You can always tell when a general doesn’t really have a good answer to a question. He or she will attempt to scare the shit out of you by invoking 9/11.
Army Gen. John Nicholson, the most recent U.S. commander in Afghanistan to kick the can down the road for two years before it’s picked up by the next guy, just became the latest general who cited preventing another 9/11 as a reason we’re still over there after 17 years.
I understand why he’d go for it. When you’re stuck in a stalemate and the reality on the ground hasn’t changed over the past year, despite a new “strategy” being in place, you have two options.
First, you can take Option A: Acknowledge the failure of this campaign to this point and tell the reporter what most members of the military think privately (and, some, publicly): that we shouldn’t be in Afghanistan anymore.
Or you can go with Option B. When Nicholson was asked Wednesday why the U.S. should stay in Afghanistan, that’s the route he took. “Thanks for the question,” he started.
“It’s really important, and it’s been a long war. But I would note that in that time, our country has not been attacked from Afghanistan.”
That was what he opened with. We should stay in Afghanistan because 9/11. It reminded me of the Lois Griffin debate strategy from Family Guy.
To be fair, Nicholson’s statement is true. Our country hasn’t been attacked from a terrorist group operating out of Afghanistan. But it’s been attacked many other times by terrorists who visited or operated in places like Yemen, Egypt, and Pakistan, and we don’t station thousands of troops in those countries to prevent more.
Yet Nicholson continued (with my reactions following):
“Remember that 21 designated terrorist organizations exist in this region. ISIS-K, for example, did not exist in this region until about 2014, 2015.
And it primarily was created by members of other groups. The fact when you have a large number of groups in close proximity with a significant population to recruit from means that there is a threat from this region to our homeland.”
If there’s still a threat to our homeland from all these terror groups in a far-off land, isn’t this statement a devastating critique of our Department of Homeland Security, immigration enforcement, FBI, and other law enforcement and counter-intelligence agencies’ steps taken after the 9/11 attacks? If there is still a significant threat to our homeland by a group that could pull of another potential 9/11, what does that say for everything we have done since that terrible day?
“So our choice is fairly simple. Either keep the pressure on them here, or they bring the fight to our doorstep.”
This conveniently sets no limits on our involvement in Afghanistan. “Keep the pressure on them” is unmeasurable. It’s not something the general reads in his PowerPoint briefings. It means nothing, yet it allows him to escape accountability for a U.S. failure to win in Afghanistan.
“So these two principal groups that we’re concerned about, Al Qaeda and Islamic State, thanks to the great work by our counterterrorism forces, we have devastated Al Qaeda, but they still exist.
Islamic State has ambitions. Now again, because of great work by our CT forces, we have been able to keep pressure on them. But it’s too soon to take the pressure off.
If we are able to achieve a reconciliation through the South Asia Strategy, and again, as I’ve outlined tonight, we’re taking positive steps in that direction, and we achieve an increased degree of stability here.”
There haven’t been any “positive steps in that direction” toward stability. The South Asia Strategy implemented by the U.S. military has deployed more troops, carried out more air strikes, and has loosened rules of engagement. All that effort has not changed the reality on the ground at all (which comes from Pentagon data, by the way).
“Again, this is Afghanistan, there will always be violence.
But if we achieve an increased degree of stability and a lowering of the violence to a level the Afghans can manage, then it’s going to be much easier to keep pressure on these terrorist groups and that’s in the benefit of our nation and all the nations of the coalition.
And on that last point I’d say, this is not just an American mission. There are 39 nations here. In fact, we’ve had two more that have recently offered to join: UAE and Qatar. And so these nations not only contribute troops, they contribute financially, and they bring the legitimacy of a 39-nation coalition to keep pressure on these terrorist groups.
So preventing these terrorists from launching attacks out of this area; again largest concentration of terrorist groups anywhere in the world, is the principle reason why we are here. And we have been successful in protecting our homeland from attacks emanating from this region ever since 9/11.”
Thank you Gen. Westmoreland, for that interesting presentation on how the dominoes of Communism will fall in our direction if we don’t stay in Vietnam for just a little bit longer.