No Retreat on Terror

The success of America’s war on terror nine years after the September 11 attacks is best summoned up by a special operations officer, one of the first to land in Afghanistan.

“We didn’t run,” this hard-nosed combatant told HUMAN EVENTS.

After retreating from Vietnam, and then Somalia, and letting al Qaeda off the hook for bombing the USS Cole and U.S. embassies in Africa, the United States went to war after 9/11. It is still at it today.

It’s an extremely important achievement, given that fact that radical Islam capitalizes on the weakness of the West. A retreat equals more extremist recruits, more money, more territory—a march toward harsh Sharia law governing the world.

“With [President George W.] Bush originally we dispelled the Vietnam and Somalia syndromes,” said the special operator. “We walked away from Vietnam and got our noses bloodied in Somalia and again retreated. The British and Russians got their asses handed to them in Afghanistan and nobody thought we could, or would go there. Bush did, and turned us loose.”

He continued: “We got to do all the things we’d trained for, and promised that we could do. A handful of guys, with just about all the support they requested, smoked their bags. The enemy was shocked that first we hit them there, then that when ambushed, we’d turn toward them and attack relentlessly. They’d never experienced that before. The combination of low-profile, culturally sensitive operators with on-call, pinpoint air support was the ticket.”

President Obama has restated American commitment in Afghanistan—where al Qaeda flourished and planned the 9/11 attacks—by surging 30,000 more troops this year.

But it was Iraq where America showed its stiffest resolve. Appearing to be beaten and with politicians like then-Sen. Obama calling the war a disaster and wanting a complete withdrawal, Bush stood firm. Rather than a pull-back, he ordered in more troops, and with them, Army Gen. David Petraeus in 2007-08 essentially defeated Ba’ath party holdouts and Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda henchmen.

It must come as a shock to bin Laden that America is now conducting an orderly exit from Iraq, leaving behind an indigenous army and politicians willing to fight for democracy. It has cost America the lives of over 4,400 service members.

It is difficult to develop metrics for fighting an enemy that works out of vast ungoverned land, or a tiny apartment, and has no capital city, wears no uniform, has no order of battle and follows no rules of war.

But Rep. Duncan Hunter (R.-Calif.), an Iraq and Afghanistan war veteran, said one achievement by President George W. Bush stands out.

“I think the most about important thing about President Bush’s legacy and the last 18 months of Obama, we have not had an attack on America soil, a major attack,” Hunter told HUMAN EVENTS. “An attack on American soil has not happened and that’s what we’ve been trying to prevent. I would say that’s the No. 1 reason we’re over in other countries.”

Here is sort of a score card nine years after al Qaeda flew planes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon:

• Al Qaeda has not been able to execute a second attack on America, unless the radicalization of the Fort Hood shooter is counted.

• Al Qaeda used to rule Afghanistan, alongside the Taliban, but now operates in rugged no-man’s land in Pakistan where it is attacked daily.

• Al Qaeda had its eyes on bringing down the new government in Baghdad by ruthless suicide bombings, but now seems to have abandoned that goal, and in the process, lost one of its best terrorists, Abu Musab Zarqawi.

• Some of al Qaeda’s best evil minds sit immobilized in the Guantanamo, Cuba, prison. The roll call includes Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, a uniquely qualified terrorist and strategist who planned 9/11.

• Virtually every nation in Asia now has better counter-terror programs thanks to U.S. training and intelligence. Al Qaeda’s top murderer in Asia, Hambali, resides in Gitmo.

• The U.S. intelligence community, while growing a bit fat and bureaucratic, is a robust vacuum of information compared its sorry state in 2000 after a decade of Bill Clinton budget cuts.

• A new Department of Homeland Security, while flawed and cumbersome, has put new policies in place to make airplane travel safer.
In short, while the war on terror, what Bush people called the “long war,” is not won, it stands today as definitely winnable.

James J. Carafano, a military analyst at the Heritage Foundation who specializes in counter-terrorism, said there is a mixed-bag of “good and bad” developments since 9/11 in the category of homeland defense.

“There have been 32 terrorist attacks and plots against the U.S. and we stopped 31,” said Carafano, adding that the 32nd was the radicalized Maj. Nidal Hasan who opened fire at Fort Hood.

But a failure, he said, is that fact that Congress, rather than consolidating oversight of the Department of Homeland Security, has spread it out to over 100 committees and subcommittees.

“The Department of Homeland Security is trying to be a good steward of tax dollars,” Carafano said. “The Quadrennial Homeland Security Review and bottom-up financial review have tried to rationalize spending, mapping strategic needs to outlays. But we still waste too much money on homeland security grants like grants to small fire departments that accomplish very little but are politically popular back home.”

The Congressional Budget Office’s latest report states Washington has spent just over $1 trillion on wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the global war on terror operations since 9/11.

Iraq has, and is, receiving the lion’s share: 69% equaling $802 billion through next year. It is less than President Obama’s first stimulus bill.

The special operator who spoke with HUMAN EVENTS said the biggest mistake made by the Bush-Donald Rumsfeld war cabinet was to turn Afghanistan from a commando invasion to a big conventional war.

“As we conventionalized the war, support for special operations was diluted by the needs of the self-licking lollipop that is the conventional military,” the source said. “Units needed support units and a logistical trail that was cumbersome and vulnerable.

“An enemy previously shocked and on the run everywhere in the world started to gain success and confidence. With the Obama regime, their confidence is higher and there is a will to outlast us. No one believes on either side that Obama is serious about the war. Hell, he won’t even admit there is a war.”

One thing is clear: More troops mean more casualties, usually via the No. 1 tool of terrorists on the battlefield—the improvised explosive device.

A total of 61 American service members were killed in Afghanistan in 2001-02. This year, the country has lost 332, as the force grew to about 100,000, according to