The goal, senior administration officials said Thursday, is to weaken the Taliban to the degree that it cannot challenge the Afghan government or reestablish the haven it provided for al-Qaeda before the 2001 U.S. invasion. Those objectives appear largely consistent with McChrystal’s strategy, which he says “cannot be focused on seizing terrain or destroying insurgent forces” but should center on persuading the population to support the government…
Some inside the White House have cited Hezbollah, the armed Lebanese political movement, as an example of what the Taliban could become. Hezbollah is considered a terrorist organization by the U.S. government, but the group has political support within Lebanon and participates, sometimes through intimidation, in the political process.
Some White House advisers have noted that although Hezbollah is a source of regional instability, it is not a threat to the United States. The senior administration official said the Hezbollah example has not been cited specifically to President Obama and has been raised only informally outside the Situation Room meetings.
“People who study Islamist movements have made the connection,” said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.
A tidbit WaPo doesn’t mention here: Hezbollah’s “participation” in Lebanon includes fielding a militia so powerful that it overran the Lebanese capital last year before voluntarily withdrawing to avoid a civil war and possible regional Sunni/Shia crisis. I mentioned that the other day in my post about Obama’s new view of the Taliban, in fact. Afghanistan has the makings of the same dynamic: Weak central government, weak national army, and a well trained jihadist proxy secure in its own territorial enclave, where it can either plot terror/host AQ camps or threaten the capital from afar. In this case, a la Hezbollah being supplied by Iran, the Taliban would likely end up as a proxy for jihadi sympathizers in Pakistan’s army and intelligence services. Once the U.S. is out, it’ll be easier for Pakistan to solve its own Taliban problem by making a deal instead of waging war: In return for Pakistani weapons and support, Talibs in the tribal areas might agree to evacuate to Afghanistan and do whatever they’re going to do there. Which is why, of course, the U.S. is so invested in expanding and training a national Afghan army. That’s the only thing in the long run that’ll head off a true Hezbollah-esque nightmare in the country.
But never mind that. Is the White House seriously going to try to sell this to the public by arguing that Hezbollah isn’t a threat to the United States? I realize we’re playing pretend these days about who our enemies are, but the FBI’s been eyeing Hezbollah sleeper cells in Canada and even inside the U.S. for years now in anticipation that they’ll make a move if/when tensions with Iran come to a head. No less a figure than Bob Mueller testified before Congress that Hezbollah was caught smuggling people across the Mexican border. Fox News produced an entire special devoted to Hezbollah’s presence in the U.S. focusing on a cell in Charlotte, North Carolina. In fact, which rabid neocon said this in 2003?
“Does Saddam Hussein or Hezbollah represent the greater threat to the United States,” asks [Senator X]. “In my opinion, there’s no question that Hezbollah is that greater threat, and yes, we should go after it first and go after it before we go to war with Iraq.”
[X] says Hezbollah has a global network of radical Islamic supporters, with enough operatives in the U.S. to pose a terrorist threat here.
“It has a significant presence of its trained operatives inside the United States waiting for the call to action,” says [X].
But if we were to know that classified information, would we be more concerned? Would we be more afraid of Hezbollah than we are today?
“Well, I’m more concerned and more afraid than if I did not know what the scale of their presence was in the United States,” says [X], without any hesitation.
“They are a violent terrorist group. And they have demonstrated throughout their now 25-year history a hatred of the United States and a willingness to kill our people.”
Answer: Bob Graham, Florida Democrat and former chair of the Senate Intel Committee. Look out for further White House spin along these lines; in all likelihood, Roggio will have to write another lengthy demolition of their talking points. Exit question: If the White House is worried about an Iranian nuke, and the White House isn’t worried (yet) about long-range Iranian missiles, then whom do they suppose is the prime suspect to sneak one of those nukes into the United States?