YouTube just in time for Valentine’s Day. Jonathan, an associate at the Jewish home, quizzes the senior citizens on an array of topics including having sex on the first date, kissing a girl, who should pay for dinner and whether online dating is a good idea. When the 28-year-old asks a male resident named Lee about his experiences [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Jewish History Kutsher’s Documentary an Amazing, and Tragic, Look at the Past (REVIEW)

    Kutsher’s Documentary an Amazing, and Tragic, Look at the Past (REVIEW)

    Anyone who spent time in the Jewish Catskills hotels – especially those like me, who returned for decades – must see the new documentary,”Welcome to Kutsher’s: The Last Catskills Resort.” Not only will the film transport you back to the glory days of your youth and thousands of memories, but it will also make you long for a world that is now lost forever. I returned to Kutsher’s one last time in the summer of 2009, but by then, the [...]

    Read more →
  • Education Jewish Identity Lifestyle Riding the Wave of Change in Part-Time Jewish Education

    Riding the Wave of Change in Part-Time Jewish Education

    JNS.org – Amid the numerous studies and analyses regarding Jewish American life, a simple fact remains: part-time Jewish education is the most popular vehicle for Jewish education in North America. Whenever and wherever parents choose Jewish education for their children, we have a communal responsibility to devote the necessary time and resources to deliver dynamic, effective learning experiences. The only way we can do this is by creating space for conversations and knowledge-sharing around innovative new education models. That also [...]

    Read more →
  • Commentary Featured Features Jewish 100 The Top 100 People Positively Influencing Jewish Life, 2014

    The Top 100 People Positively Influencing Jewish Life, 2014

    The Top 100 People Positively Influencing Jewish Life, 2014 ACADEMIA Alain Finkielkraut Moshe Halbertal Deborah Lipstadt Jacob Metzer Steven Pinker Tammi Rossman-Benjamin ARTS AND CULTURE Yaacov Agam David Blatt Leonard Cohen Gal Gadot Scarlett Johansson Ryan Kavanaugh Steven Spielberg Harry Styles INNOVATION AND ACTIVISM Meira Aboulafia Adina Bar-Shalom Nitsana Darshan-Leitner Daniel Gold Anett Haskia Ephrat Levy-Lahad Gabriel Nadaf Dumisani Washington GOVERNMENT Tony Abbott José María Aznar Ron Dermer Yuli Edelstein Abdul Fatah el-Sisi Stephen Harper Goodluck Jonathan Mitch McConnell Narendra Modi [...]

    Read more →
  • Features Jewish 100 Jewish 100, 2014: Bassam Eid – Voices

    Jewish 100, 2014: Bassam Eid – Voices

    Bassam Eid Palestinian human rights activist While Palestinians who demonize Israel as the sole reason for their woes receive no shortage of media invitations, those among them who spotlight their own leaders’ iniquities are far less in demand. Even so, the profile of Bassam Eid, the Director of the Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring Group, is thankfully continuing to grow. Eid’s latest campaign is for the overhaul of UNRWA, the UN refugee agency dedicated solely to the Palestinians, which he says [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.