Counterterrorism and Military Occupation

Counterterrorism and Military Occupation

by Dr. Bernard I. Finel, Small Wars Journal

Counterterrorism and Military Occupation (Full PDF Article)

The American presence in Afghanistan is sustained by a very straight-forward rationale. We were, after all, attacked on 9/11 by al Qaeda which at the time was operating with impunity under the protection of the Taliban in Afghanistan. Given that history, allowing the Taliban to reestablish itself in Afghanistan seems self-evidently unacceptable. After all, history suggests a direct linkage between Taliban control of Afghanistan and the most devastating terrorist attack on U.S. soil.

But, as with many seemingly straight-forward rationales, the logic of the argument dissipates under more careful scrutiny. While the lesson of 9/11 suggests that giving terrorist groups a safe haven is a recipe for disaster, the lesson of the military occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq since 2001 demonstrates the inability of occupying forces to stamp out the kinds of networks that can support attacks on the scale of 9/11 or much worse.

The essay will make four interrelated points. First, the attacks of 9/11 though spectacular in consequence, were simple in execution. Second, the IED networks that have proliferated in Afghanistan and Iraq are orders of magnitude more complex than the portion of al Qaeda that planned and executed the 9/11 attacks. Third, there is no conceivable tactical or strategic approach to military occupation that could plausibly eradicate groups capable of attacks as unsophisticated as those of 9/11. Fourth, as a consequence, of all the possible rationales for a continued U.S. presence in Afghanistan, the counterterrorism argument is demonstrably the weakest.

Counterterrorism and Military Occupation (Full PDF Article)

0
Your rating: None

Comments

Dr. Finel, thank you sir for your contribtuion. I mean that truly.

Where to start? I suppose the first paragraph.

The American presence in Afghanistan is sustained by a very straight-forward rationale.

Relative.

We were, after all, attacked on 9/11 by al Qaeda which at the time was operating with impunity under the protection of the Taliban in Afghanistan.

History is in the eye of the beholder. How many Taliban do you know? I suggest that you go and ask them how you felt after we abandoned them in the 1980s and 1990s. Bin Ladin simply decided to build them schools...They have a long memory.

Given that history, allowing the Taliban to reestablish itself in Afghanistan seems self-evidently unacceptable. After all, history suggests a direct linkage between Taliban control of Afghanistan and the most devastating terrorist attack on U.S. soil.

What history? Twenty years ago the Taliban were our allies...Now, they are deemed evil.

v/r

Major Michael Few

In an effort to understand the grounds from which Dr. Finel places his claims on why occupation in Afghanistan and Iraq are unsustainable and unreasonable, one must come to the common denominator between these two very difficult operations. The common denominator from which I speak is the threat of future violence incurred by foreign militants on United States soil. Indeed, the ability to which we have accumulated our intelligence has been duly noted as being unethical, or perhaps unreasonable to the standards set by lay men and women of the tactical counterterrorism and military occupation.

One must come to the simple understanding that the United States was attacked by foreign aggressors on its own soil. 3,000 civilians died because of the inability to estimate the potential damage that Al-Qaeda could incur if left unchecked. The previous president had documentation stating the threat as of August 6th, 2001. Policy fails. Politicians fail. The electorate can fail. What must not be put into the heap of unrelenting bantering of what is unreasonable, or what is illogical, is the outstanding ability of the sixteen elements that make up our nations intelligence community. Intelligence is difference between winning or losing in any form of life, let alone counterintelligence and counterterrorism. The credibility of our intelligence community must not be put into a box to observed and prodded. The vary essence of our ability to maintain as a military super-power is our need for our intelligence to be made solvent and quite.

The four points made by Dr. Finel have already been noted by previous politicians, scholars, and so-called experts in the field of counterterrorism. The policies that we are locked into must be handled with care or else the ramifications of any lack of confidence in our military or intelligence community could mean disaster for the entire union.

Once again the point in this comment is to reaffirm the sovereignty of our nation to protect itself. War is not meant to be indivisible from politics. War is in fact a tool for politics. As Clausewitz contends in On War, that war/conflict is fundamentally apart of the social realm. Indeed, politicians make war not armies, as is the case in our republic.

The essay bases its major contention on the words of politicians, always suspect and likely to lead to error. Are we in Afghanistan now to fight terror as is often said? Or are we there because we told the Afghans in good faith that we would not again abandon them and cannot figure out how to do that while minimizing costs to ourselves?

The first point is, I think, correct and most would agree, however, the first point was simply a trigger event. The second point, while correct, is not really at all connected to its predecessor or its follower. The third point is a statement of fact and is really the only one that even somewhat supports the conclusion -- which does not address the real reason we are there.

Recall we nominally went to Iraq due to concern over WMD and a developing threat. As those ideas crumbled, various other rationales for that intervention were dispensed by one politician or another. Mostly fluff.

At base level, we went to Iraq to disrupt the Middle East in retaliation for years of attacks which originated from there, just as we had earlier gone to Afghanistan to disrupt both the Taleban and Al Qaeda in retaliation for the attack which was seen as originating from there. The Middle East and South Asia understood that even if most in the west did not - and obviously still do not.

The original intent was to disrupt and depart. When that became seen as a politically untenable solution, the decision was made to stay in both nations. With no intent to stay and thus no ready explanation for doing so, planting democracy and suppressing terror became the most often touted rationales to explain the costs to the public.

The problem thus created is that, as the essay says, the stated rationale is flawed. That flaw leads to confusion both in policy circles and in military organizations.

So, correct conclusion -- but wrong reasons.

The essay is possibly a good effort at setting the stage to urge, cover or allow withdrawal sooner rather than later...

Finding Bin Laden is also no reason to stay, no more than it was really a reason to go there. Staying because the United States of America said it would stay until the Afghans got on their feet is a good reason to stay. We possibly should not have said we would do that -- but we did.