We are wrapping up Battleland today on account of the war is over. Al-Qaeda is basically dead. As a result, the United States is pulling out of Afghanistan and Iraq tomorrow, bringing home all those drones, stopping warrantless wiretapping, closing the prison at Guantanamo, etc. etc. etc.
Except none of that is true, except the part about al-Qaeda, if you believe the Washington Post today. The Post has a strange story on the front page today declaring al-Qaeda effectively dead. The piece cites a “widespread view at the CIA and other agencies” about that fact, though strangely, nobody seems willing to be quoted as saying so.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta recently told troops in Afghanistan that the United States was “within reach of strategically defeating al-Qaeda.” The best the Post could come up with to back that up was an unnamed, senior U.S. counterterrorism official who told the Post, “I’m not sure I would have chosen ‘strategic defeat.'” Instead, the official, who refused to be named, said it was more like rendering the part of al-Qaeda that is based in Pakistan “largely incapable of catastrophic attacks against the homeland,” which, I guess, is something like defeat.
There is also the fact that the piece does not point out a single thing that will change as a result of this alleged defeat. The story notes in paragraph two, in fact, that, “al-Qaeda might yet rally and that even its demise would not end the terrorist threat, which is increasingly driven by radicalized individuals as well as aggressive affiliates.” The article also quotes Georgia Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss, who notes that, “Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula is nowhere near defeat.” (That’s the affiliate based in Yemen.)
It’s sort of like all those quotes from government officials for years saying that bin Laden was irrelevant to al-Qaeda, until we killed him and said afterward that he was hugely relevant, though not really, on account of al-Qaeda is constantly changing, and so on.
So zero changes because al-Qaeda is “close to collapse” as the Post says, and in fact the threat is continuing to morph as it has been for a decade. So we have an article about what, exactly? I recognize that we all yearn for a W in the war on terrorism column, or a surrender on the USS Missouri, but this one doesn’t work like that and there is not much use in playing with the words to make it seem that way.