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No more reason for Afghan war

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 12/5/2011 (2289 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.


Professors of law at Yale University

A general view of the city of Kabul, Afghanistan.


A general view of the city of Kabul, Afghanistan.

The basis of our war in Afghanistan and elsewhere has been Congress' decision, seven days after Sept. 11, 2001, to authorize force against those who planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks and those who harbored them. This was intended to destroy al-Qaida and deprive it of sanctuaries in Afghanistan.

Osama bin Laden's death puts paid to the war authorized by this resolution. Even before his death, the original rationale provided only tenuous support for military operations in Afghanistan. Indeed, CIA Director Leon Panetta said publicly months ago that there were only 50 to 100 members of al-Qaida in the entire country. Would the resolution continue to apply even if only one al-Qaida fighter remained?

The resolution also includes those who harbored the attackers. In 2001, this surely included Afghanistan's Taliban government. But Afghanistan has a different government and constitution now. We are helping President Hamid Karzai fight a variety of insurgents, but it's a big stretch to say they are all part of the entity that planned, authorized, committed, or aided the Sept. 11 attacks or harbored those who did. Is this really the basis of our continuing war in the region?

If President Obama's continuation of the war under radically changed circumstances goes unchallenged, it will transform a limited congressional mandate into a magic wand authorizing a never-ending and worldwide conflict in response to a constantly changing threat.



Director of Georgetown University's Center for Peace and Security Studies; senior fellow at the U.S. military's Combating Terrorism Center


Confronted with the sudden death of a leader, terrorist groups become cornered animals. When wounded they lash out — not only in hopes of surviving but also to demonstrate their remaining power and continued relevance.

Al-Qaida is already displaying this behavior. Consider its statement on Friday confirming Osama bin Laden's death: The soldiers of Islam, groups and individuals, will continue planning… until they cause the disaster that makes children look like the elderly!

Al-Qaida will thus keen for its leader by killing. It will not necessarily attack soon. But we should brace ourselves once the 40-day mourning period that some Muslims observe ends. The dual prospect of punishing the United States and reigniting fear and anxiety must surely figure in al-Qaida's calculus for the future.



 Vice president for foreign and defense policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute.


If the real world were like the Wizard of Oz, then killing Osama bin Laden would be like melting the Wicked Witch of the West, and all the munchkins would be free. But it isn't and we aren't.

Yet some insist, Oz-like, that now that bin Laden is dead, the war is done. In its new cover story, the National Journal explains that the war as an organizing principle for American foreign policy has ended. A new era, we are meant to understand, has begun: It will be organized around the principle of the Arab Spring.

This orderly martialing of foreign policy into the pre- and post-Osama eras betrays a deep misunderstanding of the battle in which we are still engaged. Bin Laden was a potent emblem of the enemy, but not its sole heart or brain. The enemy continues to fight in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and elsewhere. That enemy exploits physical space where it can and ideological space throughout the Muslim world — space created by autocrats bent on dividing the Middle East into Islamists and secular tyrants. Many forced to flip a coin were willing to try the former. But as we are learning this Arab Spring, the choice is false.

And that is why we have partners in the war we are still fighting, which, like any, cannot be won by military means alone. Those partners are the young people in the streets of Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Syria, Bahrain and Yemen. If their demands are any indication, they don't seek a new caliphate, as bin Ladenists would hope. They're looking for the representative democracy and economic opportunity that al-Qaida has inveighed against.

The long war on terrorism — or whatever you want to call it — will be won when our military and all those in the streets of the Middle East have secured the terrain we are fighting on for the only kind of stability that lasts: stability rooted in freedom.



Staff member of the National Security Council during the Clinton administration; member of the Hoover Institution Task Force on National Security and Law


While America debates whether Osama bin Laden's death will strengthen or weaken the global jihadist movement, the fallout that is likely to be most dangerous is already forming in Pakistan.

Pakistani officials are busy defending themselves against various audiences. To their critics in the West, they claim ignorance of bin Laden's whereabouts ahead of the U.S. strike. To their domestic critics, they claim ignorance of the operation that resulted in bin Laden's death, and they warn the United States that they will not countenance future unilateral operations. But the group calling itself the general leadership of al-Qaida is skeptical of both these claims and on Friday urged the Pakistani people to rise up against their leaders in Islamabad.

Pakistan's powerful military and intelligence organizations have long been internally divided, with some supporting al-Qaida and its local affiliates, and others wanting to contain them and direct the organizations' activities to target only India. Still others hope to rid Pakistan of its jihadist culture. It strains credulity that there are not individuals working at cross purposes in Pakistan — some of whom were assisting bin Laden and other terrorists, with others hoping to rout him and the movement he helped spawn. In a statement posted on pro-jihadist Web sites Friday, the general leadership of al-Qaida urged the people of Pakistan to cleanse this shame that has been attached to them by a clique of traitors and thieves… and in general to cleanse their country from the filth of the Americans who spread corruption in it.

Some are arguing that aid to Pakistan should be cut off. But non-military aid programs targeted at schools and hospitals, under the Kerry-Lugar program, need to be seen for what they are: a form of counterterrorism.

In the short run, the death of bin Laden will strengthen the jihadist movement, especially in Pakistan. The biggest U.S. policy challenge may well be to contain the explosion we inadvertently helped to ignite.



Washington lawyer

What will Osama bin Laden's death mean for American Muslims? Probably the same thing it will mean for any other American - but with the added hope that this development will lift the cloud of suspicion that has hung over Muslims in this country since Sept. 11, 2001.

In the past 10 years, America has become entangled in wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, with its civil liberties compromised here at home. I know — I have worked on cases involving American Muslims' civil rights.

Yet if there is a lesson to be learned from world events this spring, it is of the irrelevance of bin Laden and al-Qaida. They were not behind the revolutionary waves sweeping the Middle East. Arab populations in Tunisia and Egypt did not adopt al-Qaida's tactics but brought down despotic regimes through popular and nonviolent movements. Meanwhile, American Muslims are more concerned with our daily lives, and with traveling without added hassle, than with al-Qaida.

In diverse, cosmopolitan communities, backlash against minorities sometimes occurs. Efforts at interfaith dialogue are crucial to generate understanding among the diverse communities and constituencies in the United States and other countries. Such efforts are best implemented in communities on a personal level.

After last weekend's news, the Vatican issued a statement noting that In the face of a man's death, a Christian never rejoices, but reflects on the serious responsibilities of each person before God and before men, and hopes and works so that every event may be the occasion for the further growth of peace and not of hatred. All peace-seeking members of the world community share in that responsibility.


— The Washington Post

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