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Not every 'failed state' is a threat

COMMENTARY | June 03, 2009

Using our military to try to deprive al Qaeda of sanctuaries will not bring us immunity from the next terrorist attack, writes a former CIA station chief. That attack can be organized, planned, funded and carried out from any safehouse in any country that allows freedom of movement. By contrast, as long as we use our military to try to mold the world to our liking, we are going to create more and more people and nations who will wish us ill, increasing the likelihood that we will be attacked again.

By Haviland Smith

After 9/11, the Bush Administration concluded that it would have to look very carefully at every nation that could conceivably provide a launch pad for an al Qaeda attack on the United States.  Later it was further decided that any “failed state” in Islam could supply Al Qaeda with the environment it needed.

Of course, the state that harbored the 9/11 terrorists was not a failed state.  It was a state dominated by the Taliban.  In their Afghan facility, al Qaeda ran a complete terrorist training operation, grooming their troops for just about any conceivable paramilitary task.  They trained their recruits as guerillas, attack troops, bomb makers, snipers, suicide foot, car and truck bombers and anything else that struck them as appropriate for a terrorist organization.

What they could not train them to do in the Afghan mountain caves was to fly planes into buildings. They had to come to America for that training. Nor was it necessary for them to find a failed state or a friendly state in order to sit down and plan 9/11.  They could do that in just about any mud hut in the Pushtun countryside or in any other country that provided freedom of movement, like America, Spain, Germany, France or England, in all of which countries they have subsequently done just that.

Indeed,  9/11 was planned and then trained for in places that had absolutely nothing to do with failed states.  It would almost certainly have been successfully planned and carried out in the absence of a safe haven in Afghanistan.

We have recently been ominously informed that Somalia and the Yemen could easily turn into “failed states” that could provide support for al Qaeda training and plotting.  And if we look at a map, there are other states in Islam with which we do not enjoy cordial relationships, states that do not hold us in high esteem.  Any of these states could turn into a sanctuary for al Qaida. 

Apparently the Saudis are concerned about a growing threat from the Yemen.  This concern is shared by Gen. David Petraeus, who recently told Congress that the weakness of Yemen's government provides al Qaeda a safe haven and that terror groups could "threaten Yemen's neighbors, especially Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states."

So, there is some reason for our allies in the Middle East to be concerned about al Qaeda and failing states.  That may mean that we should also be concerned, as long as we understand that it is not a military issue which will directly involve the United States.  It is a security problem for the Saudis and should be handled by them and any other threatened country.

There are two lessons here.  The first is that there are always bad people doing bad things in the world.  It is important for us to learn that we are not responsible for rectifying all the world’s ills.  We need to let the rest of the world accept primary responsibility for its own wellbeing.

The second is that undertaking to keep states from failing and trying to make sure that al Qaeda doesn’t have any friends who will give them sanctuary will not bring us any sort of immunity from the next terrorist attack.  That attack can be organized, planned, funded and carried out from any safehouse in any part of the world that gives its residents a relative lack of scrutiny.  It requires neither a friendly nor a failing state.

As long as we are compulsively militarily involved in trying to mold the world to our liking, we are going to create more and more people and nations who will wish us ill, increasing the likelihood that we will be attacked again.

We are at a crossroads here.  At our own peril, we are either going to continue to undertake truly high risk military operations like the Iraq war in places like Afghanistan, Pakistan and perhaps elsewhere, or, having been given the opportunity to change as a result of the elections of November 2008, we can reassess our role in the world and consider the possibility that there are other ways to do our business that will not keep us stretched thin around the world and not put us constantly in military, political and economic jeopardy.

Political enigma of 9/11 syndrome
Posted by Syed Qamar Afzal Rizvi
12/05/2009, 03:59 AM

The argument offered by Haviland Smith regarding the mystery of 9/11 happening and its illogical linkage to the save-havens' theory carries much leverage and appeal.

The common man's mind in a street to a personified man's wisdom in a cabinet seemed equally surprised to note that an evil planning such as of the 9/11 attack on the twin towers in America(technologically the world's most advanced country) was engineered by those persons who are believed to have been living in a highly undeveloped area of the world(Afghanistan).

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