I am a great admirer of The New York Times; it is a great exemplar of quality journalism in both its news reporting and its opinion pieces. I must, however, take issue with an editorial on the Dutch withdrawal from Afghanistan in its 25 February 2010 edition.
The editorial laments the Dutch intention to withdraw the 2,000 troops it has fighting in Oruzgan Province and concludes:
Europe’s leaders need to tell themselves — and their voters — the truth. The war in Afghanistan is not just about America’s security. It, too, is about denying sanctuaries to Al Qaeda, which has also carried out deadly terrorist attacks in Europe.
Is there anyone who seriously argues that “victory” in Afghanistan (whatever that means) would deny Al Qaeda the capacity to carry out terrorist attacks in Europe? Give me a break. Al Qaeda has shown itself to be an extraordinarily adaptive organism; it responds rapidly to changing circumstances. When the Taliban ruled Afghanistan (eight years ago now) Al Qaeda made use of training camps in Afghanistan because it suited it to do so. Following the US invasion in 2001 Afghanistan became less convenient to Al Qaeda so it evolved to a different set of arrangements. There is nothing we can do in Afghanistan that makes Europe, Australia or the United States the slightest bit more secure – on the contrary, we simply provide a pretext for domestic malcontents to plan hostile acts.