One of the most widespread arguments against pulling out of Afghanistan is concern about Afghanistan becoming a playground for terrorists around the world. This, however, vastly overstates the importance of so-called “safe-havens” in the current environment. The fact is that international terrorist groups don’t need territorial safe-haven to operate anymore. All they require is a message-board, some slick propaganda, and the ability to inspire a single, crazed individual to commit an attack.
Permanent troop deployments in places like Afghanistan are not necessary to protect the American people from terrorism. There is a more effective, efficient, and less costly way to do it—maximizing Washington’s unique worldwide intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities, hardening its internal defenses, ensuring law enforcement at the national, state, and local levels have the resources needed to prevent plots from being executed and improving the intelligence-to-intelligence collaboration with foreign partners that is so critical to managing the threat more broadly.