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Friday, April 12, 2024

Don’t give in to al Qaeda

As the sixth anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001, approaches, we should be grateful: al Qaeda has not successfully attacked Americans a second time on American soil. We also should be distressed: Americans are debating whether to fight al Qaeda -- or whether to retreat from the one battlefield on which we have a chance to seriously damage al Qaeda, both militarily and ideologically.

As the sixth anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001, approaches, we should be grateful: al Qaeda has not successfully attacked Americans a second time on American soil. We also should be distressed: Americans are debating whether to fight al Qaeda — or whether to retreat from the one battlefield on which we have a chance to seriously damage al Qaeda, both militarily and ideologically.

That battlefield is in Iraq. True, a case can be made that had President Bush not invaded Iraq, we would not need to fight al Qaeda in Iraq. But that is irrelevant to the question policy-makers need to decide: Do we continue battling al Qaeda in Iraq? Or do we stop — and let al Qaeda combatants in Iraq live to fight another day?

It’s also true that Iraq is not the only place where al Qaeda can be found. But, al Qaeda cells operate in secret in most countries. If we’re lucky, some of them are under surveillance by intelligence or law enforcement as, apparently, they have been in Germany.

Top al Qaeda leaders, including Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri, are believed to be living in the remote reaches of northwest Pakistan. Pakistani authorities have been unable — some would say unwilling — to do what is necessary to root them out. And American troops have not been invited to accompany Pakistani troops on search-and-destroy missions.

That leaves Iraq, the theater in which we find al Qaeda’s most active and lethal members. Or rather, that was the situation until very recently. A year ago, al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) was firmly in control of Anbar and other Sunni areas, and sections of Baghdad as well.

Then, this summer, Army Gen. David Petraeus took command of the 28,000 reinforcements he needed to change course in Iraq. He decided to target the root cause of the sectarian violence: the AQI terrorists who were suicide-bombing mosques and markets in an attempt to foment a civil war from which they expected to benefit. He also began to challenge the Iranian-backed Shia militias that had gained power by responding to the AQI attacks.

Now, American troops, working with Iraqi Security Forces, have eliminated AQI command structures, safe havens and bomb factories in and around Baghdad, Baqubah and other former strongholds. They have killed thousands of AQI members. Among them: Mehmet Yilmaz, a Turkish-born al Qaeda leader, and a close associate of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks. Yilmaz was killed June 23 — just five days after the last of Petraeus’ reinforcements arrived in Iraq.

Petraeus has redeployed American troops out of fortified Forward Operating Bases and into such cities as Ramadi and Fallujah. It was widely expected that putting more Americans in more vulnerable places would mean more casualties. In fact, American combat deaths have dropped by half in the three months since U.S. forces reached full strength.

Why? Petraeus has provided security for Iraqis — a mission that American troops were not performing before his arrival. In return, Iraqis are helping provide security for American troops. They also have been providing the actionable intelligence needed to fight effectively against AQI, the common enemy.

And that brings us to the other way the United States is now damaging al Qaeda: in the war of ideas. The news is getting out that Iraqi Arab Muslims are freely choosing to align with Americans and against al Qaeda.

This calls into question al Qaeda’s ideology and even its legitimacy – its claim to be the champion and protector of the world’s Muslims. If Muslims in the heart of the Middle East reject al Qaeda and side with Americans, that sends a message to Muslims around the world that al Qaeda is neither invincible nor unchallengeable. If the tribes of Anbar are not giving up their traditions and customs to embrace bin Laden’s version of Islam, why should Indonesians and Bosnians?

We now have a chance to seriously degrade AQI — which American intelligence calls the “most visible and capable (al Qaeda) affiliate and the only one known to have expressed a desire to attack the (U.S) homeland.” We now have a chance to deliver a painful physical, psychological and intellectual blow to global al Qaeda — to demonstrate who the “strong horse” really is.

Al Qaeda’s hope: that Congress will save them by legislating America’s retreat from Iraq; that lawmakers in Washington will vote to stop fighting al Qaeda in Iraq and to abandon those Iraqis who have been fighting with us and relying on us.

Six years after 9/11, in the midst of a global conflict against al Qaeda and its enablers, is there a more serious mistake we could make?

(Clifford D. May is president of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, a policy institute focusing on terrorism.)

16 thoughts on “Don’t give in to al Qaeda”

  1. Richard Kanegis

    Bin Laden thinks the last 1000 years was a war between the Muslim world and the West where Muslims couldn’t keep focused and vows the next millennium, if need be, will be different.

    No, Carl Nemo trading funds won’t stop us from starving. German business is in trouble because immigration practices don’t favor talent, and if al Qaida had succeeded at “those who heal you will kill you” it would have been worse, even faster.

    I tried to post Security Management ONLINE Bulletin Board (click on academia), earlier. I wonder what whet wrong Also remember Clifford D. May, in Capitol Hill Blue “Don’t give in to al Qaeda” which generated creative rebuttals
    In Utah’s; Daily Herald, Don’t Give in to al Qaida generated hawk responses.

    Bush, Hilary and some of the rest of us are slow to get to a dentist no mater how badly we may need to. Sooner or later al Qaida is going to cheer, and the cheering will give them more recruits.

    The good news is that India dispite funerals, crowed trains etc. being attacked they haven’t given up their democracy. What do the people in India understand that many in the US don’t?
    Richard Kanegis

  2. Richard Kanegis Confession of a peace activist.

    Let’s admit it, al Qaeda will cheer. “Confessions of an antiwar activist.”,

    Fortunately, almost every response to May’s super-hawk rankings both opposed the war and admitted that al Qaida is really dangerous.

