Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Obama, Biden, Democrats Completely Lost Regarding Al Qaeda

Research Professor Engram at BackTalk Blog takes apart Joe Biden, Barack Obama and fellow Democrats on Iraq, Afghanistan and Al Qaeda in his two latest posts.... starting with:

"The Superhighway of Terror Between Afghanistan and Pakistan"
Here is Joe Biden exhibiting some bravado and acting as if he has a clear understanding of the relationship between al Qaeda and Afghanistan:
"Ladies and gentlemen, where are we now? Where are we now?" Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., said to the National Guard Association today, talking about the war in Afghanistan. "If you want to know where Al Qaeda lives, you want to know where Bin Laden is, come back to Afghanistan with me," Biden said. "Come back to the area where my helicopter was forced down, with a three-star general and three senators at 10,500 feet in the middle of those mountains. I can tell you where they are."...Biden said he would ask Palin about "The superhighway of terror between Pakistan and Afghanistan where my helicopter was forced down...John McCain wants to know where Bin Laden and the gates of Hell are? I can tell him where. That's where Al Qaeda is. That's where Bin Laden is. It's not in the country of Iraq."

Bin Laden is where your helicopter went down in the mountains of Afghanistan?
Or is he across the border in Pakistan?
This is important to get straight because there is a world of difference between the two. For starters, we have 50,000 NATO troops in Afghanistan and about zero in Pakistan. In addition, Pakistan's new president (Ali Asif Zardari) has this to say:
Zardari said the Pakistani military was well-equipped and experienced in conducting operations in the mountainous areas where U.S. officials insist that al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden is hiding. All they need, he said, is information and logistical support.Signaling his willingness to face off with Bush over the critical issue, Zardari did not disavow a reported order issued to his military last week to open fire if U.S. troops launched another air or ground raid across the Afghan border.
“Our orders are they (Pakistani forces) are not to allow any intrusion of anybody in Pakistan," he said. "If the American troops are coming in without letting us know, without Pakistani permission, they are violating the United Nations charter.”Asked if U.S. personnel would be confronted militarily, he replied, “Whatever it takes.”

Thus, not only do we have zero NATO soldiers in Pakistan, the Pakistani army seems ready to fire on any U.S. soldiers who cross into Pakistan in pursuit of al Qaeda targets.

In light of this, I wish some reporter would just take a map like the one below, present it to Joe Biden, and say "please tell me where they are:"
Are al Qaeda's leaders here, where your helicopter landed in Afghanistan, or there, in Pakistan? If the latter, what do you actually propose to do about it?
And about that "superhighway of terror between Pakistan and Afghanistan,"
what the heck is that, anyway?
It sounds like he is talking about the Taliban, who use Pakistan as a safe haven and then cross the border to fight in Afghanistan. But I don't think anyone believes that Osama bin Laden is on that highway (nor are al Qaeda's suicide bombers, because they are busy in Pakistan).
Instead, many Taliban use that superhighway, plus a few al Qaeda field commanders who offer them guidance and direction. What does that have to do with capturing Osama bin Laden and other high-ranking al Qaeda operatives (all of whom are thought to be inside Pakistan)? Perhaps Joe Biden thinks they are in Afghanistan.
Or maybe he thinks they are hiding "between" Afghanistan and Pakistan (even though no such place exists). I wish some reporter would ask him to clarify.

And Engram again in his most recent post...
Casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan
"I am glad that Democrats like Barack Obama think that it is important to win our fight against the Taliban in Afghanistan, but I am bothered by the fact that virtually all Democrats pretend that al Qaeda is resurgent there (and has found safe haven there) because we "took our eye off the ball" when we invaded al-Qaeda-free Iraq in 2003. In fact, unlike the U.S., al Qaeda abandoned Afghanistan to resist the American-led invasion of Iraq.

That's the part of the story that no Democrat seems able to comprehend.

Al Qaeda not only came to Iraq, they deliberately ignited the hellacious increase in sectarian violence that prompted virtually all Democrats, including Barack Obama, to propose giving up the fight (which they misleadingly called a "civil war").

Now, the Democrats have a new misleading argument, which is that Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda are resurgent in Afghanistan, and they make this argument by repeatedly blurring the absolutely critical distinction between Afghanistan and Pakistan. They do so by referring to an area "between Afghanistan and Pakistan" or by claiming that al Qaeda is resurgent "along the Afghanistan-Pakistan" border.
This is misleading because virtually everyone agrees that al Qaeda's leaders (and high-ranking officials of the Taliban) are 100% inside Pakistan. This matters because our troops are not welcome in Pakistan, so any troops we take from Iraq to help in the fight against the Taliban will, at best, take on the few low-level al Qaeda field commanders who are helping to make the Taliban better fighters.
By pretending otherwise, Obama and his like-minded Democratic allies make it seem as if sending troops to Afghanistan will help us to "finish the fight" against Osama bin Laden (who, in all likelihood, is completely inside Pakistan). In any case, because everyone will be focusing more on Afghanistan in the coming months and years, I thought it might be useful to compare recent casualty trends in Iraq and Afghanistan.

One country is quieting down while the other heats up. Still, violence in Afghanistan is nothing compared to what we saw in Iraq. Lets take a look at overall casualties first. For Iraq, these numbers come from Iraq Body Count because that source provides the most complete database. The figure for 2008 is a projection that assumes that casualties will continue to accumulate at the rate they have accumulated so far in 2008.

For Afghanistan, the numbers come from various counts provided by the AP that I linked to here. Again, the 2008 figure that I show in the chart below is a projected figure. I do not really know how complete the AP counts are, but they are all we have. Here is the chart that compares overall casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan from 2005 to 2008:In Iraq, most the casualties were civilians. In Afghanistan, most of the casualties are Taliban.
The number of people killed in Iraq far exceeds the number killed in Afghanistan, but the two are becoming more similar now that things are becoming relatively quiet in Iraq.

A similar story emereges from a comparison of coalition force casualties in Iraq (mostly U.S.) and Afghanistan (NATO, with about half being U.S.). I got these figures from Iraq Coalition Casualty Count:Again, the 2008 figures are projected values based on the number killed so far this year. As you can see, there really is no comparison in the level of violence these two countries, though they are similar now that violence in Iraq has dropped to relatively low levels. If the AP figures are accurate, the numbers suggest that while NATO casualties have increased this year, overall casualties in Afghanistan (mostly Taliban) have come down somewhat. That might reflect the fact that, in 2008, al Qaeda has been re-engaging the fight in Afghanistan by having some of their field commanders lend an assist to the otherwise hapless Taliban. I assume it's clear to everyone that we must prevail in Afghanistan.
Allowing it to become a failed state is a nonstarter because we've seen the consequences of that before.
The Taliban cannot prevail if NATO does not lose its will, and because even the Democrats support our cause there, I see no chance of a Taliban victory there.
But what should we do about al Qaeda in Pakistan?
That's the question, and it seems to me that we are going about that fight in the only way that we can (i.e., encouraging Pakistan to launch offensives against militants in the border region and using pilotless Predator drones to target al Qaeda leadership from the skies).
I hope that John McCain and Barack Obama explain their views on this when they meet in Friday night's debate. -end

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