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Tuesday, August 05, 2003

U.S. Failure to Stop al Qaeda

Just after I completed that last post, I ran across this:
US opinion polls indicating falling confidence in Bush's conduct of the "war on terror" found an echo at the UN. Heraldo Munoz, chairman of the al-Qaida sanctions committee, said international collaboration was slipping.

Only 30% of UN members were meeting their obligation to report al-Qaida movements and financing, he said. "Individuals or entities associated with al-Qaida" were still able to acquire weapons and explosives where and when they needed them, as shown by several recent attacks ... In London, meanwhile, the Commons foreign affairs committee warned that Osama bin Laden still has the capability "to lead and guide the organisation towards further atrocities". The committee also finally reached a conclusion that opponents of the Iraq invasion arrived at long ago: that "the war in Iraq might in fact have impeded the war against al-Qaida", in part by attracting recruits. In any event, threat levels had not been significantly reduced.
Yet Bush has derived most of his popularity--now fading daily--from the perception that he is "strong on national security." My ass! Instead, his "leadership" has left the U.S.--indeed, the world--as vulnerable as ever to al Qaeda and other terrorist groups. Probably more vulnerable, since no doubt our criminal invasion of Iraq has inflamed Islamic sensibilities and breathed life into al Qaeda recruiting drives. As Simon Tisdall of the Guardian notes, "The continuing cost of Iraq in terms of ruptured alliances, global tension, economic disruption, Muslim animosity and the daily grief of both occupiers and occupied surely gives great comfort to America's true ideological and cultural enemies. How they must gloat."

Remember Afghanistan?

And how we were gonna get Osama bin Laden "dead or alive" and establish a democratic government and rebuild the country? Remember that?

Well, none of that has happened.

How is it that Iraq has now become, in Wolfowitz's words, the "linchpin" of our "war on terrorism," when the September 11 attacks were planned and carried out by al Qaeda, based not in Iraq but in Afghanistan? If the administration was really interested in eliminating al Qaeda, wouldn't it have put more resources into Operation Enduring Freedom instead of wasting billions of dollars deposing a dictator that was no threat to the United States? Think about it: when's the last time you heard Bush mention the name Osama bin Laden, except for the usual empty statement that bin Laden's terrorist organization is being "slowly but surely dismantled." Yet OBL was the "mastermind," as the media likes to say, behind the horrendous events of September 11, 2001. This bespeaks a complete lack of priorities on BushCo's part, and the current situation in Afghanistan reflects that:
U.S. forces have their hands full trying to subdue attacks in Iraq. But with the slow buildup of a national Afghan army, an inadequate U.S. and coalition presence and poor progress on reconstruction projects, Afghanistan is spiraling out of control and risks becoming a "narco-mafia" state, some humanitarian agencies warn.

Already the signs are there — a boom in opium production, rampant banditry and huge swaths of territory unsafe for Western aid workers. The central government has almost no power over regional warlords who control roads and extort money from truck drivers, choking commerce and trade.

If the country slips into anarchy, it risks becoming a haven for resurgent Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters. And the point of U.S. military action here could be lost — a major setback in the war against terrorism
And doesn't this sound familiar: " ... security and reconstruction woes are undermining support for the coalition among ordinary Afghans. Their disappointment and disillusionment plays into the hands of anti-government militants." Does this administration never learn? Before even thinking about undertaking a war in the Middle East, the administration should have secured Afghanistan. They had the experience of the Russians to learn from, but of course they didn't.

The commitment to Afghanistan in terms of humanitarian assistance is shockingly low, internationally as well as on the part of the United States:
A CARE International paper in January stated that postwar international aid spent in Bosnia-Herzegovina was $326 per capita, compared with $42 promised for Afghans up to 2006. For every peacekeeping soldier there were 48 Bosnians, compared with one for every 5,380 Afghans, the paper said. Yet Bosnia poses no appreciable terrorist threat.
Warlords are running the country. There are no paved roads, no reconstruction of government buildings, little aid for the people, and much misery. Reconstruction projects have not materialized as planned, since much of the money allocated for Afghanistan has had to be spent on food, blankets, and medicine. Humanitarian workers and mine-clearers are being killed. Bandits prey on travelers. The situation is close to anarchy.

And now the Taliban are killing religious leaders who support Karzai's government and, worse yet in the Taliban's eyes, denounce the Taliban's call for jihad.

The Taliban grows more powerful, especially along the border with Pakistan and in rural areas. It's starting to look pretty good to people sick of warlordism and chaos; that's how the Taliban came to power in the first place.

And al Qaeda has now been able to disperse to all the corners of the globe. Why? Because the special-forces people were moved out of Afghanistan and into Iraq:
The Administration was warned by skeptics inside the government that the switch-out would take some of the pressure off al-Qaeda, but the impending war with Iraq — which emphasized special forces as no war plan ever did before — took precedence over all other issues last winter at the Pentagon. Now some have come to believe that the change in emphasis allowed bin Laden to disperse to other parts of the world operatives who survived the initial months on the run. "The reason these guys were able to get away," says a former Bush official, "was because we let up."
Because the neocon pipedream of "reshaping the Middle East" was allowed to determine Bush's priorities and actions, the people responsible for actual, as opposed to potential, acts of terror have been allowed to get away. In the process of losing the thread, BushCo has subjected the Afghanis to destruction, suffering, fear, and near-anarchy, and gotten a lot of them--along with soldiers, aid workers, civilian engineers, religious leaders, and others--killed. Something like 3,000 to 3,400 civilians were killed during military operations between October 7, 2001 through March of 2002, with many more killed since then by cluster bombs and land mines.

Nothing accomplished, once again. Lives lost, promises broken, anti-American sentiment stirred up, billions of dollars down the drain.

Doesn't bode well for our little adventure in Iraq.

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