Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Osama Bin Laden Wants You!

The International Institute of Strategic Studies (IISS), a non-partisan think tank located in Great Britain, in its annual survey of world affairs, has confirmed what many have feared: that the mismanagement of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq has actually hurt the efforts of the war against radical Muslim terrorists.

At the onset of the execution of the war in Afghanistan, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, and others in the Bush administration, made a decision to conduct military operations with a minimum number of actual U.S. troops on the ground. This policy was dictated partly by the theory of combat advocated by Rumsfeld, that the U.S. could achieve its goals with a smaller, fast-moving, technologically advanced force, but moreso by the impending need for a large number of troops for the invasion of Iraq, which was already being planned at that stage. Committing a large number of troops in Afghanistan would have delayed the eventual invasion of Iraq.

The lack of adequate troop strength had devastating effects on the ability of the U.S. military to seal off the borders, particularly the oft-used crossing along the southeastern border with Pakistan, and to locate and capture senior members of Al-Qaeda seeking escape. As noted in the IISS study, "Driving the terror network out of Afghanistan in late 2001 appears to have benefited the group, which dispersed to many countries, making it almost invisible and hard to combat..."

The war in Iraq has also had a paradoxical effect on the war against radical terrorists, by providing Osama Bin Laden and other radicals with a recruitment tool that well exceeded their means and ability to concoct on their own. The enormous costs of the Iraq campaign (already in excess of $200 billion), the alienation of crucial allies, the steady stream of images of dead and mutilated civilians, images of tortured, abused and murdered detainees, and the use of the language of crusades by Bush and other senior military officials "has arguably focused the energies and resources of al Qaeda and its followers while diluting those of the global counterterrorism coalition that appeared so formidable" after the Afghan intervention, the IISS survey said.

The long-term outlook expressed in the report was not promising either. "Efforts to defeat al Qaeda will take time and might accelerate only if there are political developments that now seem elusive, such as the democratization of Iraq and the resolution of conflict in Israel," the report said.

The report also echoed the conventional wisdom regarding troop strength requirements in Iraq. "It could take up to 500,000 U.S. and allied troops to effectively police Iraq and restore political stability," IISS researcher Christopher Langton told a news conference. When Army Chief of Staff General Shinseki made this recommendation before the war, Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz said that he was, "wildly off the mark." Currently there are approximately 150,000 U.S. and allied troops in Iraq.

The Washington Post reports on this report here

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