Tomorrow's War

Quoting an unnamed Administration official, Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut said this on Fox News Sunday, "Iraq was yesterday's war, Afghanistan is today's war. If we don't act preemptively, Yemen will be tomorrow's war." Endorsing that view, Senator Lieberman went on to note that unless we act preemptively now the US is likely to find itself in a war in the southwest corner of the Arabian peninsula. Senator Lieberman argued that the US will have to take an active approach in Yemen after multiple recent terrorist attacks were linked back to the small, deeply divided and desperately poor nation.

From The Hill:

Lieberman, who is known to be hawkish on security issues, said that Yemen needs to be a focal point because two recent attacks were linked back to a growing al-Qaeda presence there.

Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan -- the Army officer who killed 13 people in a shooting rampage at Fort Hood in November -- was linked to Anwar al-Awlaki, a radical Muslim cleric now based in Yemen.

The senator said that Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the 23-year-old Nigerian accused of attempting to set off a plastic-explosive device aboard a Northwest Airlines flight from Amsterdam to Detroit on Friday, "reached out to Yemen" but was "not sure" if he contacted al-Awlaki. Abdulmutallab reportedly told authorities he traveled to Yemen and met al-Qaida figures there.

The U.S. earlier this month launched cruise missiles at two al-Qaeda targets in Yemen. The attacks represented a major escalation of U.S. efforts against al-Qaeda in Yemen.

One of the reasons I like Robert Gates, the Secretary of Defense, is that for quite some time now almost alone in the Washington wilderness he has been talking about the threat emanating from failed states. "In recent years, the lines separating war, peace, diplomacy and development have become more blurred and no longer fit the neat organizational charts of the 20th century," Secretary Gates noted in a speech in Washington in July 2008 when he was still serving in the Bush Administration.

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The President on Afghanistan

DAVID GREGORY: Let me ask you about another important issue facing you and your administration, and that is Afghanistan. We've now been in Afghanistan for eight years. The Soviets pulled out of Afghanistan after ten years. Are we committed to this war for an indefinite period of time? Or do you think, in your mind, is there a deadline for withdrawal?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: I don't have a deadline for withdrawal. But I'm certainly not somebody who believes in indefinite occupations of other countries. Keep in mind what happened when I came in. We had been adrift, I think, when it came to our Afghanistan strategy. And what I said was that we are going to do a top to bottom review of what's taking place there.

Not just a one time review, but we're gonna do a review before the election in Afghanistan, and then we're gonna do another review after the election. And we are gonna see how this is fitting what, I think, is our core goal. Which is to go after the folks who killed the 3,000 Americans during 9/11, and who are still plotting to kill us, al Qaeda. How do we dismantle them, disrupt them, destroy them?

Now, getting our strategy right in Afghanistan and in Pakistan are both important elements of that. But that's our goal. And I want to stay focused on that. And- and so, right now, what's happened is that we've had an election in Afghanistan. It did not go as smoothly as I think we would have hoped. And there are some serious issues in terms of how that- how the election was conducted in some parts of the country. But we've had that election. We now finally have the 21,000 troops in place that I had already ordered to go.

DAVID GREGORY: Are you skeptical about more troops? About sending more troops?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, can I just say this? I am- I have to exercise skepticism anytime I send a single young man or woman in uniform into harm's way. Because I'm the one who's answerable to their parents if they don't come home. So I have to ask some very hard questions anytime I send our troops in.

The question that I'm asking right now is to our military, to General McChrystal, to General Petraeus, to all our national security apparatus, is- whether it's troops who are already there, or any troop request in the future, how does this advance America's national security interests? How does it make sure that al Qaeda and its extremist allies cannot attack the United States homeland, our allies, our troops who are based in Europe?

That's the question that I'm constantly asking because that's the primary threat that we went there to deal with. And if- if supporting the Afghan national government, and building capacity for their army, and securing certain provinces advances that strategy, then we'll move forward.

But, if it doesn't, then I'm not interested in just being in Afghanistan for the sake of being in Afghanistan or saving face or, in some way- you know, sending a message that America- is here for- for the duration. I think it's important that we match strategy to resources.

What I'm not also gonna do, though, is put the resource question before the strategy question. Until I'm satisfied that we've got the right strategy I'm not gonna be sending some young man or woman over there- beyond what we already have.

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