Opinion

The Great Debate

9/11 and the nine year war

SEPT11/

The following is a condensed version of George Friedman’s geopolitical column for STRATFOR, a global intelligence company where Friedman is chief executive officer.

It has now been nine years since al Qaeda attacked the United States. And it has been nine years of America primarily focusing on the Islamic world. Over this period of time, the United States has engaged in two multi-year, multi-divisional wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, inserted forces in other countries in smaller operations and conducted a global covert campaign against al Qaeda and other radical jihadist groups.

In order to understand the last nine years, we must understand the first 24 hours of the war — and recall our own feelings in those 24 hours. First, the audacious nature of the attack was both shocking and frightening. Second, we did not know what was coming next.

At the root of our panic was a profound lack of understanding of al Qaeda, particularly its capabilities and intentions. Since we did not know what was possible, our only prudent course was to prepare for the worst. Nothing symbolized this more than the fear that al Qaeda had acquired nuclear weapons and that they would use them against the United States. The evidence was minimal, but the consequences would be overwhelming.

What happened was that an act of terrorism was allowed to redefine U.S. grand strategy. The United States operates with a grand strategy derived from the British — maintaining the balance of power. For the United Kingdom, maintaining that balance in Europe protects any one power from emerging that could unite the continent and build a fleet to invade Britain or block its access to the mainland.

American nightmare: Al Qaeda at home

berndforblog- Bernd Debusmann is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own -

It has been a recurring nightmare of American counter-terrorist officials for years — growing numbers of home-grown al Qaeda recruits drawn from the Muslim-American community, plus blue-eyed, blond-haired would-be suicide bombers travelling on American passports.

That notion clashes with the widely-held belief that Muslims in the United States are not nearly as prone to being seduced by Al Qaeda propaganda as their co-religionists in Europe. But a series of recent terrorism cases involving American citizens have challenged old assumptions and thrown question marks over a host of surveys meant to show the American Muslim communities’ resistance to radicalization.

Incidents spiked in 2009 and included the arrest of five U.S. citizens in Pakistan, where they allegedly tried to link up with extremists, and the arrest of Daniel Boyd, a white convert to Islam who was accused of plotting to attack soldiers at the U.S. Marine Corps base in Quantico, Virginia. Early in the year, Bryant Vinas, a Hispanic American convert, pleaded guilty to having trained with al Qaeda in Pakistan.

War and Peace, by Barack Obama

Bernd Debusmann– Bernd Debusmann is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own. –

It is a timeline rich in irony. On Dec. 10, Barack Obama will star at a glittering ceremony in Oslo to receive the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize. That’s just nine days after he ordered 30,000 additional American troops into a war many of his fellow citizens think the U.S. can neither win nor afford.

Whether the sharp escalation of the war in Afghanistan he ordered on December 1 will achieve its stated aim – disrupt, dismantle and eventually defeat al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan – remains to be seen. But one thing is certain: more troops equals more fighting equals more deaths — of soldiers, insurgents and the hapless civilians caught in the middle. Not exactly a scenario of peace.

America’s perennial Vietnam syndrome

cfcd208495d565ef66e7dff9f98764da.jpg –  Bernd Debusmann is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own. –

Prophetic words they were not. “By God, we’ve kicked the Vietnam syndrome once and for all…The specter of Vietnam has been buried forever in the desert sands of the Arabian Peninsula.”

Thus spoke a euphoric President George H.W.Bush early in March, 1991, shortly after the 100-hour ground war that chased Iraqi forces out of Kuwait, the oil-rich U.S. ally they had invaded and occupied in the summer of 1990.

from Afghan Journal:

Growing beards to tame the Afghan insurgency

AFGHANISTAN

If you were on the U.S-led coalition base in Bagram in Afghanistan soon after the 2001 invasion, you couldn't help noticing soldiers with long, Taliban-style beards and dressed in light brown shalwar kamaeez down to the sandals.

They kept to themselves. They weren't the friendly sort and before long you figured out these were the Special Forces who had fought along side the Northern Alliance in small teams to overthrow the Taliban and were then hunting its remnants and members of al Qaeda. The men grew beards to blend in during difficult and isolated missions in the Afghan countryside.

Close up, on the base some people thought looked like a little bit of America with its mountains of food, gym, and the easy banter of men and women soldiers, the Western men with the flowing beards stood out.

Should torture be part of the U.S.’s counterterrorism approach?

torturewriterscombo

The following piece was co-written by Matthew Alexander, Joe Navarro and Lieutenant General Robert Gard (USA-Ret.) They are pictured from left to right.

Matthew Alexander led an interrogations team assigned to a special operations task force in Iraq in 2006. He is the author of “How to Break a Terrorist: The U.S. Interrogators Who Used Brains, Not Brutality, to Take Down the Deadliest Man in Iraq.” He is writing under a pseudonym for security reasons.

Joe Navarro, a former FBI counterintelligence and counterterrorism expert, is an adjunct faculty member at the FBI’s Counterintelligence Division.

Obama must redefine success in Afghanistan

Paul Taylor Great Debate– Paul Taylor is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own –

Barack Obama says he will make Afghanistan the central front in his fight against terrorism but the incoming U.S. president will have to scale back the war aims he inherits from George W. Bush and redefine success.

Bush ordered the U.S.-led invasion in 2001 to oust a Taliban government that was harboring al Qaeda militants blamed for the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington.

A credible counterterror strategy needed

brahmachellaney– Brahma Chellaney is professor of strategic studies at the Center for Policy Research, New Delhi. The views expressed are his own. –

The brazen Mumbai terrorist assaults are just the latest example of how the world’s largest democracy is increasingly coming under siege from the forces of terror.

The attacks, which bear the hallmark of al Qaeda, are also a reminder to U.S. President-elect Barack Obama that even as he seeks to deal with the financial meltdown, the global war on terror stands derailed, with the scourge of terrorism having spread deeper and wider.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Israel and India vs Obama’s regional plans for Afghanistan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Will Israel and India -- the first the United States' closest ally and the second fast becoming one of the closest -- emerge as the trickiest adversaries in any attempt by the United States to seek a regional solution to Afghanistan?

The Washington Post reported earlier this week that the incoming administration of President-elect Barack Obama plans to explore a more regional strategy to the war in Afghanistan — including possible talks with Iran.

The idea has been fashionable among foreign policy analysts for a while, as I have discussed in previous posts here and here. The aim would be to capitalise on Shi'ite Iran's traditional hostility to the hardline brand of Sunni Islam espoused by the Taliban and al Qaeda to seek its help in neighbouring Afghanistan. At the same time India would be encouraged to make peace with Pakistan over Kashmir to end a cause of tension that has underpinned the rise of Islamist militancy in Pakistan and left both countries vying for influence in Afghanistan.

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