Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.

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...

  • Blogs Book Reviews Can ‘Islamic Reformation’ Work? (REVIEW)

    Can ‘Islamic Reformation’ Work? (REVIEW)

    It is cocktail hour on an April afternoon in 2004. The sun is hot on Amsterdam’s canals, and I am sitting at Café den Leeuw on the Herengracht with Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Hirsi Ali is still a member of the Dutch Parliament, and we talk about Islam. Specifically, we talk about the concept of “moderate Islam,” or what she calls “liberal Islam.” And she has one word for it. “It’s absurd,” she says. “It’s complete nonsense. There is no ‘liberal […]

    Read more →
  • Food Jewish Identity A Look at the Vilna Vegetarian Cookbook (REVIEW)

    A Look at the Vilna Vegetarian Cookbook (REVIEW)

    Everybody knows that cooking varies from country to country. There are Italian restaurants, Chinese restaurants, etc. We associate different styles of cuisine with different languages. Do we also think of the association of different cuisines with different dialects? We should, because cooking also varies from region to region. Litvaks and Galitsyaners have their own traditions of preparing gefilte fish. Marvin I. Herzog, in his book The Yiddish Language in Northern Poland: Its Geography and History (Indiana University, Bloomington, and Mouton & Co., The […]

    Read more →
  • Relationships US & Canada Analysis: Jewish Women Less Likely Than Catholics to Take Husband’s Name

    Analysis: Jewish Women Less Likely Than Catholics to Take Husband’s Name

    An analysis of New York Times wedding announcements showed that women married in Jewish ceremonies were less likely to take their husband’s last names than those married in Roman Catholic ceremonies, the Times reported on Saturday. The largest gap between the two groups was in 1995 when 66 percent of Catholic women took their husband’s names and 33 percent of Jewish women did the same. Nearly half of the women featured in the publication’s wedding pages since 1985 took their husband’s name after marriage, while about […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs Jerry Lewis, Legendary Jewish Comic and Humanitarian, Stays Relevant at 89

    Jerry Lewis, Legendary Jewish Comic and Humanitarian, Stays Relevant at 89

    JNS.org – Through appreciation of both his comedy and humanitarian work, legendary Jewish entertainer Jerry Lewis is staying relevant at age 89. The only comic to ever be nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize, Lewis added another award to his trophy case in April, when he received the 2015 Distinguished Service Award from the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB). Gordon Smith, NAB’s president and CEO, said the organization was “honored to recognize not only [Lewis’s] comedic innovation, but also his remarkable […]

    Read more →
  • Europe Sports Israeli Gymnasts Win Bronze, Silver Medals at 2015 European Games in Baku

    Israeli Gymnasts Win Bronze, Silver Medals at 2015 European Games in Baku

    Israeli athletes marked a successful day on Sunday, as gymnasts won multiple bronze and silver medals in the 2015 European Games in Baku. The Gymnastics team won two silver medals and one bronze in group events, while Neta Rivkin, an Israeli Olympic gymnast, won bronze for the Solo Hoops event. Sunday’s gymnastics wins follow Sergey Richter’s bronze on June 16 for the Men’s 10 meter air-rifle, and Ilana Kratysh’s silver for women’s freestyle wrestling. The 2015 European Games in Baku are […]

    Read more →
  • Theater Report Highlights Success of Russian-Jewish-American Ballroom Dancers

    Report Highlights Success of Russian-Jewish-American Ballroom Dancers

    Russian-American Jews are some of the most successful ballroom dancing competitors in the U.S., South Dakota Public Broadcasting (SDPB) Radio reported on Thursday. Jonathan Sarna, a professor of Jewish history at Brandeis University, said their success can be traced back to Jewish discrimination in the former Soviet Union. Because of the prejudice they faced, Russian Jews had to perform better than their peers in every field, including dancing, in order to have a chance of getting ahead. “They knew that if they […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture US & Canada Israeli Dancer With Shofar, Prayer Shawl Wows ‘So You Think You Can Dance’ Judges (VIDEO)

    Israeli Dancer With Shofar, Prayer Shawl Wows ‘So You Think You Can Dance’ Judges (VIDEO)

    An Israeli dancer made use of Jewish props in an extraordinary routine that left judges amazed when he auditioned for season 12 of TV dance competition So You Think You Can Dance on Monday. At first, the panel of judges appeared confused when Asaf Goren, 23, began his audition in Los Angeles with a tallit (prayer shawl) over his head and the blowing of a shofar, which he explained “opens the sky” for people’s prayers. However, as soon as he started his “Hebrew breaking” performance, […]

    Read more →
  • Sports US & Canada Jewish Hoops Fairytale Falls Short as David Blatt’s Cavaliers Drop Game 6

    Jewish Hoops Fairytale Falls Short as David Blatt’s Cavaliers Drop Game 6

    JNS.org – A fairytale ending to Jewish basketball coach David Blatt’s first season in the National Basketball Association (NBA) was not meant to be, as the Blatt-led Cleveland Cavaliers on Tuesday night dropped Game 6 of the NBA Finals to the Golden State Warriors, 105-97, to lose the best-of-seven series 4-2. Blatt, who just last year coached Israel’s Maccabi Tel Aviv franchise to a European basketball championship, failed to finish a second straight hoops season on top. But after the Cavaliers began the NBA […]

    Read more →