Lara Logan on Al Qaeda in Afghanistan

I know it’s the economy and we’re all war weary, but we can’t ignore foreign policy. Benghazi has shown that. So does the current state of Afghanistan. The reason we got into Afghanistan–the support provided to Al Qaeda by the Taliban–still exists. CBS News correspondent Lara Logan did a report for “60 Minutes” a couple weeks ago on the current state of affairs, particularly the insider attacks that are killing our troops. Included in the story was her interview with a Taliban commander, who explained that he is getting key support and instruction from Al Qaeda members. She also delved into the persistent problem of Pakistan as a sanctuary for Al Qaeda and Taliban fighters.
More recently, she put that report in context and explained the details of the investigation (and provided some insight into good journalism) in a speech she made before the Better Government Association.


On understanding who we’re fighting:

If you fail to identify the ideological component of this fight, if you fail to identify what your enemy is really fighting for, if you lie about who they really are, I don’t see how you can possibly have the right strategy.

On Benghazi:

When I look at what’s happening in Libya, and there’s a big song and dance about whether this was a terrorist attack or a protest. And you just want to scream, ‘For God’s sake, are you kidding me?’ The last time we were attacked like this was the USS Cole, which was a prelude to the 1998 Embassy bombings, which was a prelude to 9/11. And you’re sending in the FBI to investigate? I hope to God that you’re sending in your best analysts and warriors who are going to exact revenge and let the world know that the United States will not be attacked on its own soil, that its ambassadors will not be murdered and the United States will not stand by and do nothing about it.

More excerpts after the jump, but spend the 20 minutes to watch the whole thing.

“If Al Qaeda was what truly drew us to Afghanistan after 9/11 then we felt it was a fair and legitimate question to be asked of American leaders what is the state of Al Qaeda in Afghanistan. And you would have heard bandied around the number 50 all the time…the head of the CIA…officials of the Administration love to tell us today there are only 50 members of Al Qaeda in Afghanistan and the impression we’re given is that they’re one drone strike away from obliteration.
That’s just simply not true.
They know it’s not true.
What we had to do was to set about investigating to determine what was the truth.”
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“How did we go about doing that [investigating the current state of Al Qaeda]? Well, of course, we turned to the official record reading and researching anything anyone in the Administration or in a position of authority had to say about Al Qaeda in Afghanistan over the last few years.
Fortunately, I read just about everything on a daily basis so I stay on top of a lot that and that is not hard….Beat reporters exist for a reason, right? A beat reporter is a great thing because there’s nothing like that institutional knowledge, that depth of knowledge over time and that gut feeling that you have that tells you when someone is full of shit or their not and what you should be concentrating on and what you shouldn’t.”
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“We kept hearing the same thing time and time again. ‘There’s no political reason for anyone to be talking to you about this right now because if we talk about Al Qaeda in Afghanistan doesn’t that undermine the argument for leaving?’…We even had in writing from the U.S. Military that Al Qaeda in Afghanistan was off the table. They weren’t even prepared to talk about that. Which only made us more determined….”
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“The official American position is only one part…just as important to us was what Al Qaeda themselves had to say about this. There’s been a narrative coming out of Washington over the last few years, much of it driven by Pakistani lobbying money and by Taliban apologists.
One of my favorite things to read about is how the Taliban today is so unlike the Taliban of 2001. They’re just a more moderate, kinder, gentler Taliban who can’t wait to see women in the workplace and occupying, you know, an equal role in society. Greater economic prosperity for all of Afghanistan and don’t really want to take us back 3,000 years into that terrible, terrible place I witnessed in 2001 when I went with the Afghan soldiers who retook Kabul from the Taliban.
You know, it’s such nonsense.
And every once in a while you’ll read in someone in a British paper, someone in the American papers saying that they’ve been talking to the Taliban and the Taliban want to go to peace talks and they’re ready to renounce their links with Al Qaeda.
Really, the theory is if you pack up and go home from Afghanistan, the problem is over with, the Taliban just want their country back, they’ve got no problem with you and we can stop wasting billions of dollars and American lives in Afghanistan and we can turn our backs on this war that has really been a waste of our time.
It’s amazing to me that that’s where we are today.
Not only do I remember the promises that were made–which is fine, we want to keep our promises, that’s politics–but to think there is any similarity between this and Vietnam is ridiculous.
The Viet Cong didn’t care what you did when you went back to America. The Viet Cong didn’t fight for an Islamic Caliphate. The Viet Cong didn’t have a global struggle….it’s amazing to me that we constantly ignore what Al Qaeda and the Taliban and…all these groups tell us every day in their own newspapers, in their own statements. They share something. They share an idea. Al Qaeda is not a membership organization–you don’t have to have a card or a membership badge….This is terrorism. It’s a completely and utterly different fight from anything we’ve ever faced in our history.”
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“Our way of life is under attack. And if you think that’s government propaganda, if you think that’s nonsense, if you think that’s war-mongering, you’re not listening to what the people you are fighting say about this fight. In your arrogance, you think you write the script. But you don’t. There’s two sides and we don’t dictate the terms.
In fact, after 11 years of war in Afghanistan where we’re surrendering, rushing for the exits as fast as we can, not only do we not dictate the terms but we have less power to dictate anything on the world stage.”

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Beg your pardon
Beg your pardon
9 years ago

Powerful stuff. One minor comment, however.
“The last time we were attacked like this was the USS Cole, which was a prelude to the 1998 Embassy bombings, which was a prelude to 9/11.”
The USS Cole was bombed in 2000, so it was definitely not a prelude to the the 1998 embassy bombings. She probably just misspoke and her point is still valid. I just wanted to make that correction.

Warrington Faust
Warrington Faust
9 years ago

“If you fail to identify the ideological component of this fight, if you fail to identify what your enemy is really fighting for, if you lie about who they really are, I don’t see how you can possibly have the right strategy.”
America is in a dilemma. It has decided to fight a war where collateral damage is completely unacceptable, as opposed to regrettable (I don’t think the opposition sees it that way. I have heard no serious discussion of turning Mecca into glass. I can think of few wars which have been attempted on that basis. It is no easy thing.
It took us about 10 years for us to learn how to effectively fight “guerillas” in a jungle by “squaring” them. Besieged Taliban do not flee from a city, they infest it. We have no experience in mountain/desert conditions. It will be a long learning curve.

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