This hope [ending Afghan corruption] is delusional, as the remainder of the editorial makes clear (Karzai's most important political allies, as well as members of his family, are among the corrupt). No amount of jawboning is going to cure the systemic corruption that plagues the Afghan government. Building the rule of law, moreover, takes decades even under favorable circumstances.The author is correct about Afghan corruption, but he should stick to his legal wet dreams and not counter-terrorism.
But the greater error in this policy is that our military presence in Afghanistan is making the terrorism problem worse (see this essay), not better, because it inflames Islamic radicalism worldwide--including homegrown terrorism. (Meanwhile, Al Qaeda has other places to seek refuge and locate training camps.)
The idea that we should stop fighting Islamist radicals because fighting them pisses of Islamic radicals is old, worn and comes from the festering bowels of far left ignorance. Islamist ideas aren't knee-jerk reactionary burps. It's a well thought out ideology born of the combination of anti-Americanism, anti-Western civilian and Islamic superiority. Sayyid Qutb, the father of modern Islamist terrorism, wrote volumes of theory and ideology. The goal? Islamic supremacy. Not the liberation of Palestine. Not the ending of American friendships with the Saudis. Not stopping Danish cartoons. Absolute and total supremacy of Islam. Some, like Hibz ut Tahir, try to do it politically. Others, like Al Qaeda, see themselves as the vanguard force of the new Islamic caliphate. Either way, being nice to the radicals won't stop them. They have goals, power structures, ideals; an entire state all planned out when they win. They hunger for power vacuums, they do not abhor them.
The greatest thing Al Qaeda could have is a base of operations as large as Afghanistan. Currently, Al Qaeda is trapped in the tribal areas of Pakistan with its leaders in hiding, not an ideal situation for the group. Before 9/11, they trained tens of thousands, financed themselves through drugs, had the protection of the Taliban and, by proxy, the protection of Pakistan. After 9/11, we captured major players in the group, forced them into a remote area of a new ally, tracked their calls, killed their leaders and constantly harassed them. Unless Al Qaeda gets a new country as a base (like Afghanistan for instance if we leave prematurely) they are stuck as moral support. The groups capable of attacks are stuck in their respective areas. Al Qaeda in Iraq was soundly defeated by the surge, but they are still a problem. Al-Qaeda Organization in the Islamic Maghreb was formerly an Algerian Isalmist group that has plans of going global, but remain an Algerian problem for now. Al-Qaeda in Yemen has been the biggest problem of the last year. They armed and trained the infamous Christmas Day Pantybomber. All of these groups would just adore us if we left Afghanistan open to establishment of a central Al-Qaeda base.
Just like they adore the left-wing idiots that represent them in courts they had no right to be in.