Monday, October 26, 2009

Obama's "Dithering" Afghan Strategy: Providing Al Qaeda an Umbrella of Protection

This is a follow-up to Political Policy's article regarding former Vice-President Dick Cheney's tongue-lashing to Obama on his "dithering" Afghanistan policy.

In a 10/23/09 article in Foreign Policy Jim Arkedis, Director of the National Security Project at the Progressive Policy institute and a former counterterrorism analyst with the Naval Criminal Investigative Service from 2002 to 2007, provides great insight into why the best means to disrupt Al Qaeda operations is to deny them a base of operations in Afghanistan under the Taliban's "umbrella of protection".

In a recent Washington Post op-ed, Council on Foreign Relations President Richard Haass bluntly stated, "Al Qaeda does not require Afghan real estate to constitute a regional or global threat." Mr. Arkedis states bluntly that Mr. Haass is dead WRONG!!

Mr. Arkedis puts forth 3 counter arguments to those who believe Al Qaeda can conduct operations remotely and therefore does not need a safe-haven in Afghanistan:
  1. e-mail accounts, chat rooms, and social media will never account for the human touch. As the 9/11 plot developed, mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed (KSM) put the future operatives through a series of intensive training courses along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. Courses included physical fitness, firearms, close combat, Western culture, and English language. KSM wanted his operatives to be proficient under intense pressure. These tactics cannot be taught through “distance learning”.
  2. Critics argue that the Madrid and London bombings were conceived remotely within their respective countries, thus negating the need for a safe haven. However, unlike 9/11 those plots' successes were possible due to their simple concept and small scale. Building those explosive devices was akin to conducting a difficult high-school chemistry experiment. In contrast, 9/11 was like constructing a nuclear warhead. It involved 20 highly skilled operatives infiltrating the U.S. homeland, who conducted a series of hijackings and targeted four national landmarks with enough know-how, preparation, and contingency plans to be success. KSM taught the 9/11 operatives to shoot a rifle from the back of a moving motorcycle; you can't do that in someone's bedroom.
  3. The final argument is that denying Al Qaeda a safe haven is an exercise in futility. i.e., drive Osama bin Laden from Afghanistan and he'd relocate to some place like Sudan, southern Algeria, Somalia, or some other ungoverned territory. This logic makes two faulty assumptions: (a) that Al Qaeda is mobile and (b) that the group's international affiliates would automatically roll out the red carpet for the jihadi refugees. Neither is true. Bin Laden and his senior and mid level cadre are well-known to intelligence services the world over. Any attempt to travel, let alone cross an international border (save Afghanistan-Pakistan) would fall somewhere between "utterly unthinkable" and "highly risky."
According to Mr. Arkedis a safe haven along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border is as good as it gets for Al Qaeda's chances to launch a large-scale attack against the United States.

Commentary: As President Obama continues to "dither" away on crucial Afghanistan troop decisions Al Qaeda continues to fortify their stronghold there. The above reinforces Mr. Cheney's comments towards President Obama's lack of courage to make the decision to heed his commander's pleas for 40,000 troops. Hanging in the balance is the safety of our Afghanistan troops and that of the U.S.

1 comment:

Matt said...

The dithering does give the Taliban the time to consolidate, train, and basically re-tool. The ability to strike elsewhere with great complexity and effect are an outgrowth of that dithering.

Thanks for posting this. It was informative.