Will al-Qaida Go Home As Well?
From this easy chair, it almost feels wrong to comment. Other men and women have sacrificed. They have fought to protect me and my family, just as they've fought to protect yours. Much blood has been lost.
And we say from the safety of our homes, our couches, our dens, that we are war-weary, we are tired, the war in Afghan-istan is too expensive.
Presi-dent Obama will begin a phased withdrawal of our troops starting with 10,000. He promises to extricate all our troops by the end of 2014. For this, the president enjoys broad and unlikely support. Voices from the left, the right and even some tea partiers all agree: It's time to come home.
But there are still a few, like John McCain, Lindsey Graham and Joe Lieberman, who quietly ask: Are conditions on the ground in Afghanistan such that it is safe to bring our troops home?
When we are gone, will al-Qaida go home to their families as well? Will they also decide that the war has been too costly? Will the Taliban be satisfied to leave Hamid Karzai and the provincial governing bodies in power?
Will these ideologues of radical and militant Islam admit defeat at the hands of our forces? Once we're gone, can we rest comfortably that no more 9/11s will be hatched from within Afghanistan?
In Thursday's New York Times, there were two articles on the same page. The first, "Obama Adviser Outlines Plans to Defeat al-Qaida," described the Obama administration's switch in tactics to use targeted special forces, intelligence and drone missile attacks to destroy al-Qaida. Heavy troop presence is no longer necessary and was a mistake of the Bush administration.
The second piece, "Assault Dims Hopes for Security in Afghanistan," described firsthand accounts of Afghan security forces running away from the terrorist attack at the Intercontinental hotel in Kabul. The attack was ended only after NATO helicopters began shooting terrorists off the roof.
Eyewitness Nazir Armini said of transitioning forces out of Afghanistan, "If they give security responsibility to the current government at 10 a.m., the government will collapse around 12 noon. They cannot live without foreigners."
Many years ago, in another war, the new prime minister of Great Britain came to the podium and spoke for the first time in front of the House of Commons. Rallying that government, some might say waking it up to the reality of Hitler's western stampede, Winston Churchill said:
"You ask, What is our policy? I will say; 'It is to wage war, by sea, land and air, with all our might and with all the strength that God can give us: to wage war against a monstrous tyranny, never surpassed in the dark lamentable catalogue of human crime. That is our policy. You ask, What is our aim? I can answer with one word: Victory - victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory however long and hard the road may be; for without victory there is no survival."
Who really knows? Maybe tactical and surgical strikes by special forces are sufficient to destroy al-Qaida. Perhaps Afghanistan will be able to defend itself once we leave. The attack on the Intercontinental would seem to say otherwise.
What is most troubling about all this is that the Obama surge and conventional forces stabilized Afghanistan against an enemy whose ideological goals are very similar to those of the Nazis: the destruction and consumption of nations.
Do we really believe Afghanistan boils down to dollars and cents? What would we say exactly to the families of our 1,631 fallen soldiers who died there if the Taliban and al-Qaida resume control after we're gone - "We did significant damage to the enemy while we were there"?
This weekend, we celebrate another anniversary of our freedom, liberty and independence. I will be thinking about and thanking our troops who have made this continued luxury possible. I will think about the great leaders of days past, and the brave soldiers of yesterday who clearly saw the threat, and with determination and courage, using every means at their disposal, destroyed those threats.
This is uncomfortable to say, but plans to exit Afghanistan before assured victory doesn't feel right at all. Time will tell.
Geoff Cutler is owner of Cutler Tree LLC in Southern Pines and is a regular contributor to The Pilot and PineStraw magazine. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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