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NewsFlash: al-Qaeda Is Stronger In Pakistan

Shocking news out of Washington today regarding al-Qaeda, Afghanistan and Pakistan. From McClatchy comes the headline: "US:Al Qaida regroups in new sanctuary on Pakistan border".

While the U.S. presses its war against insurgents linked to al Qaida in Iraq, Osama bin Laden's group is recruiting, regrouping and rebuilding in a new sanctuary along the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan, senior U.S. military, intelligence and law enforcement officials said.

The threat from the radical Islamic enclave in Waziristan is more dangerous than that from Iraq, which President Bush and his aides call the “central front” of the war on terrorism, said some current and former U.S. officials and experts. Bin Laden himself is believed to be hiding in the region, guiding a new generation of lieutenants and inspiring allied extremist groups in Iraq and other parts of the world.

But how is this news? Because yet another analyst openly acknowledged that al-Qaeda has rebuilt to beyond pre-9/11 capabilities? The answer lies in the next paragraphs.

The remote Pakistani region [Ed. Note: Decidedly not "between Afghanistan and Pakistan."] “is the real heart of the war on terror, and we’re losing,” said a U.S. intelligence official who, like most of his colleagues, requested anonymity because intelligence reports on the matter are highly classified and because their pessimism conflicts with the administration's public statements. "We took our eye off the ball when we went into Iraq."

And there you have it. The reason this is a news story.

To say we are losing against al-Qaeda requires qualification desperately.

Where we are actively confronting al-Qaeda, we are defeating them soundly. The rallying cry for our troops in Diyala operations (and other provinces in Iraq) is "Surrender or Die." This is not the banter of the defeated, and al-Qaeda terrorists are being effectively and systematically hunted and killed in a proper military manner, to put it bluntly. The same can be said of Afghanistan, where the absence of the enemy's vaunted annual "Spring Offensive, Version 2007" never materialized. This was not an accident or change of course for them. They were beaten to the offensive punch and, again, effectively and systematically hunted and killed in a proper military manner.

Where we can be said to be "losing to al-Qaeda" remains solely where we are not engaging them. This would be, as Marvin Weinbaum says in the article, inside Pakistan (and decidedly not "between" Pakistan and Afghanistan.)

Again, we are handing decisive defeat to al-Qaeda where we hunt them, (finally at last) in Iraq and in Afghanistan and only "losing" where we are not engaging them and killing them. And what doesn't kill them makes them stronger.

Yet, the solution to all America's strategic woes - according to an increasing number of the American political class - is to duplicate in Iraq (where we are killing al-Qaeda terrorists with painfully effective means) the losing blueprint of non-engagement currently on display in Pakistan.

It's that simple.

This is insane.

Please forgive the unusually rash tone, but I am about at my limit of tolerance for politicians who clearly do not understand the conflict at hand yet make sweeping policy regarding American National Security based on such fundamental ignorance.

2 Comments

Good post, but it’s not that simple, there is much more to it. Islam has many divisions. Within that universe not only are there Shiites and Sunnis, but Persians and Arabs, Southeast Asians and Middle Easterners and, importantly, moderates and militants. The clash between Hamas and Fatah in the Palestinian territories is the most current vivid sign of the latter divide. Just as the diversity within the communist world ultimately made it less threatening, so the many varieties of Islam weaken its ability to coalesce into a single, monolithic foe. It would be even less dangerous if we recognized this and worked to emphasize such distinctions. Rather than speaking of a single worldwide movement, which absurdly lumps together Chechen separatists in Russia, Pakistani-backed militants in India, Shiite warlords in Lebanon and Sunni jihadists in Egypt----we should emphasize that all these groups are distinct, with different agendas, enemies and friends. And this factor, in essence, robs them of their claim to represent Islam. It describes them as they often are----small local gangs of misfits, hoping to attract attention through terrorism.

Interestingly, the greatest weakness of militant Islam is that it is unpopular almost everywhere. Even in Afghanistan, where the Taliban has some roots, it was widely reviled. And now, when Taliban fighters occasionally take over a town in southern Afghanistan, they disband the schools, burn books, put women behind veils. These actions cause fear and resentment, not love. Most Muslims, even those who are devout and enraged at the West, don't want to return to some grim fantasy ofa medieval theocracy. People in the Muslim world travel to see the opulence in Dubai, not the madrassas in Tehran. About half the world's Muslim countries hold some form of elections. In those elections over the past four or five years, the parties representing militant Islam have done poorly from Indonesia to Pakistan, rarely garnering less than 10% of the vote. There are some exceptional cases in places suffering from civil war or occupation, such as Hamas in the Palestinian territories and Hizbullah in Lebanon. But by and large, radical Islam is not winning the argument, which is why it is trying to win by force.

The real danger, and the reason this will be a long struggle, is that the conditions that feed the radicalization and alienation of young Muslim men are not abating. A toxic combination of demography, alienation and religious extremism continues to seduce a small number of Muslims to head down a path of violence.

Begging to disagree, it's not that complicated.

Not arguing what you've said, but it's not about radical Islam, or Sunnis and Shi'a, or Arabs and Persians.

It's about elected officials, principle and the responsibilities of elected office.

You can't tell me after reading or hearing Lugar's (R-IN) speech that he understands the greater conflict or the situation in Iraq.