General Jones, Obama’s National Security Adviser, said this week that Bin Laden “is somewhere in North Waziristan, sometimes on the Pakistani side of the border, sometimes on the Afghan side of the border.” This may or may not be true, it’s an ‘intelligence estimate’ after all. (SecDef Gates said that same day that he couldn’t confirm such reports.) But what caught my eye was the timing of the remark: the week after a not-quite popular announcement about our strategy for war in Afghanistan. Now we have another reason to cling to support the war–Bin Laden is in both Afghanistan and Pakistan! Pretty nice of the administration to give us that, I’d say. It really aids in their often strained case to justify having 100,000 Americans in Afghanistan to fight a terrorist organization that’s largely based in Pakistan. (And, btw, Jones is also on record saying that there less than 100 or so Al Qaeda members in Afghanistan. Is Bin Laden included in this number, or only when he crosses the border?)
Forget for a second that Obama’s new strategy actually deals with Al Qaeda in a secondary or even tertiary manner–Obama may have called ‘Al Qaeda’ but it’s only part of a complicated bank shot in the Af/Pak billiards game. Our strategy is this: to fight the Taliban on Hamid Karzai’s behalf so he can consolidate power to get in a stronger negotiating position to then start negotiating with the Taliban. Give lots of weapons and training to the Afghan army and police to help Hamid do this. Try to buy the loyalty of other armed tribal factions so they help, too. Oh yeah, and by doing this, we’re making sure that we’ve created a trustworthy and allied fragile nation state that will look after our homeland security once we leave by ensuring Afghanistan and Pakistan won’t become a safe haven for Al Qaeda again…By the way, did we mention that Bin Laden is in Afghanistan now?
Doesn’t this bring to mind the pre-Iraq war days when Al Qaeda was supposed to be hanging out in Baghdad, when Colin Powell was giving that flimsy presentation on WMD’s to the United Nations, when Tony Blair was getting intelligence from a taxi driver? Am I being too conspiratorial? Maybe Jones mentioned it unintentionally and without agenda…Sure, it’s very plausible that Bin Laden is in Afghanistan and Pakistan…But our strategy isn’t about Bin Laden anymore, anyway. Even if we captured or killed him, we’ll still be fighting in Afghanistan for years to come.