America's Flawed Afghanistan Strategy
from SWJ Blog by SWJ Editors
America's Flawed Afghanistan Strategy - Dr. Steven Metz, U.S. Army War College Strategic Studies Institute monthly op-ed.
Despite the lavish time and attention that the Obama administration devoted to reviewing its Afghanistan strategy, the result was more continuity than change. The administration adjusted U.S. troops levels and shifted some operational methods but accepted the most basic—and questionable—assumptions of the Bush strategy. Unfor-tunately, these do not hold up under close scrutiny. The new strategy, like the old one, totters on a dangerously flawed foundation.
Both the Bush and Obama strategies assume that al-Qaeda needs state support or sanctuary. That, after all, is the fundamental rationale for continued American involve-ment in Afghanistan. But throughout the “war on terror,” no one has made a persuasive case that the September 11, 2001, attacks would not have happened had al-Qaeda not had bases in Afghanistan. While it may take meetings and phone calls to plot terrorism, these can be done from nearly anywhere. Al-Qaeda's Afghanistan sanctuary was a con-venience, not a necessity. Destroying the sanctuary has not stopped bin Laden and his henchmen from plotting new attacks.
Why, then, should the United States devote billions of dollars fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan if doing so has little effect on al-Qaeda's ability to launch terrorism? The answer says more about the way Americans think than it does about how terrorists operate. The United States has expended great effort to eradicate al-Qaeda's bases and training camps less because they were important than because we are effective at it. There is an old saying that, “when all you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.” America has an amazing hammer—its military—which is very good at seizing and controlling territory. So, we reasoned, eradicating bases and training camps will cripple al-Qaeda. Yet there is no evidence to validate this idea...
More at the Strategic Studies Institute.