I’m generally in agreement with John’s post that we ought to get out of Afghanistan, but on one of his questions–would Al Qaeda return if we “bug out*–the Wall Street Journal reports this morning that they already have. The front-page story is behind a subscriber firewall so I won’t link it, but here’s the most relevant paragraph:
Over the last six to eight months, al Qaeda has begun setting up training camps, hideouts and operations bases along Afghanistan’s northeastern border with Pakistan, some U.S., Afghan, and Taliban officials say. The stepped-up infiltration followed a U.S. pullback from large swatches of the region starting 18 months ago. The areas were deemed strategically irrelevant and left to Afghanistan’s uneven security forces, and in some parts, abandoned entirely.
This does not sound good.
(*Here’s how John put it: “Is there a danger that if we leave, the Taliban will re-take control and, perhaps, invite al Qaeda or other terrorist groups to join them? Yes. However, it it not obvious that, after what happened in 2001, the Taliban will be quick to make its territory, once again, into a launching pad. If they do, one would hope that drones, bombs and perhaps the kind of small-scale insertion of troops that we mounted in 2001 will be an adequate response.” The Wall Street Journal explains that this is exactly what we’ve done in the area, with one recent strike taking out several high value targets. So perhaps the story offers some vindication of John’s view here.)