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 Commentary In ‘America in Retreat,’ a Real-Life Risk Board

    In ‘America in Retreat,’ a Real-Life Risk Board

    JNS.org – “Risk: The Game of Strategic Conquest,” the classic Parker Brothers board game, requires imperial ambitions. Players imagine empires and are pitted against each other, vying for world domination. Amid this fictional world war, beginners learn fast that no matter the superiority of their army, every advance is a gamble determined by a roll of the dice. After a defeat, a player must retreat. Weighted reinforcement cards provide the only opportunity to reverse a player’s fortunes and resume the [...]

    Read more →
  • Beliefs and concepts Sports Does Working Out With Other Jews Keep You Jewish?

    Does Working Out With Other Jews Keep You Jewish?

    JNS.org – For Daphna Krupp, her daily workout (excluding Shabbat) at the Jewish Community Center (JCC or “J”) of Greater Baltimore has become somewhat of a ritual. She not only attends fitness classes but also engages with the instructors and plugs the J’s social programs on her personal Facebook page. “It’s the gym and the environment,” says Krupp. “It’s a great social network.” Krupp, who lives in Pikesville, Md., is one of an estimated 1 million American Jewish members of more [...]

    Read more →
  • Sports US & Canada Sports Illustrated Profiles Orthodox NCAA Basketball Player Aaron Liberman

    Sports Illustrated Profiles Orthodox NCAA Basketball Player Aaron Liberman

    Sports Illustrated magazine featured an extensive profile on Orthodox-Jewish college basketball player Aaron Liberman on Wednesday.  The article details Liberman’s efforts to balance faith, academics and basketball at Tulane University, a challenge the young athlete calls “a triple major.” Sports Illustrated pointed out that Liberman is the second Orthodox student to play Division I college basketball. The other was Tamir Goodman, the so-called “Jewish Jordan.” As reported in The Algemeiner, Liberman started his NCAA career at Northwestern University. According to [...]

    Read more →
  • Jewish Identity Sports Cycling the Desert: New Israel Bike Trail Connects Mitzpe Ramon to Eilat

    Cycling the Desert: New Israel Bike Trail Connects Mitzpe Ramon to Eilat

    As the popularity of cycling continues to increase across the world, Israel is working to develop cycling trails that make the country’s spectacular desert accessible to cyclists. The southern segment of the Israel Bike Trail was inaugurated on Feb. 24 and offers for the first time a unique, uninterrupted 8-day cycling experience after six years of planning and development. The southern section of the Israel Bike Trail stretches over 300 kilometers in length and is divided into eight segments for mountain biking, [...]

    Read more →
  • Jewish Identity Theater Forthcoming Major Action Movies Inspired by Jewish Comic Artist Jack Kirby

    Forthcoming Major Action Movies Inspired by Jewish Comic Artist Jack Kirby

    JNS.org – With the recent Oscars in the rearview mirror, Hollywood’s attention now shifts to the rest of this year’s big-screen lineup. Two of the major action films coming up in 2015—Avengers: Age of Ultron, which hits theaters in May, and the third film in the Fantastic Four series, slated for an August release—have Jewish roots that the average moviegoer might be unaware of. As it turns out, it took a tough Jewish kid from New York City’s Lower East [...]

    Read 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 →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.