"Less Than Fifty" Al-Qaeda Left in Afghanistan: Wishing for the Simple Certainty of George W. Bush

On October 7, 2001 President George W. Bush spoke to the nation and the world from the Treaty Room in the White House. He announced the beginning of the United States attack on Afghanistan, the start of a just war based on every nation's right of self defense. President Bush used these words to describe our military intentions, our objectives, the reasons why we went to war in Afghanistan: "These carefully targeted actions are designed to disrupt the use of Afghanistan as a terrorist base of operations, and to attack the military capability of the Taliban regime." Sound and achievable objectives, unambiguously stated. By all accounts that war should have been over almost before it was begun. Instead it has lasted this long. To the confusion of many Americans, it continues with no foreseeable end in sight.

Today, June 27, 2010, nearly nine years after President Bush's succinct, concise and crystal clear declaration of U.S. military goals in Afghanistan, the current CIA Director, Leon Panetta, who serves under President Barack Obama, said there might be "less than fifty" al-Qaeda terrorists left in Afghanistan. "Less than fifty." But we have almost 100,000 U.S. troops there, plus a contingent of NATO forces. We are spending billions monthly to continue this apparently already successful war effort.

If President Bush meant it when he said our military goal was "to disrupt the use of Afghanistan as a terrorist base of operations" by what conceivable measurement haven't we long ago achieved that? Isn't having "less than fifty" of the enemy left victory, measured to a military certainty? Are we really afraid that "less than fifty"al-Qaeda members might use Afghanistan as a base of terrorist operations to launch more attacks on the United States? Is there a rational person who can argue the necessity to have a military advantage on the ground of 100,000 to 50?

I cannot find anything in President Bush's remarks on October 7, 2001 that say anything about establishing democracy or freedom in Afghanistan. I find no mention of a U.S. commitment to spend billions upon billions to build civil infrastructure or governmental institutions in Afghanistan. Nowhere in the president's war message did Bush tell us that we would recruit, arm and train an Afghan national army and a national police department for Afghanistan. And all at our expense.

The second of Bush's October 2001 war objectives was "to attack the military capability of the Taliban regime." The last time I looked, and for many years before that, there hasn't even been a "Taliban regime." Whatever meager military capability the once-and-gone Taliban regime in Afghanistan had, nine years ago in October 2001, it no longer exists.

Simply put, there are no Taliban armies, no Taliban navy and no Taliban air force.

So, the U.S. went to war in Afghanistan expressly to drive out the Taliban government then in place and eliminate its military capability, and also to disrupt the efforts of al-Qaeda to use Afghanistan as a base of operation from which to launch further attacks against us. Such being the case -- we won! Didn't we?

Can someone tell me why we haven't brought our troops home in victory?

Just in case someone tells you we have to stay there because al Queda has moved to the mysterious, practically fictional place called either "the area between Afghanistan and Pakistan" or more specifically "the tribal areas of Pakistan" my question is: Why -- wherever these "places" may be -- why don't we have our 100,000 troops there?

I never thought I would find myself wishing for the simple certainty of George W. Bush. But I am.