The Safe Haven Fallacy
Posted by Michael Cohen
In the Washington Post, Paul Pillar has today's must-read piece exposing one of the key flawed assumptions underpinning the US effort in Afghanistan: that a Taliban-controlled Afghanistan risks again becoming a safe haven for al Qaeda. Pillar doesn't argue that such an event is impossible, but that even if it were to happen it wouldn't really matter all that much:
In the past couple of decades, international terrorist groups have thrived by exploiting globalization and information technology, which has lessened their dependence on physical havens.
As Pillar points out, al Qaeda has become more of an "ideological lodestar" rather than an operational organization - indeed since September 11th no major al Qaeda attacks have been organized and implemented from the current al Qaeda safe haven in Pakistan. And from an ideological standpoint, al Qaeda current influence in the Muslim has decreased significantly. Indeed, it seems that the best way to turn the Muslim world again against the United States and embolden and empower al Qaeda . . .. is to remain an occupying force in Afghanistan for the foreseeable future. As Pillar correctly notes:
Instead, the issue is whether preventing such a haven would reduce the terrorist threat to the United States enough from what it otherwise would be to offset the required expenditure of blood and treasure and the barriers to success in Afghanistan, including an ineffective regime and sagging support from the population. Thwarting the creation of a physical haven also would have to offset any boost to anti-U.S. terrorism stemming from perceptions that the United States had become an occupier rather than a defender of Afghanistan.
Read the whole piece here