Afghanistan

WaPo tells Obama, ‘Taliban has gone from struggling for survival to aiming for control over both Afghanistan and Pakistan’

This morning’s editorial, ‘The Taliban Threat,’ in the Washington Post, must have shocked Vice-President Joe Biden:

“I think the Taliban are, obviously, exceedingly bad people that have done awful things,” White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said last week. “Their capability is somewhat different, [from al Qaeda] though, on that continuum of transnational threats.”

That analysis — which is being used by many who oppose sending additional U.S. troops to Afghanistan — made some sense in the first years after Sept. 11, 2001. Now it is badly out of date. Al-Qaeda, though still dangerous, has suffered serious reverses in the past several years, while the Taliban has gone from struggling for survival to aiming for control over both Afghanistan and Pakistan. Though it is not known to be planning attacks against the continental United States, success by the movement in toppling the government of either country would be a catastrophe for the interests of the United States and major allies such as India.

For years the United States has been trying to persuade Pakistan to fully confront the threat of the Taliban, even as its government and army dithered and wavered. Now that the army at last appears prepared to strike at the heart of the movement in Waziristan, the Obama administration is wavering — and considering a strategy that would give up the U.S. attempt to defeat the Taliban in Afghanistan.

After all, VP Biden only suggested that General McChrystal step up attacks in Pakistan on al Qaeda and add Mullah Omar’s shura council in Quetta to the target list, using drone strikes and ground troop raids.

The WaPo’s editors summarized it with this:

Adopting such a strategy would condemn American soldiers to fighting and dying without the chance of winning. But it would also cripple Pakistan’s fight against the jihadists. With the pressure off in Afghanistan, Taliban forces would have a refuge from offensives by Pakistani forces. And those in the Pakistani army and intelligence services who favor striking deals or even alliances with the extremists could once again gain ascendancy. After all, if the United States gives up trying to defeat the Taliban, can it really expect that Pakistan will go on fighting?

When the lights went on inside the chicken hawk house at the Washington Post, somebody was actually at home. An unholy alliance of violent Islamic jihadists — the Taliban, al Qaeda, and senior officials within Pakistan’s government — seek power in Pakistan and control of its 60 nuclear weapons.

Maybe tomorrow the WaPo’s editors will advise President Barack Obama to broker a four-way winning strategy between India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and the United States to both end the dispute over Kasmir and destroy this threat to all nations.

Has al Qaeda won the War on Terror? (plus an update on Afghanistan from Bill Roggio)

Bill Roggio of the Long War Journal provided Freedom Radio an update last night on Afghanistan and Pakistan. In part, he said, “The momentum has definitely shifted towards the Taliban and towards al Qaeda, particularly over the last year … the U.S. military, NATO, and Afghan government admit the Taliban openly controls 11 … of the 34 Providences in Afghanistan.”

Roggio recently did the math and found that since January 2008, “74 airstrikes and ground raids the Taliban and al Qaeda’s network in Pakistan’s lawless tribal agency [have killed] 13 senior al Qaeda leaders and one senior Taliban leader [and] sixteen other mid-level al Qaeda and Taliban commanders and operatives.”

General McChrystal was placed in command to fight a counter-insurgency operation there with the mission to protect the civilian populace and train up the Afghanistan army and police. The mission entailed setting the conditions for good governance, the infusion of aide, and the building of needed infrastructure. Yet he does not currently have in country sufficient troops to do all those things. Roggio explains the General’s frustration:

“We will not invade northwest Pakistan. … There is another irony with this. Last year, what were we told? We were told conducting cross-border attacks into Pakistan was illegal, it’s immoral, it’s against international law, [and] what we’re doing is killing civilians. Now the same people who told us that was bad want to ramp up those types of attacks. What am I missing here? It is a convenient way out. They’ve learned that Afghanistan is much harder than they thought. They thought everybody supports Afghanistan, it’s the “good” war … but once they found out how difficult [it is] and what the situation was, now they want to back off.”

Click the speaker to listen to Bill Roggio’s 27-minute interview (Windows Media Audio file – see note below):

Me: Perhaps it is fair to say the previous administration “took its eye off the ball” yet most Americans and the media all but forgot about Afghanistan. Pakistan stood by and watched the Taliban reconstitute and grow to more than 100,000 armed insurgents in its northwest and tribal areas. American intelligence officials have shown the Pakistan government evidence that from 8,000 to 14,000 al Qaeda are operating under protection in those areas and helping to train the Taliban’s fighters. In addition, Pakistan’s ISI watched as a total of 62 terror camps opened and now “15,000 to 20,000 trained militants” are directly aimed at India.

President Barack Obama is at a decision point. With McChrystal’s troop requests and recommendations in hand, he is considering whether to change the mission in Afghanistan back to counter-terrorism. Before he decides, America should ask itself a few questions.

If destroying al Qaeda’s ability to conduct terrorism worldwide, denying them sanctuary anywhere, and bringing justice to the murderers of 2,976 men, women, and children on 9/11 was the right mission back then, is it not the right mission today?

Will we accept the occasional mass-murder of our citizens both home and abroad?

Will we let Israel stand alone as again six million Jews face incineration?

While we have the world’s finest military and troops, have the civilians they defend lost the will to fight?

Has al Qaeda won the War on Terror?

——

Note: A 13 MB mp3 file of the interview is available here to download.

President Obama Urged to Properly Resource War Effort in Afghanistan

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 7, 2009
FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Jamie Fly – (202) 360-2802, Executive Director, jfly@foreignpolicyi.org
President Obama Urged to Properly Resource War Effort in Afghanistan

WASHINGTON — A distinguished group of Americans active in the foreign policy debate expressed support today for the U.S. effort in Afghanistan, and called upon President Obama to continue to provide the necessary resources requested by his commanders on the ground to ensure success. In an open letter organized by the Foreign Policy Initiative (FPI), the group offered its appreciation for the president’s decision earlier this year to deploy 21,000 additional U.S. troops to the country, and urged him to continue to properly resource the war effort. Given increasing public concern about the U.S. commitment in Afghanistan, the letter also suggests that the President make it a priority to explain to the American people why it is important to remain committed to winning in Afghanistan, and why such a victory is feasible.

The letter’s signatories write: “The situation in Afghanistan is grave and deteriorating … Since the announcement of your administration’s new strategy, we have been troubled by calls for a drawdown of American forces in Afghanistan and a growing sense of defeatism about the war. With General McChrystal expected to request additional troops later this month, we urge you to continue on the path you have taken thus far and give our commanders on the ground the forces they need to implement a successful counterinsurgency strategy. There is no middle course. Incrementally committing fewer troops than required would be a grave mistake and may well lead to American defeat. We will not support half-measures that repeat the errors of the past.”

The letter’s signers so far are: Steve Biegun, Max Boot, Debra Burlingame, Eliot A. Cohen, Ryan C. Crocker, Thomas Donnelly, Eric Edelman, William S. Edgerly, Jamie M. Fly, David Frum, Abe Greenwald, John Hannah, Pete Hegseth, Margaret Hoover, Thomas Joscelyn, Frederick W. Kagan, Robert Kagan, William Kristol, Tod Lindberg, Herbert London, Clifford May, Robert C. McFarlane, Joshua Muravchik, Sarah Palin, Keith Pavlischek, Beverly Perlson, Danielle Pletka, John Podhoretz, Stephen Rademaker, Karl Rove, Jennifer Rubin, Randy Scheunemann, Gary Schmitt, Dan Senor, Marc Thiessen, Peter Wehner, Kenneth Weinstein, and Christian Whiton.