Quantico, VA – Here at this sprawling Marine Corps base south of our nation’s capital, nothing has changed since Osama bin Laden met his demise in Pakistan. Thousands of Marines here at the “Crossroads of the Corps” are still waking up at “Oh-Dark-Thirty,” going about their duties, running for miles, lifting weights and tossing each other about in hand-to-hand-combat drills. Apparently these American heroes are unaware that Senators John Kerry (D-MA); Carl Levin (D-IL); and even Dick Lugar (R-IN) and a host of others up the road in Washington, DC, have decided that bin Laden’s death means the war in Afghanistan has been won and most of our troops need to come home ASAP.
Here in the United States, politicians and pundits across the political spectrum are now saying that bin Laden’s death means we can hasten our withdrawal from Afghanistan; that we can now make dramatic reductions in defense spending; and that we should cut off all military, economic, humanitarian and intelligence support to Pakistan.
According to Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Kerry, the bin Laden operation “provides a potentially game-changing opportunity to build momentum for a political solution” and move to “achieving the smallest footprint possible in Afghanistan.” In the House of Representatives, a bipartisan group of eight lawmakers wrote to the White House claiming bin Laden’s death “requires us to examine our policy of nation building in Afghanistan.” They insist “it is no longer the best way to defend America against terror attacks, and we urge you to withdraw all troops from Afghanistan that are not crucial to the immediate national security objective of combating al Qaeda.”
This all has to be music to the ears of Vice President Joe Biden, long an opponent of the counter-insurgency campaign advocated by General David Petraeus. Count on the VEEP to make this argument in the days ahead as the administration decides how many U.S. troops to withdraw from Afghanistan this summer. It’s exactly the wrong message for our friends and enemies in the world’s most volatile region.
There is no doubt that the May 2 Spec Ops mission taking out bin Laden was a dramatic success and an example of unique U.S. capabilities. Unfortunately, the administration’s decision to reap a political and public relations windfall from the operation has adverse implications for protecting U.S. interests in Pakistan and checking Iranian efforts to acquire nuclear weapons.
In Baghdad, radical Shiite factions are claiming the U.S. has no further need of a military presence in Iraq. And in Pakistan, those who have cooperated with American and military officials in the past are finding it more difficult to do so.
Though al Qaeda and the Taliban have both acknowledged that bin Laden is dead, Imams are seizing the moment to encourage their followers that this means the U.S. will “soon be leaving the lands of the prophet.” Nothing could be more pleasing to the theocrats in Tehran and those who want to bring down governments in the region deemed to be “insufficiently Islamic.” For those of us concerned about the prospect of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons falling into the wrong hands or the regime in Tehran acquiring such a capability, the Obama administration’s victory lap, and its nonstop hemorrhaging of information from the “treasure trove of intelligence collected in Abbottabad,” could well prove disastrous.
The mission that resulted in bin Laden’s death would have been significantly more difficult – if not impossible – without U.S. bases in Afghanistan. The theocrats ruling in Tehran, and those who hate us in Pakistan, know the American military presence in Iraq and Afghanistan poses a threat to an Iranian nuclear weapons program and “loose nukes” in Islamabad.
Sadly, all this “get out and get out now” talk is happening just as competent and capable Afghan National Security Forces are taking to the field. Though few in the mainstream media have been paying attention, our FOX News “War Stories Special Report”(Friday, 9:00 PM EDT) clearly shows how the recruiting, training, mentoring and partnering programs set in motion by General Petraeus and Lieutenant General William Caldwell are succeeding. So, too, are efforts by Special Agents of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, NATO Special Operators and their Afghan counterparts to cut off the flow of funds to the Taliban and staunch official corruption.
For an inside “boots on the ground’ perspective on how to win a war – and a “white knuckle ride” along with the eyewitness participants who are fighting it – this documentary is true “reality television.” It’s doubtful that Senator John Kerry will be watching. He apparently never met a war he didn’t want to lose.