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Petraeus on al-Qaeda and Afghanistan
From Army Times, June 20, 2011…excerpts from an interview with Army Gen. David Petraeus.
A: No country has suffered more from al-Qaeda than Afghanistan.
Having said that, I think there is a realistic appraisal and still a wait-and-see attitude about the effect of bin Laden’s death on the groups causing the security problems here. Certainly, it’s an enormous blow to the al-Qaeda enterprise around the world, given the central role he played, not only as the iconic leader and founder but also an individual who did guide, to a degree, various strategic and operational initiatives.
Q: Will his death affect the continued need for U.S. troops?
A: We’re obviously evaluating what the effects may be. We are here to prevent al-Qaeda or other transnational extremist groups from re-establishing the kinds of safe havens that existed here before 9/11. To do that, we have to help our Afghan partners develop the ability to secure and to govern themselves.
We see steady progress with the [Afghan security forces], not just in quantity – recognizing, to be sure, that there’s still unevenness among some elements, especially the Afghan uniformed police, but also recognizing that there are increasing numbers of quite capable Afghan forces. There are over 11,000 Afghan special operations forces alone.
Q: Can we talk about the security of U.S. troops and the attacks by Afghan security that have taken place inside forward operating bases?
A: We have taken a variety of steps, which I’m not going to share, but there are a number of actions underway both in terms of counterintelligence initiatives, actions with our Afghan partners to carefully vet those who are recruited and brought into the Afghan national security forces, security checks at our bases and even the posture of our forces in various situations.
I’m not sure that we would say there’s a pattern. We think there are different motivations in a number of the cases. Certainly, some have been infiltrators. [But] some of these are arguments which, tragically in Afghanistan, occasionally are settled by shooting rather than shouting.
In a separate interview with Defense News, June 13, 2011…
Q: Have the Afghan security forces been buoyed by the death of Osama bin Laden? Does that affect their confidence in fighting against the enemy?
A: Certainly, the vast majority of Afghans celebrated Osama bin Laden’s death. Indeed, no country has suffered more than Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda than has Afghanistan, although Pakistan has suffered a great deal, as well.
Q: Do (U.S. forces) have their fingers on the trigger (when it comes to dealing with Afghan troops)? Are they maybe scared of some of the Afghans?
A: I’m not sure that I would say that. Certainly, there are cases where there is a degree of apprehension, if you will. A lot of our relationships out there are quite good. As Command Sgt. Maj. Marvin Hill occasionally says, morale is an individual event and so is a sense of a relationship, it’s an individual event.
Q: How long do you see our presence (in Afghanistan)?
A: President Karzai warned about the phenomenon of a liberation force becoming an occupation force. We’re seen as an occupation force. Look, I’ve talked about that for years. When I came back from a second tour in Iraq, I actually wrote an article in Military Review Magazine, late 2005 or early 2006, “Lessons From Counterinsurgency in Iraq.” One of those was that every liberation force has a half-life and it can, over time, become seen as an occupation force and you’ve got to be very sensitive to that, and the way you extend a half-life is by not only being seen by the population but by actually taking steps to ensure that the people see you as helping them, securing them, contributing to a better future for them and their families.
Q: Is it possible to achieve here what we’ve achieved in Iraq?
A: Well, I’ve always said that we would never flip Afghanistan, we would never turn Afghanistan rapidly the way that we were able to turn Iraq. Frankly, I did an assessment in September 2005 on the way home from a second tour in Iraq for the secretary of defense and came back and told him at that time, when the description of Afghanistan was “the war we’re winning,” and I told him that I thought Afghanistan was going to be the longest campaign in “the Long War” and it was for all the factors that our troopers are so well acquainted with.
It’s because this country’s been at war for 30 years, and it was one of the three poorest in the world when the war began. It has huge challenges from illiteracy, lack of infrastructure, lack of institutions, all predictable given the three decades of war, and it lacks a number of the, quote, advantages that Iraq had.
Now let’s remember that Iraq was truly out of control when the surge began, and we had 220 or more attacks a day in Iraq, several orders of magnitude higher than the levels of violence here. Not saying this is a peaceful place by any means. In fact, the violence is going up. This is the spring fighting season. We’re on the offensive and the enemy is on the offensive, and this was certainly predicted. But again, I have always said, in fact, that Afghanistan was going to require enormous determination and patience.
1993…February, New York, World Trade Center bombing…6 killed
1993…October, Somalia, ambush of U.S. forces…18 killed
1994…June, Mashad, Iran, Shiite shrine bombing…27 killed
1995…November, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, truck bomb…7 killed
1998…August, Kenya and Tanzania, U.S. embassies bombed…301 killed
2000…October, Aden, Yemen, USS Cole bombing…17 killed
2001…September, New York/Virginia/Penn., 9/11 attacks…3,000 approx. killed
2002…April, Djerba, Tunisia, synagogue bombing…21 killed
2002…May, Karachi, Pakistan, hotel bombing…10 killed
2002…June, Karachi, Pakistan, US consulate bombing…11 killed
2002…October, Yemen coast, Limburg oil tanker bombing…1 killed
2002…October, Bali, Indonesia, nightclub bombing…202 killed
2002…November, Mombasa, Kenya, hotel bombing…15 killed
2003…May, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, ex-pat compound bombing…35 killed
2003…May, Casablanca, Morocco, multiple bombings…45 killed
2003…August, Jakarta, Indonesia, hotel bombing…16 killed
2003…November, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, car bombs…17 killed
2003…November, Istanbul, Turkey, synagogues bombed…57 killed
2004…February, Philippines, ferry bombing…116 killed
2004…March, Madrid, Spain, train bombings…191 killed
2004…April, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, govt. building bombed…3 killed
2004…May, Yanbu, Saudi Arabia, refinery attack…5 killed
2004…May, Khobar, Saudi Arabia, ex-pat compound attack…22 killed
2004…December, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, US consulate attack…5 killed
2005…July, London, underground/bus bombings…56 killed
2005…July, Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, resort bombings…88 killed
2005…November, Amman, Jordan, hotel bombing…63 killed
2007…April, Algiers, Algeria, car bombs…33 killed
2008…June, Islamabad, Pakistan, Danish embassy bombing…6 killed
Clearly, the U.S. and its allies have been highly successful in going after al-Qaeda, witness the significant decline in high-profile attacks. But we can never let down our guard.
Source: The Economist…doesn’t include Iraq, to say the least.