In a speech at the National Defense University on May 23, Barack Obama declared an end to the global war on terror. The threat posed by al Qaeda, its affiliates, and those it inspires can be managed, he said. “As we shape our response, we have to recognize that the scale of this threat closely resembles the types of attacks we faced before 9/11. . . . [I]f dealt with smartly and proportionally, these threats need not rise to the level that we saw on the eve of 9/11.”
Berlin—Since President Obama ordered the special forces strike that killed mass murderer Osama Bin Laden earlier this month, the German government has grown increasingly reluctant to help Washington find terrorists who are fighting U.S. and allied troops in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Osama bin Laden’s killing was a great moment for America and for decent people around the world. But allowing the euphoria of that moment to drive us to irresponsible decisions in South Asia would be devastating to America’s interests and security. Al Qaeda has not yet been dismantled or defeated.
Mitch Daniels, the Republican governor of Indiana and a possible presidential candidate in 2012, still hasn't fleshed out his ideas on foreign policy in general or the war in Afghanistan in particular.
Charles Krauthammer has it right: the number one take-away from Osama bin Laden’s killing is the “reach, power and efficiency” of the American military. The reach is global, the power is both immense and immensely precise (President Obama was able to reject the bomb-it-to-smithereens option on Osama bin Laden’s compound in favor of the special operations raid), and the application of force produced exactly the outcome intended.
First reports from the battlefield are notoriously inaccurate, and it’s to be expected that they will be confusing and contradictory – and, considering that “sources and methods” and Pakistani sensibilities are fairly important in this case, probably intentionally misleading. The initial stories about the raid that killed Osama bin Laden may not stand the test of time. But here are some pertinent operational and tactical questions:
The must-read piece on terrorism this week comes from Philip Shenon, writing at The Daily Beast. Shenon writes about a cache of intelligence documents stored at the National Security Agency (NSA) that received a cursory review by the 9/11 Commission because they were only discovered shortly before the Commission’s final report went to the presses. It is a story that Shenon tells in his 2008 book, The Commission: The Uncensored History of the 9/11 Investigation.
A very significant piece of reporting from the Associated Press this morning. Matt Apuzzo and Adam Goldman report that Iran is allowing top al Qaeda leaders based in Iran to leave, "raising the prospect that Iran is loosening its grip on the terror group so it can replenish its ranks, former and current US intelligence officials say."
A Newsweek blogger writes that we don't know if any of the 12 men killed in the 2007 video of an operation in Baghdad "had weapons."
WikiLeaks presented the video without a great deal of context, so we're equally hindered by what we don't know: who the other men are, whether any of them in fact had weapons, and whether there was good reason to believe they had been engaged in hostile activities before the film started rolling.
Yesterday I noted that the Wikileaks tape purportedly showing U.S. troops "murdering" Iraqis in Baghdad in July 2007 appeared to begin in mid-stream. A New York Times article confirms that the tape has indeed been cut. There are 21 additional minutes of tape:
Wikileaks, the website devoted to publishing classified documents on the Internet, made a splash today with a video claiming to show that the U.S. military "murdered" a Reuters cameraman and other Iraqi "civilians" in Baghdad on July 12, 2007. But a careful watching of the video shows that the U.S. helicopter gun crews that attacked a group of armed men in the then Mahdi Army stronghold of New Baghdad was anything but "Collateral Murder," as Wikileaks describes the incident.
Just before Barack Obama's inauguration, CNN asked Americans: "do you think the U.S. should continue to operate this [detention] facility [at Guantanamo Bay] or do you think the U.S. should close this facility and transfer the prisoners to other facilities?"
The results: 51 percent favored closing Gitmo and 47 percent wanted to keep it open.
A new poll shows a huge shift: Only 39 percent favor closing Gitmo and 60 percent want to keep it open.