Saturday, September 15, 2007

Peter Bergen on the need to fight Al Qaeda in Iraq

I support withdrawal of all of our military forces from Iraq, the sooner the better.

However, I try to remain open to new information, and a couple of days ago I came across Peter Bergen’s Fight Al Qaeda in Iraq, recently posted at his website.

Bergen was part of the CNN team, along with the veteran war correspondent Peter Arnett and the cameraman Peter Jouvenal, that interviewed Osama bin Laden in 1997.

His bio is impressive. Bergen “…is a Schwartz senior fellow at the New America Foundation in Washington D.C; an Adjunct Professor at the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University; a research fellow at New York University's Center on Law and Security; CNN's terrorism analyst and author of Holy War, Inc.: Inside the Secret World of Bin Laden.

In Fight Al Qaeda in Iraq, Bergen unequivocally states, “A persistent Al Qaeda safe haven in Iraq will be a launching pad for attacks against American interests in the region, and even against the United States itself. The National Intelligence Estimate made public in July explains that Al Qaeda ‘will probably seek to leverage the contacts and capabilities of Al-Qaeda in Iraq, its most visible and capable affiliate and the only one known to have expressed a desire to attack the Homeland.’ In addition, a safe haven would be an ideal location from which to attack “near enemy” American allies such as Saudi Arabia and to disrupt the world’s oil supply, which Osama bin Laden has made a priority according to tapes he has released since 9/11….

“Indeed, America’s top strategic challenge post-drawdown is to position itself in such a way as to prevent the emergence of a long-term Iraqi safe haven for Al Qaeda and affiliated terrorist groups….

“The successful elimination in Anbar province of Al Qaeda forces suggests one approach—persuading, empowering, and bribing tribal leaders to do the work for you. Of course, like a game of whack-a-mole, Al Qaeda fighters have now migrated to other provinces such as Diyala. Applying the Anbar model to fight Al Qaeda in other parts of the country is a promising strategy, particularly since it uses relatively few U.S. troops to leverage larger local forces….

“However, the United States cannot wholly rely on tribes of uncertain loyalties to secure its interests in Iraq, which include not only disrupting Al Qaeda but also securing a number of bases and the enormous embassy that is being built in Baghdad. Other important functions the U.S. military will have to sustain after a withdrawal include training the Iraqi army and any other groups who might help American interests; gathering intelligence; maintaining some kind of reserve combat force; regularly deploying several thousand Special Forces troops for operations against Al Qaeda; and, of course, maintaining the logistical tail to supply all of those functions and soldiers. Given the need to successfully continue those various tasks, some estimate the United States will have to maintain a reinforced division of about 20,000 soldiers combined with logistical delivery teams of a further 10,000 to 15,000 to supply them.” [emphasis mine]

What am I going to do with this information? Before I support maintaining a military presence in Iraq, I’m going to do my homework. I’ll keep you posted.

(photo of Osama bin Laden and Peter Bergen: University of Delaware)

1 comment:

Weedgardener said...

Bergen's solutions to the problem will just prolong the problem.

I completely disagree with Bergen's concluding paragraph, in which he says, "A complete pullout would deeply imperil U.S. interests in the region by making it difficult if not impossible to battle our main strategic threat in the region: a resurgent Al Qaeda bent on gaining a haven in the Middle East."

I think the opposite is the case: Al Qaeda in Iraq will fade away, but only after we leave.

The numbers show that AQI is a very small group without a lot of local support. I don't see terrorists of any stripe to be our main strategic threat. Conditions that lead to terrorism are our main strategic threat.

Of course, that won't stop Bush from playing them up as a dangerous threat that requires us to stay in Iraq. It serves the interests of Bush and his main supporters to have continual war in the Middle East.