The Al’Qaeda View: America Is Now Divided
First and foremost, I would like to say that I am indeed a supporter of an enhanced U.S. troop presence in Afghanistan. I firmly believe, like many others, than an American defeat in Afghanistan would be severely detrimental to U.S. national security…not because the Taliban would threaten the United States with direct force, but because of the symbolic effect a U.S. defeat would have for Islamic jihadists throughout the globe. Whether or not Al’Qaeda is a major problem for U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan is irrelevant at this point. What is relevant is the fact that Al’Qaeda militants will certainly exploit a Taliban victory to their advantage.
Citing yet another defeat of a superpower in Afghanistan (Great Britain in the 19th Century and the Soviet Union in the 20th) would only increase the recruitment ability of anti-American groups…regardless of ideological affiliation. We must remember that weakened resolve will not only translate into benefits for Al’Qaeda; it will also give a much-needed boost to Hezbollah militants in Lebanon and Palestinian rejectionists in the Gaza Strip and West Bank.
Interestingly enough, President Obama’s decision to weigh all options- while necessary and understandable- may have a similar effect. Floundering for the next few weeks may very well give the United States a weak image internationally…a development that may not be so terrible if terrorist organizations were not spreading at unprecedented speed. Yet, as reality dictates, this could not be further from the truth. At the same time U.S. soldiers are engaged in Afghanistan, Al’Qaeda proxies are gaining strength in Sudan, Somalia, Yemen, and (of course) Pakistan. With all of these developments, is waiting really the best option for the United States?
There is one more point I would like to bring up. It appears that Civil-Military relations have hit a significant roadblock, with National Security Advisor James Jones virtually telling General McChrystal to shut-up and keep his opinions to himself. Of course, discussing the war-effort and contradicting the President in public should be frowned upon…especially during a period of contention. Yet, at the same time, the U.S. Military is not entirely at fault. The White House response could have been much more constructive than the harsh rhetoric that was emanated just last week.
Again, I cannot help but wonder if this strained Civil-Military relationship will result in devastating consequences for American interests in the immediate future. What White House officials see as a minor rut, terrorists and Islamic militants view as a divided U.S. Government unable to unite in the face of a common threat.
Note: This post was originally published on March Lynch’s blog at foreignpolicy.com
-Daniel R. DePetris