September 10, 2011


The Next Ten Years of Al-Qaeda (Zalmay Khalilzad, September 9, 2011, National Interest)

For a period after our intervention in Iraq, al-Qaeda benefited from the unpopularity of our actions in many parts of the Arab and Islamic world. The group found a home among Sunni Arabs who initially opposed the new order in Iraq, and al-Qaeda decided to make Iraq the center of its struggle against the United States. The decision backfired. Al-Qaeda operatives--especially the foreign fighters--overreached, mistreating Iraqi Sunnis in its efforts to incite a "civil war within Islam" between the country's Shiites and Sunnis. U.S. and Iraqi leaders responded effectively to the growing rift between al-Qaeda and Iraqi Sunnis, and proactive diplomacy persuaded key Sunni groups to participate in the political process and become stakeholders in Iraq's democracy. On the military front, the coalition and its increasingly capable Iraqi partners teamed up with local Sunni forces to weaken al-Qaeda in Iraq dramatically.

As al-Qaeda suffered setbacks in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq, its popularity across the region declined. Despite Washington's inability to win broad regional support for its policies, support for al-Qaeda in the greater Middle East has fallen considerably. The Arab Spring could consolidate this shift at the ideological level. If the ongoing tumult results in liberal societies responsive to the demands of their polities, al-Qaeda will have a harder time surviving without a political environment conducive to extremism.

Safer, however, does not mean that we are safe. One consequence of the U.S. mission in Afghanistan is that much of the al-Qaeda threat has shifted to Pakistan.

Which requires that we recognize a series of independent states that are not Pakistani territory.

Posted by at September 10, 2011 7:28 AM

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