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Top generals admit folly of Biden's 'over the horizon' Afghanistan counterterrorism strategy

Washington Examiner logo Washington Examiner 9/28/2021 Tom Rogan
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Perhaps President Joe Biden's much-vaunted "over the horizon" Afghanistan counterterrorism strategy isn't that impressive after all?

Testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday, top U.S. officers confirmed as much. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff refuted Biden's Aug. 20 statement that al Qaeda has "gone" from Afghanistan. Instead, Gen. Mark Milley noted that "the Taliban was and remains a terrorist organization and still has not broken ties with al Qaeda."

It gets worse. Apparently referencing intelligence assessments, Milley observed that "a reconstituted al Qaeda or [Islamic State group] with aspirations to attack the U.S. is a very real possibility, and those conditions to include activity in ungoverned spaces could present themselves in the next 12-36 months."

U.S. Central Command's top officer took things a step further. Gen. Kenneth McKenzie admitted that it will be difficult for the U.S. to target terrorists in Afghanistan. McKenzie said that the U.S. retains "the right to go after ISIS and al Qaeda targets as they present themselves. We've been very clear on that." But the four-star general continued, "That's not going to be easy, and we'll talk a little bit more about that in the closed session. It will not be easy to do that. It will be possible to do that."

This is a misuse of the closed session, which should be about protecting classified information rather than concealing truths that pose political complexities for the White House. Still, McKenzie is right about the basic point. As has been noted, effective counterterrorism operations become very difficult in a condition of absent presence.

McKenzie's statement begs the question as to why he was so optimistic a month ago when he announced the final withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan. On Aug. 30, McKenzie optimistically claimed that the U.S. would "always retain the ability to [target terrorists in Afghanistan effectively]." That rhetoric supported the White House talking point that withdrawing from Afghanistan wouldn't degrade U.S. counterterrorism interests in any significant manner.

It was always delusional.

Unless you have a presence with which to recruit and run agents and conduct intelligence-gathering activities there, the ability to identify, locate, and strike the enemy is inherently limited. Pretending this isn't true, Biden has endangered U.S. and allied national security.

 

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Tags: Opinion, Beltway Confidential, Foreign Policy, National Security, Afghanistan, War in Afghanistan, Taliban, al Qaeda, ISIS, Counter Terrorism

Original Author: Tom Rogan

Original Location: Top generals admit folly of Biden's 'over the horizon' Afghanistan counterterrorism strategy

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