Speaking at a ceremony at the Pentagon on the eight year anniversary of the September 11 attacks, President Barack Obama vowed that America would “renew our resolve” to fight al-Qaeda and insisted that he would never waver from that course of action.
At the same time half a world away, General Stanley McChrystal was saying that there was no sign of any significant al-Qaeda presence in Afghanistan. President Obama has made the escalation of the war in Afghanistan the cornerstone of his foreign policy, and has sold the continuation of the eight year long war primarily on the basis of the threat posed by al-Qaeda.
In Iraq, the top commander there General Ray Odierno declared that Iraqis had rejected al-Qaeda and that there was no chance they would ever be able to establish a “caliphate” in the nation. There was virtually no al-Qaeda presence in Iraq prior to America’s 2003 invasion, but the group has since spent the last several years launching attacks there, killing an enormous number of civilians.
On this anniversary, America has roughly 130,000 troops in Iraq, and roughly 68,000 troops in Afghanistan. The administration is widely expected to add another 20,000 troops to the war. President Obama has also dramatically increased the number of drone attacks inside Pakistan. He’s also increasing tensions with both Iran and North Korea, nations which have essentially zero al-Qaeda presence.
What President Obama doesn’t have, however, is any idea where Osama bin Laden, the reclusive leader of al-Qaeda, actually is. Eight years of war, and hundreds of billions of dollars have left the US mired in conflicts without significant connections to al-Qaeda, and no real plan for how to fight them other than to “renew our resolve.”
Where will this “resolve” take America next? The options are virtually limitless America has shown an eagerness to tie Somali insurgents to al-Qaeda, and has backed Ethiopia’s military intervention there. The administration has likewise been pressing the Yemeni government, already fighting a civil war against Shi’ite separatists, to tackle al-Qaeda there, and analysts say it is almost inevitable the US is going to be sucked into that conflict.