Jewish World Review Oct. 21, 2003 / 25 Tishrei, 5764

Robert Stewart

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Is this war being won? You bet, just don't ask the congressman with the embarrassingly bad timing | In a speech Monday, U.S. Senator and frequent administration critic Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) took to the Senate floor to launch into an attack of the administration's handling of the war on terror. This was poor timing: yet another senior al Qaeda leader was arrested in Afghanistan less than four hours before Conrad's lecture-the third arrest of a major al Qaeda operative since the onset of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Conrad used the weekend release of an Osama bin Laden audio tape to argue that America is distracted from the war on terror, and that the Bush administration has failed by diverting attention to Iraq. "The evidence I see is that the resources and the attention are going to Iraq that I believe should have been first directed at taking out Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda," he said. But the evidence, whether he sees it or not, argues for just the opposite. Though overwhelming attention has been paid to the reconstruction-and increasingly, the casualties-of Iraq, terrorists have largely been held at bay, killed, or otherwise muted.

Despite an enormous operation in Iraq and growing criticism on the hustings, the administration is continuing to drain the swamp of international terrorism. Though it's infrequently the lead story on the nightly news or in editorial pages, thousands of arrests by thousands of troops and intelligence forces have been achieved around the world since the attacks of September 11, 2001.

Critics of Operation Iraqi Freedom-most notably then-presidential candidate Bob Graham-claimed, as Conrad now does, that the buildup to war drained people and resources from the war on terror, allowing al-Qaeda to regenerate. But a careful consideration of the facts shows that argument to be little more than rhetoric and red meat for political activists in the Democrat base. As Monday's arrest in Afghanistan of the Taliban's liaison to al-Qaeda, Mullah Janan, highlights so effectively, the international effort continues unabated.

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Janan was captured with an assist from Afghan troops (who now cooperate with, rather than attack, U.S. troops) in the province of Uruzgan. A senior commander, Janan is credited with close ties to Osama bin Laden himself, and likely bears information as to his whereabouts. And given his ties to al Qaeda, Janan likely possesses useful information for the troops hunting-and defeating-an international terror network.

Remember Afghanistan? It's the country that once served as home-base for al-Qaeda, stoned women in sports stadiums before capacity crowds, and banned girls from attending school. And though it is not yet a secure and modern haven for democracy, young girls are enrolling in schools, and women-once banned from appearing in public unescorted-now serve at the highest levels of government.

Success, though, is not limited to Afghanistan and the military victory in Iraq. Already this year, in the height of planning for the invasion of Iraq, numerous al Qaeda leaders were captured or killed. Successes include the arrest in March of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, who many believe was responsible for planning the 9/11 attacks. And in August, a senior al Qaeda official known as Hambali was arrested in Thailand-a major victory for the war on terror. Hambali was the operations chief of the Jemaah Islamiyah terror group and the suspected mastermind of the terrorist activities in Southeast Asia, including the bombings in Bali, and Jakarta. And though it wasn't given much attention, his younger brother Rusman Gunawan was among 17 people arrested as a result of raids on three Islamic schools in Karachi, Pakistan.

American military and intelligence officials, through joint efforts with nations around the globe, have made numerous captures (both public and otherwise), destroyed training centers, and disrupted hundreds of planned attacks, all while successfully liberating Iraq.

In a speech to a joint session of Congress on September 20, 2001, Bush warned that efforts in the war on terror would include "dramatic strikes, visible on TV," but that others would be "covert operations, secret even in success." It is impossible to know how many secret successes American military and intelligence forces have achieved, but one thing remains clear: the war is being won, whether critics and armchair generals like Conrad acknowledge it or not.

JWR contributor Robert Stewart, a former Army intelligence analyst, is now a writer based in Washington, D.C. Comment by clicking here.


© 2003, Robert Stewart