by Joel Brinkley

The generals and Pentagon officials who manage the Afghan war should take note: A few days ago, Yemen's Interior Ministry announced that government forces had arrested a senior al-Qaeda operative -- "one of the most dangerous criminal elements in al Qaeda who is involved in killing security men and joining others in terrorist attacks on foreign targets," it said.

Four thousand miles away, Morocco's Interior Ministry declared on Dec. 4 that al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb has intensified activities aimed at undermining stability in Morocco by trying to recruit Moroccan youths.

And now the FBI has put Radullan Sahiron, a senior leader of an al-Qaeda-affiliated terror group in the Philippines, on its most wanted list.

Al-Qaeda operatives are pursuing their malignant plans everywhere. In Canada, "seven inmates convicted of Anti-Terrorism Act offenses are currently in federal institutions. Five more are awaiting trial in Ontario and Quebec, and two Winnipeg men who joined Al Qaeda are wanted" on outstanding arrest warrants, the National Post newspaper reported early this month.

Earlier this year, Australian media reported that an al-Qaeda-affiliated website identified Australia as a specific target. A mock website photo showed the Sydney Opera House ablaze.

What does all of this have to do with Afghanistan? Since he took office, President Obama has said over and over again that the primary mission there has been to destroy al-Qaeda's ability to carry out terrorist attacks from Afghan soil.

Of course, virtually all al-Qaeda operatives fled Afghanistan a decade ago. Many remain resident in Pakistan. But as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton once put it: "Some people say, 'Well, al-Qaeda's no longer in Afghanistan.'" But "if Afghanistan were taken over by the Taliban, I can't tell you how fast al-Qaeda would be back in Afghanistan."

True. But so what? Right now, al-Qaeda is all over the world.

The al-Qaeda-related group al-Shabab killed 31 people in Somalia earlier this month. Boko Haram, the Islamic terror group in Nigeria, bombed a Presbyterian church on a Nigerian military base, killing at least 15 people. Gen. Carter Ham, who leads the U.S. military's Africa command, said al-Qaeda was sharing explosives with Boko Haram, adding, "it's clear to me that Boko Haram's leadership aspires to broader activities across the region, certainly to Europe."

Everyone already knows that al-Qaeda maintains a stronghold in Iraq. Thousands of operatives are at work in Syria. Early this month, Jordan uncovered an al-Qaeda plot to bomb several sites in Amman. A few weeks ago, Algeria killed three militants, including al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb's military commander.

And perhaps al-Qaeda's most tempting new home opened up earlier this year when Islamic extremists captured Northern Mali, an area the size of Texas. These miscreants are cutting of hands of robbers, beating anyone caught listening to music and women who don't fully cover themselves. What better place for al-Qaeda to establish still another new home?

Already, more than 400,000 Malian civilians have fled their homes, and the United Nations estimates that 600,000 children under 5 are malnourished. Ham, the U.S. general, told an audience in Washington early this month, "I don't know how to describe" northern Mali "any other way than as a safe haven for al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb."

In Afghanistan, meanwhile, 3,236 military-coalition lives have been lost -- as well as uncounted thousands of Afghan civilians. The United States has spent or obligated close to $2 trillion, counting appropriations, interest on debt, veterans' expenses and other ancillary costs. And now the administration plans to carry on this failed war in a failed state for another two years?

The special inspector general for Afghan reconstruction, in his latest report, declared that after 10 years of training -- at a cost of $51 billion so far -- the Afghan army remains incapable of defending the nation against the Taliban. Whenever the U.S. and its allies decide to leave, now or two years from now, the Taliban will almost certainly retake large portions of the country.

The U.S. plans to maintain small bases in Kabul and Kandahar into the indefinite future. If al-Qaeda returns and opens new bases, as Clinton predicted, will it really matter -- given al-Qaeda's presence on every continent? In any case, the residual U.S. forces could take out any new base. Who's going to stop them?

It's time to accelerate the withdrawal. Nothing will be accomplished by staying two more years -- except more lost lives, more wasted money.

Start bringing the troops home -- now.


Asia News & Current Events in Asia [...]



© Distributed by Tribune Media Services


No Reason to Postpone Afghanistan Withdrawal | International Current Events & World News