Bin Laden is gone, so what happens in Afghanistan?
By Matt Southworth on 05/04/2011 @ 10:00 PM
Regardless of how one feels about the death of Osama bin Laden, his departure from this earth should be a foreign policy game changer—in Afghanistan and in how the U.S. handles violent extremism around the world.
The “global war on terror” is over. Osama bin Laden is dead and the al Qaeda network he commanded is not an existential threat to the United States.
The real question is will President Obama take this occasion to shift U.S. policy away from failing military lead strategies to “defeat” ideologies, opting instead for a strategy which includes robust diplomatic efforts, political and economic solutions though non-military lead development and greater reliance on justice through international police actions and international courts.
In Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearings held yesterday, the conversation from the panelists was not dramatically different than I predicted last week. Not anticipated, however, were the remarks of both committee Chair John Kerry and Ranking Member Dick Lugar.
Senator Kerry believes the Obama administration has to shift to broader reconciliation efforts, stating “What we face is a political resolution.” Senator Lugar was more forward, essentially saying we’re spending billions to no end. “It is exceedingly difficult to conclude that our vast expenditures in Afghanistan represent a rational allocation of our military and financial assets.” Translation: war in Afghanistan costs too much, is not working and is not worth it.
President Obama can no longer justify an annual $120 billion nation building-manhunt for Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan. There’s a moderately clear path to successful political reconciliation, despite the efforts of some to muddy up prospects. It starts with a large reduction of U.S. forces from Afghanistan in July and an immediate beginning of political reconciliation talks for all Afghan groups.
The time to shift policy in Afghanistan has long been upon us; now—with the political space to do so—President Obama has no excuse not to.