We’ve done a lot of debating about Afghanistan here lately. I’ll have a column up later today about what I think the real problem is: the failure of strategic vision about the wider war. You’ll be shocked to learn that I’m with Michael Ledeen on that one.
Ignoring the wider war, and temporizing on Afghanistan while we have young men and women at risk, may win a commander-in-chief Nobel prizes in Europe — the audience he cares about — but it is endangering the nation that commander-in-chief is responsible for securing.
On that score, two important pieces for your weekend reading. At The Long War Journal, Tom Joscelyn and Bill Roggio have posted a superb, comprehensive analysis called, “Al Qaeda is the tip of the jihadist spear.” Taking a long look at the enemy in Afghanistan, Tom and Bill argue that a counterterrorism approach cannot defeat it:
We do not think that a shift to a predominately counterterrorism campaign utilizing airstrikes and the like is sufficient to beat back the threat to America’s interests. In fact, we argue that such thinking is rooted in a dangerous ignorance of al Qaeda and our terrorist enemies. Al Qaeda was never a self-contained problem that could be defeated by neutralizing select individuals – even though capturing or killing senior al Qaeda members surely does substantially weaken the network. Instead, Osama bin Laden and his cohorts deliberately fashioned their organization to be the tip of a much longer jihadist spear.
For those following our debates here, I’m not sold on the counterterrorism approach either; my quarrel is that we can’t win the wider war — as opposed to tamp down the narrow insurgency in Afghanistan — using General McChrystal’s strategy. But that aside, what Tom and Bill have done that no one else really has before is give us an accurate picture of what we’re actually looking at in Afghanistan. (My point is: Multiply that by Iran, Saudi money, Muslim Brotherhood ideology, plus a number of other venues, and you’ll finally have an accurate picture of the enemy that is gunning for us.)
Tom has a second, mind-reeling post at the Standard, excerpting a CBS report on how Iran is facilitating the Taliban in Afghanistan — surprise! — “but U.S. commanders are not allowed to comment publicly and it’s unclear to them what the U.S. strategy is for dealing with Iran’s increasingly deadly involvement.”
Hey, if we ignore the war, maybe it will go away.