Listening to Obama’s reasons for staying in Afghanistan I remained skeptical as to whether it was worthwhile. I have very little confidence that we can achieve a stable and clean democratic government there in this time frame. If there is any reason to stay it would be to actually do what we set out to do in the first place–fight al Qaeda.While George Bush’s argument to fight the terrorists in Iraq so we didn’t have to fight them here made no sense, there would be some logic to fighting them in Afghanistan if al Qaeda was still based there.
Trying to give Obama the benefit of the doubt, I found it difficult to judge if this is really worthwhile. After all, we do not have the same intelligence regarding al Qaeda in the region, and we did not spend the amount of time Obama did considering the Afghanistan strategy. Another question I had was how much of al Qaeda has remained in Afghanistan as opposed to slipping across into Pakistan, or perhaps moving elsewhere.
ABC News has reviewed some of the intelligence on this matter and it doesn’t resolve my skepticism as to current policy. From various sources they estimate the number of members of al Qaeda remaining in Afghanistan at around one hundred.
Somehow it sounds like an excessive cost, both in terms of American lives and dollars, to remain in Afghanistan to try to kill one hundred members of al Qaeda.This means using 1,000 troops and $300 million a year for every member of al Qaeda left there.
Of course this isn’t the entire story.
“A hundred ‘no foolin’ al Qaeda operatives operating in a safe haven can do a hell of a lot of damage,” said one former intelligence official with significant past experience in the region.
Maybe, but I remain skeptical as to whether this is worthwhile.