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Afghanistan: we are fighting Al Qaeda « Previous | |Next »
July 8, 2010

If you recall the central reason why the US has invaded Afghanistan is to knock out Al Qaeda. Recall that the then Taliban regime provided a safe haven for Al Qaeda, and were Afghanistan to allow Al Qaeda to come back into Afghanistan, that clearly gives Al Qaeda a freedom of movement. Remember Bali?, says a government minister. So we have the justification for the never ending War on Terror against Islam.

In this interview Michael Leiter, director of the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC), Leiter says that:

in Afghanistan, you have a certain number, a relatively small number, 50 to 100. I think we have in Pakistan a larger number. [In Pakistan there are] Upwards—more than 300, I would say. And I think the key has been not going after every foot soldier—although that can be very important. … but more critically … trying to decimate Al Qaeda’s leadership ranks. I think we’ve had a lot of success there.

Let's stop there and think about what is being said. 9 years of war, all those deaths, the bombing of the Afghan countryside and billions of dollars to fight under 500 people?

500 people folks and that's from the horses mouth. No wonder John Faulkner tossed it in as Minister of Defence and returned to the back bench. The gap between the problem and the military response is so great that not even a man as loyal to the Labor Party as Faulkner could stomach the spin required to cover the yawning gap.

Leiter concedes the bleeding obvious that is denied by the Australian Governments from Howard onwards: that the military actions in Afghanistan have the opposite effect of what is supposedly intended: namely, these actions are what motivate so much of the recent Terrorism) that is cited to justify those policies:

Well I certainly will not try to argue that some of our actions have not led to some people being radicalized. I think that’s a given … That doesn’t mean you don’t do it. That means you craft a fuller strategy to explain why you’re doing that and try to minimize the likelihood that individuals are going to be radicalized.

How do you minimize that likelihood? Have a hit list of people to assassinate--the U.S. government through the Department of Defense goes out and attempts to target and kill people, a lot of people, who haven’t been indicted. Or a counter-insurgency strategy that is failing.

My guess is that a summer of discontent and uncertainty over the Afghanistan war will unfold in America because the war in Afghanistan not going so well and the rationale behind the war today become increasingly unclear. Why is the USA fighting in Afghanistan? Or Australia for that matter?

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 6:33 PM | | Comments (11)


So it's a FINITE number, is it?

Just a few hundred evil-doers. And of those, we will have a victory (of sorts) if we "decimate Al Qaeda’s leadership ranks"... Let's be generous and say they amount to 300 bosses. Of course that assumes that al Q doesn't have any applicants or candidates to quickly fill those management roles.

Well... we should have it sorted out in next to no time!


Well, if it isn't minerals or oil pipelines, then it's just a distraction/entertainment game for US voters.

On another blog a little while ago I suggested that the logical conclusion to this line of thought would be to have an entiely imaginary "war", using state of the art CGI graphics, actors as soldiers and Afghans and lots of special effects. That way, the "war" could rage ceaselessly, with successes succeeding each other according to political convenience, but nobody actually getting killed.

If it's entertainment, it actually has nothing to do with the real Afghanistan, anyway.

Yemen is next if the neo-cons have their way. Apparently it's also a hotbed of al Qaeda leaders and the USA needs to Do Something, which invariably means lethal force of some kind. That's if the Israelis don't pre-empt things by launching an insane attack on Iran, in which case al Qaeda will suddenly become a minor problem.

Of course as you imply, the sensible thing for the yanks to do is to just piss off out of the Middle East, where they have no business being in the first place. This 'the terrorists will follow us home' and 'better to fight them over there than over here' nonsense is all the most hopeless pack of lies ever swallowed by educated people. If the yanks leave the Afghans alone I'm sure the latter will be only too happy to reciprocate.

But as John Howard stated openly, it's all about the 'global prestige of the USA', which apparently is the only thing standing between us and Armageddon. So we'll keep on keeping on, indefinitely.

Julia Gillard's justification for the war is the denial of sanctuary argument is in The Age. There's nothing new even though the war effort continues to founder. She makes her case thus:

A national government has no more important task than defending the nation, its people and their interests. Australia is engaged in a vital mission in Afghanistan. We are there because our national security is at stake. This is why our commitment to the mission remains steadfast. Our objective is clear: to combat the threat of international terrorism, to prevent Afghanistan from again becoming a training ground for terrorists launching attacks against us and our allies.

The Bali bombings were by terrorists who had links to Afghanistan and so:
We remain committed to denying terrorists sanctuary, to stabilising Afghanistan and to our alliance with the United States

This is pretty thin justification as it doesn't really engage with what is happening on the ground.

The links by Indonesian terrorists to al Qaeda are very tenuous and loose. It is unclear from this who the terrorists in Afghanistan are. Presumably, it is al Qaeda, who are mostly in Pakistan. Or is it Islamic militants?

Thirdly there is no mention that Australia is involved in a civil war in Afghanistan supporting the Karzai Government against the Taliban. Fourthly, there is no mention of the Karzai government being a liability, not an asset, and there is no way of making it perform better in the mission to "stablise Afghanistan since Karzai is reliant on foreign support and lacking real political support within the country. Moreover, both Obama and General Petraeus now rule out "victory" over the Taliban, and Petraeus, like Obama, foresees the possibility of a settlement with the Taliban, with the involvement of the Pakistanis.

This war is another example of a great power (the US) staying in a foreign war too long when it's clear that they would have been better off getting out sooner. Other examples include the United States in Vietnam, France in Algeria, Britain and the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. What will eventuate in Afghanistan is a bloody stalemate at best.

It is America's war and its NATO allies are now leaving the field.The Americans are beginning to realize that the costs of continuing this fight exceed either the benefits of victory or the risks of withdrawal.

The military mission cannot be to "defeat, disrupt, and defeat al Qaeda" because al Qaeda isn't in Afghanistan anymore!

The Obama administration needs to be careful Obama is at risk at finding himself stuck in the Afghan quagmire for the remainder of his time in office.

The big danger is that, as with Johnson in Vietnam and Bush in Iraq, the war will suck the life out of Obama's presidency and make it impossible to achieve more urgent domestic and international priorities.

The Rolling Stone profile of Gen. Stanley McChrystal, which contained a number of barbed comments about the war in Afghanistan and the way that various members of Obama administration are handling it, is another sign that the war is not going well.

The article itself paints a rather grim picture of the situation.

If it is 60-100 Al Qaeda in Afghanistan according to CIA chief Leon Panetta , then if C Panetta is correct and al-Qaeda, and has been reduced to a tiny remnant, then why is the US spending nearly a trillion dollars a year on defense, intelligence, and homeland security?

Its a fair question. Al Qaeda's capacity to launch attacks on the US (and Australia) would be next to zero.

It is a joke that we are in Afghanistan to prevent terrorism from occurring in Australia - and that we are likely to sustain that commitment.The real reason for being in Afghanistan is of course is that it pays our dues for being part of the ANZUS alliance.

So Australia is dragged into situations where the US has committed its military forces to pursue its own strategic interests.

As Clive Williams points out at The Drum:

the reality is that our involvement in Afghanistan is more likely to lead to terrorism in Australia than prevent it. The main terrorism threat today is not from terrorists coming to Australia from Afghanistan, but from a few disaffected second-generation young Australian Muslims motivated by what they see as our involvement in a US-led international war against Islam

It's probably about time that Australians begin to question the ANZUS alliance in relation to its national interest.

After all, Australia's national interest is different to that of the US.