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The Front: The Taliban-Al Qaeda merger

19 October 2009 No Comment

Peter Bergen reports a sobering read at the New Republic about the state of affairs in Afghanistan. Winning in Afghanistan is critical to defeating Al Qaeda.

And yet, as President Obama weighs whether or not to send more troops to Afghanistan, the connection between the region and Al Qaeda has suddenly become a matter of hot dispute in Washington. We are told that September 11 was as much a product of plotting in Hamburg as in Afghanistan; that Al Qaeda and the Taliban are quite distinct groups, and that we can therefore defeat the former while tolerating the latter; that flushing jihadists out of one failing state will merely cause them to pop up in another anarchic corner of the globe; that, in the age of the Internet, denying terrorists a physical safe haven isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

These arguments point toward one conclusion: The effort to secure Afghanistan is not a matter of vital U.S. interest. But those who make this case could not be more mistaken. Afghanistan and the areas of Pakistan that border it have always been the epicenter of the war on jihadist terrorism-and, at least for the foreseeable future, they will continue to be. Though it may be tempting to think otherwise, we cannot defeat Al Qaeda without securing Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, President Obama’s White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel said on Sunday, “”It would be reckless to make a decision on U.S. troop level if, in fact, you haven’t done a thorough analysis of whether, in fact, there’s an Afghan partner ready to fill that space that the U.S. troops would create and become a true partner in governing the Afghan country.” Shortly thereafter, Secretary Gates speaks out.

Gates: Legitimate Afghan gov’t could take months

ABOARD A U.S. MILITARY JET – Pentagon chief Robert Gates says President Barack Obama may not be able to wait until the disputed Afghanistan elections are resolved to decide on a new war strategy.

With troops on the ground, how much longer does the Obama administration think they can delay taking action?