Historically, nations that are broke do not have the capability to wage war, yet the United States simply goes deeper into the financial hole to support combat operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. For many, this along with the death of Osama Bin Laden, justifies a withdrawal from both theatres of operation. Last week, all but eight democrats in congress voted for an amendment to speed up the US withdrawal from Afghanistan. For two and a half years they had been conspicuously silent regarding President Obama’s War policy, though it differs little from his predecessor, whom they attacked on a daily basis. They are as wrong now as they were then. Expensive though it is, the US must continue its involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq, or Al Qaeda will return to relevance and reverse the War on Terror for years to come.
Since last week’s vote, television news program hosts and guests alike consider the war in Iraq to be a complete waste of resources while nation-building in Afghanistan is of equal folly. They clearly do not understand the nature of the conflict: These two nations used to support transnational terrorism and now they are in the process of being transformed into nations that fight terrorism. Not a difficult concept.
This is not to say that the US is doing a stellar job in either country. They are not. There are many things the US should do differently to achieve greater results and save taxpayer dollars. Change is needed, not premature withdrawal.
Vice President Joe Biden believes the US should maintain a small counter-terrorism force in Afghanistan. This is a reasonable objective. The US needs a power projection platform from which to launch counter-terror operations. Today, Pakistan is the top producer of Islamic militants and nearby Central Asian hotspots such as the Furghana Valley make Afghanistan an ideal location to interdict terrorists in those areas. This will allow the US to protect American citizens by killing terrorists before they launch their operations.
Unfortunately, having a counter-terrorism force in Afghanistan is not possible with the Taliban in charge. To avoid this, the US must train Afghan security forces to defend its democratically elected leaders. The US is doing this. However, in order to train Afghan security forces, the US must prevent the Taliban from wreaking havoc and attacking them. Finally, in order to prevent the Afghan people from overthrowing the Karzai government and installing the Taliban, that government must provide services to its people. They need US help with this. All these sub-tasks involved in realizing Joe Biden’s vision of a small counter-terrorism force add up to over 100,000 US service members in theatre.
The US can reduce this number and a huge financial burden by not re-building Afghanistan’s infrastructure. This is typically a job for NGOs. Unfortunately, there are almost no NGOs in Afghanistan or Iraq because they disagree politically with the US and have collectively decided that making a political statement is more important than helping the beleaguered people of these developing nations.
Today there are a huge number of US military and contract personnel involved in costly nation building projects. Some building must take place in exchange for ensuring intelligence cooperation from the citizenry, but this can be limited to lower cost projects such as providing veterinary services for livestock, improving medical clinics, wells, irrigation systems and building community centers. Paving thousands of miles of road networks, laying thousands of miles of fiber optic cable, building cell towers and power plants are enormously expensive and do not contribute to defeating the Taliban.
Rebuilding the Afghan infrastructure actually may help terrorists if they were to regain control of the country because the nature of the terrorist threat has evolved. Prior to 9/11, terrorists required failed states with no central authority to host them. Terrorism has since evolved. They now require functioning communications networks, consistent power supply, paved roads, high speed internet and even security to conduct their nefarious activities.
It would be ironic if the Taliban took over Afghanistan and invited Al Qaeda back to enjoy the infrastructure the US built and funded so they can plan further attacks against the US.
Weapons of mass destruction have not been found in Iraq, but that is not the only reason the US invaded. Saddam’s support for transnational terrorists was, perhaps the more important reason. Many analysts say that is not so, and that Saddam shot terrorists in the street. This is partially true. Many in the West tend to paint terrorists with a broad brush when in fact there are two types: Transnational terrorists, who are at war with the West, seek to establish an Islamic Caliphate in the Middle-East and dominate an Islamic world. Then there are the nationalists who seek to overthrow Arab dictators like Mubarak, Assad and Saleh in favor of a Muslim theocracy, and use terrorism as a method to do so.
Saddam supported transnational terrorists with safe haven, supplies, intelligence and technical training because it was in his interest to harm the West. Saddam used to pay the surviving family members of Palestinian suicide bombers the equivalent of $20,000. At the same time, he aggressively persecuted, pursued and in many cases, exterminated many Iraqi Islamist movements that sought to depose him. The US invasion was effective in degrading international terrorism, with Palestinian suicide bombings in the Holy Land ceasing immediately and not resuming for three years.
One pleasant surprise for the US was that the presence of so many US service members in Iraq re-directed countless terrorist operations away from the American homeland. Captured terrorists freely admitted that they had been planning to go to the US to conduct terrorist operations, but it was far easier and more convenient to cross the porous Iraqi border to kill American soldiers. While this made for a more dangerous environment for US Soldiers, it reduced the threat for Americans at home, who are far less able to defend themselves. Sadly, many Iraqis have been caught in the crossfire, but it is a small price to pay to prevent such violence from coming to the US.
Unfortunately, the US has completely failed to stop Iran from advancing its strategic position in the Middle East. Iran has infiltrated its agents and proxies into Iraqi society to run for public office and thereby use Iraq’s legitimate government institutions to influence its domestic and foreign policy in its favor. Today, Iraqi national and Provincial parliaments, government ministries, city councils and other government institutions are polluted by Iranian proxies and agents who can legally pass laws and institute policies advantageous to Iran and which may be dangerous to the US, Israel and the West. This is called a Critical Cell Insurgency and the US has done nothing to stop it.
The US must remain involved in Iraq and Afghanistan, or face revitalized state and non-state actors such as Al Qaeda and Iran. Just being there isn’t enough: The US must stop expensive and frivolous endeavors that do not actually enhance its ability to fight and win the war on terror. It must come to grips with the grim reality that Iran is on the march and must be stopped. As of now, no other Western nations have demonstrated the willingness for a tough fight. If the US does not step up, Iran’s momentum will pick up speed and they may march across the Middle East like their Persian ancestors.
De Oppresso Liber