Thomas Joscelyn and Bill Roggio have published an article at The Weekly Standard discussing the Obama administration’s strategy for dealing with al Qaeda and allied terrorist groups. After years of back-and-forth between the administration and elements of the military establishment over the strategy to deal with the terrorist threat, the proponents of a counterterrorism-based approach to dealing with al Qaeda and allied groups have won the fight. Counterinsurgency (COIN) efforts to uproot the jihadist insurgencies raging in Africa, the Middle East, and Central Asia have given way to drone strikes, limited special operations raids, and cooperation with local and often unreliable governments.
The Obama administration’s growing preference for counterterrorism over counterinsurgency operations is a topic that Thomas and Bill discussed in detail with respect to Afghanistan in October 2009, in Al Qaeda is the Tip of the Jihadist Spear.
The recent article at The Weekly Standard is titled “Strategic Retreat.” A short excerpt is below, but read the whole thing.
Drones are not enough to contain this menace. But President Obama has done away with COIN, the U.S. military’s counterinsurgency doctrine centered on building up allied local forces and good governance, for more limited counterterrorism measures such as drones and special forces raids. It apparently does not matter to the Obama administration that such tactics failed to stop al Qaeda’s armies from previously controlling parts of Iraq and continuing to control territory elsewhere.
Al Qaeda is hardly invincible. It has been greatly weakened, in some ways, during the past decade. But al Qaeda and its allies can only be strengthened by America’s retreat from the lands of jihad. And they are not the only ones watching as President Obama takes his eye off the ball. Terror-sponsoring regimes like those in Iran and Pakistan have learned that there is no substantial price to be paid for spilling American blood. They’ve learned, too, that America’s commitment to fight its enemies is severely constrained by domestic political considerations.
The Obama administration lauds its counterterrorism partnerships with friendly governments. Allies, indeed, are invaluable. But the Arab Spring has introduced uncertainty into some of these relationships. In Egypt, a government dominated by the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood has replaced the regime of the friendly, if despicable, Hosni Mubarak. In Yemen, a duplicitous but sometimes helpful President Ali Abdullah Saleh has given way to chaos and a growing al Qaeda insurgency. In Libya, the gangster-terrorist Muammar Qaddafi, who also occasionally provided counterterrorism assistance, has fallen to a coalition that includes jihadists. We should not be sad to see the Mubaraks, Salehs, and Qaddafis go. But now that they are gone, we should be worried that the American government under President Obama will not seek to influence the course their nations take.
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