Merchant of Death
Money, Guns, Planes, and the Man Who Makes War Possible

Blood from Stones

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Press Releases

Why Bin Laden is Still at Large
The Washington Post's Outlook section this week provided an extremely worthwhile look at why Osama bin Laden is still at large, and why it is a big deal. Some of this has been covered in earlier blogs, but are worth repeating.

Ahmed Rashid, a Pakistani journalist explains here what others from the region and intelligence community have explained to me recently--the war in Afghanistan is in danger of being lost. Ethnic Pashtuns in Pakistan have radicalized in recent years, President Musharraf has not been willing or able to crackdown on the spreading Islamic radicalization efforts and force reductions and transitions are coming when they are needed most.

The result is that "Bin Laden's new friendship zone stretches nearly 2,000 miles along Pakistan's Pashtun belt -- from Chitral in the Northern Areas near the Chinese border, south through the troubled tribal agencies including Waziristan, down to Zhob on the Balochistan border, then to the provincial capital Quetta and southwest to the Iranian border. The region includes every landscape from desert to snow-capped mountains. Sparsely populated, it provides bin Laden an ideal sanctuary."

This is hardly in line with the occassionally triumphalist rhetoric from political and military leaders, when they address the bin Laden issue at all. Mostly, it seems, they would prefer to forget that bin Laden and Zawahiri are out there, taunting the United States, threatening and gleaning admiration around the Islamic world.

John Brenan, fromer CIA head of the National Counteterrorism Center, eloquently describes a fundamental problem with the current conception of the war: confusing combating the terrorist tactic with combating militant, Salafist Islam as it spreads through preaching, conversion and desperation.

"Terrorism, in bin Laden's strategy, is only a tactic, a means to achieve what he believes is a providentially ordained objective -- global domination by an Islamic caliphate. Yet dangerously, the United States is focusing on countering that tactic, missing the growth of the extremist Islamic forest as we flounder among the terrorist trees."

This should be a wake-up call to to the foundering efforts at public diplomacy and other non-lethal means of confronting spreading Salafism. The desire to publicly fund moderate Islam is the kiss of death to those groups, and we seem to have lost any and all ability to covertly aid groups that would be a counterweight to those who preach death and destruction.

Finally, Peter Bergen, whose excellent new book, "The Osama Bin Laden I know: An Oral History of al Qaeda's Leader," helps explain who bin Laden really is, offers a look at where bin Laden may be and why his capture matters. He makes an interesting point on bin Laden's determination not to be taken alive, and whether killing him would be useful.

"As bin Laden himself put it to Jandal, if he were killed, "his blood would become a beacon that arouses the zeal and determination of his followers." The man who once enjoyed a quiet rural life in the mountains of Tora Bora aims in death to ascend into the pantheon of Islamic heroes -- a Saladin for the 21st century "martyred" by those he calls "the Crusaders."
Pessimism Grows on Afghanistan
The UAE and Viktor Bout
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