Time to exit Afghanistan?

The small footprint that eliminated bin Laden


Many salient facts about the tracking of terrorism’s most prolific killer to his lair — some lair: not a remote cave but an urban compound — must remain shrouded in secrecy, for now. But one surmise seems reasonable: bin Laden was brought down by intelligence gathering that more resembles excellent police work than a military operation.

Granted, in nations as violent as Afghanistan and Pakistan, the line between military operations and police work is blurry, and military and other forms of intelligence gathering cannot be disentangled. Still, the enormous military footprint in Afghanistan, next door to bin Laden’s Pakistan refuge, seems especially disproportionate in the wake of his elimination by a small cadre of specialists.

Jim Lacey of the Marine Corps War College notes that Gen. David Petraeus has said there are perhaps about 100 al-Qaeda fighters in Afghanistan. “Did anyone,” Lacey asks, “do the math?” There are, he says, more than 140,000 coalition soldiers in Afghanistan, or 1,400 for every al-Qaeda fighter. It costs about $1 million a year to deploy and support every soldier — or up to $140 billion, or close to $1.5 billion a year, for each al-Qaeda fighter. “In what universe do we find strategists to whom this makes sense?”

Comment: George Will also comments on Libya:

And the more we couch our thinking in military categories, the more we open ourselves to misadventures like the absurd and deepening one in Libya.

There, our policy — if what seem to be hourly improvisations can be dignified as a policy — began as a no-fly zone to protect civilians from wanton violence. Seven weeks later, our policy is to decapitate the government by long-distance assassination and to intensify a civil war in that tribal society, in the name of humanitarianism. What makes this particularly surreal is that it is being done by NATO.

Unpack the acronym: North Atlantic Treaty Organization. NATO was created in 1949 to protect Western Europe from the Red Army. Its purpose was, in Lord Ismay’s famous formulation, “to keep the Russians out, the Americans in and the Germans down.” NATO, which could long ago have unfurled a “mission accomplished” banner, has now become an instrument of addlepated mischief.

This is an episode of presidential malpractice. Obama has allowed NATO to be employed for the advancement of a half-baked doctrine (R2P — “responsibility to protect”), a quarter-baked rationalization (was it just in March that Hillary Clinton discovered that a vital U.S. national interest required the removal of Moammar Gaddafi because he “is a man who has no conscience”?) and an unworthy national agenda (France’s pursuit of grandeur on the cheap).

Final comments: I'm sure that we should not be in Libya and I think it is time to plan our exit strategy from Afghanistan

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