A lot of people will make the point today that we should leave Afghanistan as soon as possible now that our top goal of going over there has been accomplished. This comes, ironically, eight years to the day after President Bush declared Mission Accomplished in regard to Iraq — and can anyone remind me what that mission was?
We declared two wars to target Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden. They were in Afghanistan and Iraq. We killed bin Laden in Pakistan.
The idea that Iraq had anything to do with Osama bin Laden and the attacks against this country was comical and tragic at the same time. Now that we have killed bin Laden in Pakistan, can we ask the incredibly wrong neo-cons what Iraq had to do with 9/11 again? And will they apologize for leading us into Iraq when it turns out we were right, the enemy was many countries away?
But that’s obvious, though it will not be mentioned enough today. So, let’s talk about Afghanistan. Yes, we did chase bin Laden from there initially — about ten years ago. But since then we have been fighting a senseless war with the Taliban and God knows who else, when we knew or suspected that bin Laden was in Pakistan. So, what did all of those nearly pointless campaigns in different parts of Afghanistan accomplish when Osama bin Laden was sitting in a house in the suburbs of Pakistan’s capital?
Bottom line — endless war didn’t work. In the end, we found the man who authorized the attacks on 9/11 through good intelligence work and killed him with a very small, targeted strike with our best trained forces. We didn’t use an army battalion or a surge or huge ground troops backed up by Abrams tanks. It was a surgical strike pulled off by a small unit. Imagine if we had invaded Pakistan instead to accomplish our objective (they were only nominally cooperating with us — he was sitting right outside their capital). How little sense would that have made? Just about as much sense as the other wars made — not much at all.
War is the wrong strategy when fighting terrorism. Whether it was our tactical strike against an Al Qaeda leader in Somalia or this tactical strike in Pakistan, it’s obvious what the much better strategy is compared to big, lumbering, incredibly costly and casualty heavy wars that we have started in the past. I hope we learn from our mistakes and our successes.