Outgoing U.S. Ambassador Karl Eikenberry has blasted Hamid Karzai—although not by name—for the Afghan president's latest, intemperate outburst against the U.S. and our coalition partners. This time, Mr. Karzai complained not just about the civilian casualties inadvertently caused by NATO air strikes, as he usually does, but also about the supposed environmental damage caused by dropping bombs that "have chemical materials in them." As if Afghanistan, which has been ravaged by three decades of war, were a pristine paradise before NATO arrived.
Those who claim that we can disengage from Afghanistan now that the "emir" of al Qaeda is dead seem to assume the whole organization will disappear with him. It might, but it might not. Other terrorist groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah have survived the loss of their leaders.
Opponents of the war effort also argue that the Navy SEAL raid should be a model for the kind of counterterrorist approach we should adopt more generally, relying on pinpoint strikes rather than dispatching 100,000 ground troops to carry out a grueling counterinsurgency campaign.
In evaluating Osama bin Laden's dubious legacy, it is important to note that there was nothing new about religiously inspired terrorism when this rich Saudi exile convened a small group of jihadists in his Peshawar, Pakistan, home in 1988 to found Al Qaeda, or "the Base" — an organization designed to carry on the war waged so successfully against the Red Army in Afghanistan.
Two of the earliest known terrorist groups — the Jewish Sicarii, or "dagger men," who terrorized 1st century Judea, and the Shiite Muslim Assassins, who terrorized the Middle East in the Middle Ages — were known for pursuing religious rather than strictly political agendas. More recently, Hezbollah, a Shiite Muslim jihadist group, had already pioneered many of the techniques — especially the use of suicide bombers and the intensive manipulation of the news media — that would become Al Qaeda trademarks.
What does the death of Osama bin Laden mean for the war in Afghanistan?
The positive impact is obvious: bin Laden had a close alliance with Taliban leader Mullah Omar. No doubt many Taliban and associated operatives (e.g., in the Haqqani network) viewed bin Laden as a great holy warrior who charted the way forward in the battle against infidels, crusaders, and Zionists. His death could, therefore, strike a significant psychological blow against insurgents. It may also have more direct repercussions. If bin Laden was still acting, as he had in the past, as a key intermediary between the Taliban and its wealthy Persian Gulf backers, then his death would clearly interrupt the flow of funding.
Secretary of Defense Bob Gates was in Iraq early this month urging Iraqi leaders to decide whether they want U.S. forces to stay beyond Dec. 31. "If there is to be a presence, to help with some of the areas where [the Iraqis] still need help," he said, "we're open to that possibility. But they have to ask."
Better late than never, the United States and her allies finally have acted to stop the slaughter in Libya. With strong American, British, and French support, the United Nations Security Council on March 17 approved a Lebanon-sponsored resolution authorizing member states to use “all necessary measures... to protect civilians and civilian populated areas under threat of attack” in Libya.