Saturday, October 28, 2006


Nice, thoughtful analysis on the current state of the War on Terror and American foreign policy, in this interview.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: What will Americans say in 10 years about Bushs "War on Terror"?
Suskind: They will say what I said: That the United States and its allies were winning this struggle up until around the end of 2002. Think back to September 12th. That arguably is the most important day, when we mustered ourselves to a response ...
SPIEGEL ONLINE: ... and most of the world stood in unity with the Americans.
Suskind: There were candellight vigils in Tehran -- a nice marker of where much of the world was. Even virulent radicalized Islamists were saying: "That is not my Islam." And virtually all were saying, in unanimity, "Well, the United States is certainly justified in doing whatever it sees fit in Afghanistan with the Taliban and al-Qaida. If any goal of foreign policy is to unite your allies and divide your enemies, it is fair to say that we were successful. Even countries that were not naturally inclined to be helpful were being helpful, especially in the Arab World. Our allies said, "How can I help?"
SPIEGEL ONLINE: During that time there were also defections from al-Qaida.
Suskind: Yes, dissent (inside al-Qaida) helped to provide the seabed for human intelligence that the United States harvested, including Ali. He provided important tips right up until early 2005. And the Emir of Qatar gave us intelligence that helped us to catch Binalshibh, and Mohammed was turned over by another source. He got a $25 million reward and is now living somewhere in America with his family. These are human intelligence assets and they are the how you win these wars.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: So things were going well ... at least until the Iraq war?
Suskind: You can almost mark by the day how our human intelligence assets have withered. The chances of someone coming to the US authorities in this period are slim to none and that will blind us at a time when the terrorist threat has metastasized into what I call the franchise model. It is particulary difficult to discover prior to the operational moment.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: That has been a source deep frustration for the intelligence community.
Suskind: And that is why people in the counter-terrorism community in the United States are terrified at this point and why many cooperated with this book. They wanted to send out a signal and say: "We need to have a real strategy here that is not only tactically forceful, but where the left hand of the US foreign policy doesn't undermine what the right hand is doing." Right now we often run like a headless chicken. We need a strategy. And we need it immediately because, in some ways, we are less safe then we were on Sept. 12.

1 comment:

Matt Rowe said...

Does Any of This Sound Familiar?

According to the October 26 article by Rachel Morarjee and Daniel Dombey in London’s The Financial Times, NATO “…sought to dismiss fears that its operation in Afghanistan was in disarray…” after a clash in the southern region of the country that may have killed dozens of civilians. Exactly like the strategy in Iraq, NATO leaders are prosecuting the war in Afghanistan using conventional military tactics of firepower and attrition against an unconventional threat. Once again, the political and military forces should be more concerned with separating the insurgents from the rest of the populace via classic counterinsurgency techniques. Instead, they are driving support directly to our enemies.

Sir Richard Dannatt, head of the British army has stated that NATO troops are in a much better position to manage the fighting in Afghanistan than equivalent forces in Iraq. Of course, the US forces in Iraq were once in a better position to deal with the insurgents there. That is, until the unrestrained and harsh treatment of the civilian populace drove up recruitment for the insurgents.

According to the article by Jason Motlagh in today’s Asia Times Online, military officials insist that at least 155 Afghan civilians have been killed and remain the most common victims in what appears as purely indiscriminate violence.

Nonetheless, Mark Laity, a NATO spokesman in Afghanistan recently stated, “We have demonstrated that we are strong enough on the combat side to be the winners. After 30 years of fighting, people in the south are nervous of being on the wrong side.”

A nervous populace is not conducive to winning an insurgency. This simply indicates that the population is not sure who to be more afraid of, the government and NATO, the local warlords, or the Taliban insurgents.

Sam Zarifi of Human Rights Watch has pointed out “The Soviets tried and failed to defeat Afghan guerrillas by using massive firepower so we know clearly that that is not the way to win in Afghanistan. You have to win the populace over, not kill it.”

Our radical Islamic enemies understand that as long as the population is not on our side—even if they are not on the Taliban or extremist side—then the western powers are on the defensive regardless of how much firepower they unleash.

Of course, NATO leaders will imply that since the insurgents are hitting and running from western and government forces, they are on the defensive and that we are winning or somehow making progress in the war on terror. Once again they are fooling themselves and trying to convince the rest of us.