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Terrorist 'Safe Havens' Are a Myth — and No Reason for Continuing the War in Afghanistan

August 19, 2019 in Economics

By John Glaser, John Mueller

John Glaser and John Mueller

America’s longest war may be coming to an end. Although
major obstacles remain, the Trump administration’s
negotiations with the Taliban, led by U.S. special envoy Zalmay
Khalilzad, have made progress toward an agreement that would
include a U.S. military withdrawal. In July, President Trump said “it’s ridiculous”
that we’re still in Afghanistan after almost two decades of
stalemate. His 2020 Democratic challengers seem to agree —
most have called for an end to the war — and fewer and fewer
Republicans are willing to defend it.

But one persistent myth continues to frustrate the political
momentum to end the war and may inhibit the impending debate over
withdrawal. It is by far the most common justification for
remaining in Afghanistan: the fear that, if the Taliban takes over
the country, the group will let Al Qaeda reestablish a presence
there, leaving the terrorist organization to once again plot
attacks on the United States.

Experts have effectively contended that, although 9/11 was
substantially plotted in Hamburg, Germany, just about the only
reason further attacks like that haven’t taken place is that
Al Qaeda needs a bigger territorial base of operations — and
that such a base will inevitably be in Afghanistan.

Virtually all promoters of the war in Afghanistan have stressed
this notion. Barack Obama applied it throughout his presidency.
Gen. David H. Petraeus, who commanded American forces in
Afghanistan, recently contended that a U.S. withdrawal is still premature and would
risk leaving behind a haven for terrorist groups comparable to the
rise of Islamic State following the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq in
2011, according to a Wall Street Journal op-ed he
co-wrote.

Trump reflected this thinking as well when he authorized an
increase of troops to Afghanistan in his first year in office. His
“original instinct,” he noted, was
“to pull out,” but his advisers had persuaded him to
believe that “a hasty withdrawal would create a vacuum that
terrorists … would instantly fill, just as happened before”
the Sept. 11 attacks.

This key justification for staying in Afghanistan has gone
almost entirely unexamined. It fails in several ways.

To begin with, it is unlikely that a triumphal Taliban would
invite back Al Qaeda. Its relationship with the terrorist group has
been strained since 1996 when Osama bin Laden showed up with his
entourage. The Taliban extended hospitality, but insisted on
guarantees that Bin Laden refrain from issuing incendiary messages
and from engaging in terrorist activities while in the country. He
repeatedly agreed and broke his pledge just as frequently. Veteran
foreign correspondent Arnaud de Borchgrave said he was “stunned by …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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