The chart above shows the number of troops committed in Afghanistan.
"To leave Afghanistan as a playground for terrorists and adventurers was simply not possible anymore."
- Lakhdar Brahimi
Veteran United Nations Envoy and Advisor
As the international community continues to closely monitor and criticize the military actions occurring throughout Afghanistan, the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) carefully proceeds with its counterinsurgency strategy in support of President Obama’s guidance for U.S. military troops to begin leaving the worn-torn country in July 2011. Not unlike the President’s guidance to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility within a year of his taking office, this date may prove unrealistic as well. The real question that should come to mind when discussing the removal of U.S. troops from this region of the world is: how will this action impact our homeland security posture with reference to future Islamic terrorist attacks? Unfortunately, I fear our political leaders are not considering the potential second and third order effects of our leaving Afghanistan. The war on terror is far from over once we depart; as a matter of fact, it will only be the beginning of even greater homeland security concerns.
As previously mentioned in my summer edition column, there are two solid debates involving the future of terrorist attacks inside our borders as they directly pertain to the imminent departure of our military forces from Afghanistan. The first issue states Americans will become less of a target to al-Qaeda while the second position believes our nation will become a more viable prey. Regardless of which side of this debate you defend, it all becomes pure speculation by every person caught up in the process.
Terrorism has existed in many forms throughout past centuries mostly due, in part, to religious persecution. When terrorism is tied to the religion of Islam, most scholars and other experts refer back to the 7th Century of the Prophet Mohammed, better known as the “Golden Age” of Islam. Since this time, the pursuit of another worldwide Caliphate has become a motivating passion for several religious zealots. Even more important is the fact that most martyrs have become a member of the al-Qaeda social movement through absolute ignorance, following deaf and blind, a select group of individuals who recruit, preach, and incite much like cult leaders of the past: Jim Jones, Charles Manson, and David Koresh. And yes, I am comparing Usama bin Laden and his ilk to Jones, Manson, and Koresh, but not with respect to terrorism—only in recruitment and all that is involved in the development of martyrs.
So, where does that leave us once our military finally departs from Afghanistan? Well, right back where we started, folks. The infidels (non-believers) will continue to inhabit the Holy Lands in the pursuit of religion, business, and in other economic capacities. Americans will always be found in the Middle East long after our military operations have ended, which will allow al-Qaeda to use their religious and political agenda to target and murder many more innocent people in a continuing stream of human sacrifices to their illegal Islamic fatwas! To believe that al-Qaeda will lose its motivation to attack the United States once our armed forces have departed Afghanistan is pure ignorance. It shows a complete lack of understanding of this body of terroristic activity and those who call themselves mujahidin. We have helped open a Pandora’s box of civil and religious unrest in that region and provided bin Laden and his group of merry men —and women—a series of opportunistic targets they refer to as the "far enemy." Regardless of our actions, reactions, or counteractions to their modus operandi, Islamic terrorism will continue to create an enormous security concern for our nation and remain a constant threat to our Republic and democratic society.
Osama bin Laden’s illegal fatwas have historically proven to be the necessary fuel to develop what has become a very real and imminent international threat to the Western world as a whole. Our presence in the Middle East was just an excuse, a precipitator if you will, for the al-Qaeda social movement to launch a personal war against Americans and the Western world after our military support was welcomed in 1991 by the Saudi royal family. Our war against terror in Afghanistan might come to a “quiet end” at some point in the not-so-distant future, but our engagement in the war against terror will continue deep into the future—long after Operation “Enduring Freedom” terminates.
Can we afford to allow this war on terror to become nothing more than a piece of history our children and grandchildren learn as they grow up in a very difficult world, while discerning how to protect themselves and their country against even more terrifying and devastating, terrorist attacks in the future? I would hope the answer is an emphatic NO.
As the United States and other Coalition forces leave Afghanistan, the Western world will continue to serve as a prime target for future al-Qaeda attacks. The proverbial bullet has left the barrel, and it cannot be returned at this point. We must face the fact that terrorism is a part of our past and will remain a part of our future despite our actions in Afghanistan.
MAJ (U.S. Ret.) Richard Hughbank, MA, MS, CHS-IV, CMAS
MAJ Richard Hughbank, U.S. Army (retired), is an assistant professor in the criminal justice department at Northwestern State University where he teaches graduate level homeland security studies. He is the president of Extreme Terrorism Consulting, LLC. and has over 21 years of experience in the Military Police Corps. Hughbank is a combat veteran in the War on Terror and a published author in the fields of security, active shooters, terrorism and homeland security. He may be contacted at www.understandterror.com, or at his e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or professional Facebook blog, Understand Terror.