Monday, May 11, 2009


From the Huffington Post:

Petraeus: al-Qaida not operating in Afghanistan

The chief of the U.S. Central Command says al-Qaida no longer is operating in Afghanistan. But Gen. David Petraeus (peh-TRAY'-uhs) says affiliated organizations still have "enclaves and sanctuaries" in the country.

Petraeus says al-Qaida, which carried out the Sept. 11 attacks, has suffered "very significant losses" in recent months in its hide-outs across the rugged, mountainous border in Pakistan.

Click here for video of the CNN interview.

And from the New York Times courtesy of the Huffington Post news wire:

Shaky Pakistan Is Seen as a Target of Plots by Al Qaeda

As Taliban militants push deeper into Pakistan’s settled areas, foreign operatives of Al Qaeda who had focused on plotting attacks against the West are seizing on the turmoil to sow chaos in Pakistan and strengthen the hand of the militant Islamist groups there, according to American and Pakistani intelligence officials.


It remains unlikely that Islamic militants could seize power in Pakistan, given the strength of Pakistan’s military, according to American intelligence analysts. But a senior American intelligence official expressed concern that recent successes by the Taliban in extending territorial gains could foreshadow the creation of “mini-Afghanistans” around Pakistan that would allow militants even more freedom to plot attacks.

American government officials and terrorism experts said that Al Qaeda’s increasing focus on a local strategy was partly born from necessity, as the C.I.A.’s intensifying airstrikes have reduced the group’s ability to hit targets in the West. The United States has conducted 16 drone strikes so far this year, according to American officials, compared with 36 strikes in all of 2008.


For now, however, Obama administration officials say they believe that the covert airstrikes are the best tool at their disposal to strike at Al Qaeda inside Pakistan, which remains the group’s most important haven, but where large numbers of American combat forces would never be welcome.

More here.

To sum up: Al Qaeda, the Islamic extremist terrorist organization responsible for 9/11, has left Afghanistan and moved into Pakistan, where we can only take potshots at them. Setting aside for the moment the question of why US troops remain in Afghanistan even though their reason for being there in the first place has evaporated, one must marvel at US impotency on the terrorist issue.

That's the real story here. We invaded Afghanistan and disrupted Al Qaeda operations for a time, but this did nothing more than force the terrorist organization to move to an adjacent country in order to regroup. And we can't really touch them in Pakistan. We can't invade: the Pakistanis not only wouldn't like it, but they have nukes, and we're just not going to fuck with that. And the limited attacks we've actually been able to make haven't amounted to much more than aggravating the proverbial hornets' nest.

If Iraq and Afghanistan were unwinnable, then this is worse.

But that's always been the problem with the "War on Terror." We can't win. At least, we can't win militarily. Wars are about defeating armies, but terrorists aren't armies. They're political operatives who use violence to further their ends. And that's a key point totally ignored by the US establishment: Al Qaeda has political and cultural goals.

And some of those goals, like insisting that the West stops treating Islamic peoples as resources to be exploited, are quite reasonable. Until the US power establishment can address, at least, some of these concerns, terrorism will continue to be a very real problem.

Of course, if we want to really get serious about treating the Islamic world in a fair and just way, it means changing, as conservative historian Andrew Bacevich asserts, a great deal of how America does business around the world, which necessarily includes a great deal of how America does business at home. Unfortunately, that seems unlikely. I expect the so-called "long war," or what I like to call "the pointless war," to continue for the foreseeable future.