Even though they never really left (according to American intelligence officials, they have maintained numbers of around 100 or so for several years), today the big news is about the “return” of Al Qaeda to Afghanistan. Naturally, I wrote about it for my column this week for PBS:
What the news of Al Qaeda’s resurgence shows is that both approaches to the war — withdrawal and escalation — fail to focus on the right objectives. The number of troops in Afghanistan doesn’t matter nearly as much as what they’re doing. The substantial increase in troops under President Obama — nearly 50,000 troops over the last two years — hasn’t been directed at securing the eastern border with Pakistan. Instead of having troops secure the border to prevent further infiltration and cross-border militancy, the lion’s share of those troops were sent south, to battle local Taliban fighting over local issues. Meanwhile, the east and the north of the country have seen their security deteriorate substantially, and concrete gains in the midst of the surge in the south remain difficult to specify…
What does need to happen is an honest accounting of what is really necessary to keep the focus on Al Qaeda. If the Obama administration believes that the viability of a strong Afghan government is contingent upon the permanent denial of a safe haven to Al Qaeda, then we should work toward that. However, the administration’s current war strategy, which leans heavily on troops and building local militias (to do more fighting), does not actually serve this larger goal.
Comment away, y’all.