Is the Afghanistan Strategy a ‘Bankshot’?
Rep. Rob Andrews (D-N.J.), offering what he calls “unsolicited advice,” said that the American people won’t support sending additional troops to Afghanistan “on a bankshot” when al-Qaeda is mostly in Pakistan. How large is al-Qaeda’s presence in Afghanistan?
“In terms of numbers, there is not a robust al-Qaeda presence,” said Gen. Stanley McChrystal. But he broadens the question as one about al-Qaeda’s strategic depth. “In terms of ability, linkages to people like the Haqqani network and the Quetta Shura Taliban” and their surrogates, “in fact they do have significant linkages and influence.”
Andrews asked about what the United States is doing about al-Qaeda in Pakistan. McChrystal reminds that he doesn’t have the portfolio to deal directly with Pakistan. But he makes a subtle point about why he rejects a counterterrorism-only strategy. “Based upon my background, I would tell you the most effective long-term tactic against terrorism is governance.” McChrystal, of course, used to helm the Joint Special Operations Command, the military forces that would direct a counterterrorism-only strategy.
One last thing, he said. While he wouldn’t take away the right of U.S. forces to respond to — though he doesn’t say this directly — attacks on them from within Pakistan, he said he would be “very cautious” about how he would let that play out. “The sovereignty of Pakistan is as sacred as the sovereignty as any other country,” McCrystal said.