EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first in a four-part series of exerpts from Endgame: The Blueprint for Victory in the War on Terror, by Thomas McInerney and Paul Vallely.
It would be folly for the United States and its allies to wait for the results of the 2004 presidential and congressional elections before they lay out a comprehensive strategy against the Web of Terror. The terrorists will not wait until January 20, 2005, and neither should we.
Our grand strategic goal is quite simple: to ensure the security of the United States by thoroughly defeating the Web of Terror. That means drying up the sources of weapons, funding, and manpower for terrorist groups, and denying them territorial sanctuaries. It means stopping nuclear proliferation and dismantling the WMD development programs and weapons stockpiles of rogue states. It means encouraging the spread of democracy in the Muslim world. And it means resolving the Palestinian question in a fair and equitable manner between two democratic entities–the State of Israel and a reformed Palestinian Authority.
We cannot wait to achieve these goals or expect that these changes will happen of their own volition. In some cases, achieving these goals will mean overthrowing regimes, as we did with the Taliban and Saddam Hussein, though the means by which we do so might vary. A case in point could be Iran. Even if Iran officially ends its nuclear weapons development program, it is doubtful that the mullahs will cease arming, training, and funding terror groups around the world. The only serious question remaining, therefore, is how to achieve regime change in Iran, and whether that will be done through support for the growing domestic resistance to the mullahs, diplomatic pressure, military force, or some combination of the three. In other cases, we will have to engage in regime preservation, helping governments secure themselves against Islamist violence so that eventual democratic reform is possible. Nuclear-armed Pakistan, for example, could fall to an Islamist military coup or become a bloody battleground between religious sects, secularists, and foreign jihadists. Pakistan’s government, for the long-term benefit of all (except the jihadists), needs democratic reform, but not before it neutralizes the domestic Islamist threat.
The first key concept is the need to press at utmost speed the war on terror to achieve regime change throughout the Web of Terror- supporting states. Another key concept is preemption. President Bush was right to make this a strategic principle of his administration. Preemption’s purpose is to put teeth behind the idea that certain actions are utterly unacceptable. Thumb your nose at UN weapons inspectors, and the United States will not risk that it can trust you; it will, in fact, enforce UN threats that the UN itself won’t enforce. Sell or transfer nuclear weapons and their delivery systems–cruise missiles and ICBMs–to rogue states or terrorist groups, and America will stop you, by force if necessary. It would be folly to let inaction lead to nuclear proliferation, to wait until a nuclear weapon falls into the hands of al-Qaeda or detonates in New York or London, before we act in our own defense.
Another key concept is simultaneity. We simply do not have the time to take a sequential approach: first Afghanistan, then Iraq, perhaps next North Korea, and so on. Every strand in the Web of Terror needs to be snipped–now. Thankfully, work is being done on many fronts. However, it is not enough and it is not being done anywhere near fast enough. What follows next are the campaigns that must be won.
The key to achieving lasting success in Afghanistan is establishing its security. As the country’s interim president, Hamid Karzai, admitted when he addressed the British Labour Party’s annual conference in October 2003, less than half the country is under the rule of law. Though the Afghans have a completed constitution, plans for democratic elections, and an education system again open to women, the establishment of a fully functioning civil society is years in the future. According to some estimates, there are 100,000 fighters under the command of provincial leaders and regional warlords–and rivalries between them remain strong. The followers of these leaders and warlords don’t just have AK-47 assault rifles, they have tanks, armored personnel carriers, and heavy artillery–and some of these weapons are placed near Kabul.
To defuse this volatile situation, President Karzai included a section in the Law of Political Parties, decreed in the fall of 2003, stating that political parties could not have military organizations affiliated with them. In addition, he was able to negotiate an agreement among the militias and other armed factions to abide by the terms of the United Nations’ disarmament plan.
This is fine on paper, but for the disarmament plan to make any sense, the Afghan national army must be of sufficient size and skill to take over the security duties that the warlords’ militias now provide to local populations. Creating a conventional army out of whole cloth is a difficult task at any time; doing so while the Taliban and al-Qaeda are attempting to regain power will make the process in Afghanistan even more challenging. Moreover, we are not sure that we want all of these groups disarmed as quickly as some wish. In the fight against the Taliban and other jihadists in southern and eastern Afghanistan, the militias are as invaluable today as they were in the 2001 campaign that drove out the Taliban and al-Qaeda. To disarm and disband them in the absence of a force that can take their place would be tantamount to granting Mullah Omar a foothold in the country.
The resurgence of the Taliban is what worries us most. In the fall of 2003, the Taliban began trying to make good on its public threat to take over the country by attacking NATO forces and killing aid workers. The Taliban and al-Qaeda also have taken their activities in the “tribal” territories of Pakistan, the areas along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border to include the cities of Peshawar and Quetta.
Pakistan must act–assisted by coalition forces on the Afghan side of the border–to eliminate this al-Qaeda and Taliban presence. Destroying the Taliban and al-Qaeda would remove the greatest threat not only to Afghanistan but to the Pakistani government as well. Pakistan’s intelligence service helped create the Taliban and see it into power. Now the Taliban is a potential threat to the Pakistani government in a country where radical Islam has a deep reservoir of public support.
At present, the United States has approximately 11,000 troops in Afghanistan, and along with fighting the terrorists, our government is committed to a necessary program of domestic improvements throughout the country. Currently, Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs) are developing the areas outside of Kabul. Led by Americans, Germans, and workers from other NATO countries, the PRTs are proving to be very effective at planning, developing, and executing the reconstruction projects aimed at improving infrastructure, establishing schools, and restoring legitimate agriculture to attract some farmers away from growing opium poppies. Their operations as well as those of various aid agencies must be expanded–and protected–throughout the country. The Afghans must come to believe that the government in Kabul and its international allies are offering Afghanistan a better future. The key to ensuring a stable, peaceful Afghanistan is to stay the course. Allowing Afghanistan’s economic and political development to languish and its security system to deteriorate would be to recreate the conditions that led to the establishment of the Taliban regime. We will likely be in Afghanistan, assisting in its development, for another ten to twenty years. But to defeat terrorism, we have no choice.
The force level we need to maintain in Afghanistan is relatively small, the duties in the long term, relatively easy. The fact that we will be keeping troops in Afghanistan (and other countries) for decades is not to say that the Web of Terror can’t be defeated quickly. We defeated the Axis powers within four years of our entry into World War II–and yet we still have troops in German and Japan, sixty years later. So too in the war against terror we must act with a swift sword, as we did in Afghanistan, while recognizing that a longer-term military presence in the country is a necessary burden, and not an intolerable one.
–Lt. Gen. Thomas G. McInerney retired from the U.S. Air Force as assistant vice chief of staff of the Air Force and director for the Defense Performance Review. Maj. Gen. Paul E. Vallely retired from the U.S. Army as deputy commanding general, Pacific, and is the senior military analyst for FOX News Channel.