The US got bin Laden in what has to be considered a phenomenally successful counterterrorism operation. You’ve had years of experience in Afghanistan. What do you think of continuing a counterinsurgency operation with the big success of counterterrorism at this point?
Bin Laden was the head of al-Qaeda. Our counterinsurgency campaign in Afghanistan is really focused on winning the people. So they’re separate and distinct. Now, if I was a mid- or a high- level insurgent, I would be aware that they just nailed bin Laden. Most of those folks who are operating in Afghanistan are already running tired and scared because similar forces have been hunting those guys down for the last few years. If you can separate the head from the body, it enables the conventional as well as the other forces that are operating on the ground to really protect the people.
As for the counterinsurgency campaign—this summer is going to be a critical period. I was in Afghanistan (in 2009 and 2010) in Kandahar and this is where we’re going to understand the success we’ve had with providing the security for the Afghan people.Enjoying this article? Click here to subscribe for full access. Just $5 a month.
Do you think there is a wedge now between the Taliban and al-Qaeda out of this?
I would think that this would perhaps create an opportunity for the Karzai government to be a little bit more appealing to the Taliban. So some reconciliation or reintegration. I think it was Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who stated in February that it was US policy now to support the reconciliation process with Afghan President Hamid Karzai. These are venues, opportunities for the Taliban to reintegrate into Afghan society. I believe that as long as they are willing to operate peacefully and within the boundaries of Afghan civil society, that they would be welcome at the table.
For a soldier, that is somewhat frustrating, because we’ve lost a lot of men and women in Afghanistan fighting the Taliban. But at the end of the day, it’s their country. This counterinsurgency campaign is created to win the people. If the people elect Karzai, and they have a political process that’s peaceful, and it includes this party called the Taliban, maybe it will be the Taliban in name only. I don’t think that they’re going to tolerate the kind of violence that the Taliban have inflicted on their people as the ‘new normal.’ The Afghans we ran into, they hated the Taliban; they feared the Taliban. And that repressive justice does nothing for their children. Just like we do, they want what’s best for their kids. They want for the next generation better than what they had.