    I fear people may end up reading this comment alone rather than with the comments that came before.

    Also, I hope you read one of the following in order for my comments not to limit opposition to the war.


    Somehow Americans both doves and hawks, somehow have to deal with the grim fact, that al Qaida has a lot of prestige to gain.

    I fear people may end up reading this comment alone rather than with the comments that came before. Nevertheless I am going to take the risk and admitted something no peace activist ever dared admit.

    Leaving Iraq will increase al Qaida’s image as supermen.

    They killed few Americans in Iraq, but suicide events really stood out. Most adult Muslims hate al Qaida, but put up with them, because they prefer not to commit suicide, and think suicide bombers get results.

    The children are a different matter. Many kids admire Columbine, Virginia Tech, and 9/11. It’s really scary for our more distant futures.

    Al Qaida picked doctors not explosive experts in England overplaying their hand. Four months earlier they warned that “Those who heal you will kill you.” German immigrant laws prevent extremely skilled foreign workers from entering the country. German business is crying that they can no longer compete with the rest of the world. The US and Britain almost followed Germany’s example. Tourist dollars are already chased away by airport security. Two attempts to create Western bankruptcy and collapse the dollar failed, but what will happen after the next attempt? Will Americans patiently stand in soup line like our grandparents did?

    Winter vegetables now come from Argentina not storage, and if we survive the winter, local farms are much further away then during the first depression.

    Another scaring fact, (beside leaving Iraq will allow al Qaida to claim victory ) that I will now admit, is that al Qaida suicide cells in this country are probably hair-triggered to go off just as soon as the US sends troops to Pakistan to prevent Al Qaida from seizing control, after assassinating Pakistan’s dictator. Or if US sends troops to Pakistan for any reason.

    Please everyone don’t read this comment without reading the comments that came before.
    Please click on these links:… If easier to link on:
    Some of my phone calls and email have been blocked by al Qaida or who knows.

  3. This looks like another PRAVDA production straight from the Red-State Party machine.

    “Look Out For The Boogieman!” “We need another 50billion dollars to stop a 65-year old turd merchant on a burro whose plotting to kill us all!”

    1. Ben Ladin was A former employee of both Haliburton and the Carlyle group since doing oil extraction required that you hire the Saudi King’s favorite construction company. Bush I served on both boards.

    2. The CIA created Al Queida in the 1980’s as a resistance group to the soviet union’s invasion of Afganistan. Al Queida means “the base.” Then instead of putting the Mah Hadiun (sp?) in power like we promised once the Soviets were defeated we pulled out and they got slaughtered by their rivals. Now you know why they hate us so much.

    3. Where’s Bin Ladin? What is so hard to believe about a billionaire just getting on a private corporate jet in Pakistan and getting the hell outa dodge? Don’t you think he could have charted a helicopter in Tora Bora and been gone in an hour? Has Clifford May ever commuted? It’s not hard to do when you have that kind of cash.

    Having given them a trillion dollars of US Treasury plunder, Ben Ladin sports a new face and is living at remote 5-star hotels courtesy the Bush Crime Family, in my humble opinion.


    p.s. It looks like “the party” got to you after all doug, what a shame.

  4. Mr. May is making the assumption that al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) is significant in any way. It isn’t. See Andrew Tilghman’s “The Myth of AQI” in the “Washington Monthly.”

    AQI is mainly foreign leaders and Iraqi fighters who wish to impose strict sharia law after the U.S. is gone. They probably number less than 1,000 and are responsible for no more than 5% of the conflict. The highly secular Sunni Arabs don’t want these guys to remain after the U.S. is gone, and the Shites don’t want the AQI Sunni fighters in any case.

    Al-Qaeda in Iraq is more fiction than fact and mainly a stalking horse to those unwilling to admit that we were wrong to invade Iraq and are still wrong occupying Iraq.

    When we leave Iraq AQI will disappear. The various Shite groups will continue to fight and die until they decide to quit. The Sunni Arabs, Sunni Turkmen, and Sunni Kurds will fight and kill each other and the Shites until they all decide to quit. Our presence just prolongs this civil war.

    When we leave Iraq we can exert the full effort needed to fight the real al-Qaeda who attacked us on 9/11 in their hideouts in Pakistan, Afghanistan, or where ever the real culprits take themselves.

    Anyone note how effective the British and the Germans are at handling Islamist terrorists as law enforcement problems, not military problems? Could we learn something there?…nah, some of us refuse to learn.

  5. Cliff May has as much credibility as his good buddy George W. Bush. Both have been wrong on just about everything to do with Iraq. How stupid it would be to trust either one of them. Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me. Or as our inarticulate president would say “can’t get fooled
    again”. Although, he certainly keeps trying.

  6. Al Qaeda hasn’t _had_ to attack the US a second time — they’re still getting lots of mileage out of the last attacks, with heavy-lifting help from our current wrong-headed administration.

    I doubt that even al Qaeda could have predicted how well 9/11 would work out for them, because certainly they wouldn’t have expected the POTUS and Congress to hand them such a resounding and enduring victory on a platter.

    Some very wrong decisions have been made, and yet, every time we turn around, the same people who were all for making them are continuing to arge for them. Sheesh!

  7. KS good comments. I have heard enough of Cliff May to know that he qualifies as a never admit you were wrong neocon no matter how many bodies pile up.

    As for Doug, he seems to be determined to bring balance to the cite. However, a political hack is not the way to do it, unless Doug’s ultimate goal is to demonstrate just how inane these people are. Most of the people on this board seem to already know that.

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