December 2, 2009
ABC News

President Obama's Secret: Only 100 al Qaeda Now in Afghanistan

With new surge, one thousand U.S. soldiers and $300 million for every one al Qaeda fighter

Richard Esposito, Matthew Cole, and Brian Ross

As he justified sending 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan at a cost of $30 billion a year, President Barack Obama's description Tuesday of the al Qaeda "cancer" in that country left out one key fact: U.S. intelligence officials have concluded there are only about 100 al Qaeda fighters in the entire country.

A senior U.S. intelligence official told the approximate estimate of 100 al Qaeda members left in Afghanistan reflects the conclusion of American intelligence agencies and the Defense Department. The relatively small number was part of the intelligence passed on to the White House as President Obama conducted his deliberations. . . .


Standard Schaeffer, "'Al Qaeda Itself Does Not Exist'," CounterPunch, June 21, 2003

"Pakistan Launches Air Strikes in Swat Valley," VOA News, May 7, 2009

Dexter Filkins, "U.S. Pullout a Condition in Afghan Peace Talks," New York Times, May 21, 2009

Kirsty Walker, "Afghan War Could Last 'For Decades'," Daily Mail, August 3, 2009

Syed Saleem Shahzad, "A New Battle Begins in Pakistan," Asia Times, October 20, 2009

[The Afghan Taliban are fighting the foreign occupation of their country, and the Pakistani Taliban have decided to fight against local people in their own country and occasionally take on the Pakistani military. So, that is a very big difference between the two. The Afghan Taliban are trying more and more to win people to their cause, which means that the way they operate has to be different from what it used to be. In Pakistan the groups calling themselves the Tehriq eTaliban Pakistan are largely trying to teach the military a lesson and carry out revenge for what they've seen has been done against them.--Mara Ahmed and Judith Belo, "Pakistan and the Global War on Terror: An Interview with Tariq Ali,", November 30, 2009]

[ . . . sending additional forces will delay the day when Afghans will take over, and make it more difficult, if not impossible, to bring our people home on a reasonable timetable.-- "Ambassador Eikenberry's Cables on U.S. Strategy in Afghanistan," New York Times, November 2009]


Declan Walsh, "Turbulent Pakistan presents a conundrum for Barack Obama: Anti-US feeling running high as CIA drones take a civilian toll," Guardian, December 2, 2009

Juan Cole, "Top Ten things that Could Derail Obama's Afghanistan Plan,", December 2, 2009

[ . . . the real costs for the individual taxpayer could peak anywhere from $400 to $600 annually for the next couple of years--Laurent Belsie, "What Obama's Afghan war plan will cost you,", December 3, 2009]

[ . . . we would see the Soviet Army securing Kabul and the largest cities of Afghanistan, abandoning the vast areas of mountain and desert to the "terrorists", insisting that they could support a secular, uncorrupt government in the capital and give security to the people. By the spring of 1980, I was watching the Soviet military stage a "surge". Sound familiar? The Russians announced new training for the Afghan army. Sound familiar?--Robert Fisk, "This strategy has been tried before - without success," Independent, December 3, 2009]

Scott Shane, "C.I.A. to Expand Use of Drones in Pakistan," New York Times, December 4, 2009

Todd Wilkinson, "Key to Afghan crisis: tea and education,", December 4, 2009

Syed Saleem Shahzad, "US takes hunt for al-Qaeda to Pakistan," Asia Times, December 5, 2009

[Broadly speaking, just about everyone understands that the US surge of 30,000 additional troops in Afghanistan is a passing necessity. It merely provides the gateway to an end-game strategy aimed at ensuring American power doesn't get bogged down in a pointless quagmire in the Hindu Kush.--M K Bhadrakumar, "Obama treads Soviet road out of Kabul," Asia Times, December 7, 2009]

Eric Margolis, "Preaching peace, flexing muscle: America's 'surge' may only expand, intensify and prolong the Afghan conflict," Toronto Sun, December 7, 2009


[The Taliban offer, included in a statement dated December 4 and e-mailed to news organizations the following day, said the organization had "no agenda of meddling in the internal affairs of other countries and is ready to give legal guarantees if foreign forces withdraw from Afghanistan".--Gareth Porter, "US silent on Taliban's al-Qaeda offer," Asia Times, December 17, 2009]

[At present, there are 104,000 Department of Defense contractors in Afghanistan. According to a report this week from the Congressional Research Service, as a result of the coming surge of 30,000 troops in Afghanistan, there may be up to 56,000 additional contractors deployed. But here is another group of contractors that often goes unmentioned: 3,600 State Department contractors and 14,000 USAID contractors. That means that the current total US force in Afghanistan is approximately 189,000 personnel (68,000 US troops and 121,000 contractors). And remember, that's right now. And that, according to McCaskill, is a conservative estimate. A year from now, we will likely see more than 220,000 US-funded personnel on the ground in Afghanistan.--Jeremy Scahill, "Stunning Statistics About the War Every American Should Know,", December 17, 2009]

[ . . . to be just, a war's cause must be to vindicate an undoubted and internationally recognized crime; all peaceful means (negotiations) must have been tried in vain; the good to be done must clearly outweigh the evil that will be done by the war; there must be reasonable hope that in the end justice can be achieved for both sides; the means are licit (weapons must be limited and legitimate); and international law must be observed. By these criteria, I don't see any just wars anywhere these days.--William Pfaff, "The Fallacy of Good vs. Evil in Afghanistan," Chicago Tribune, December 18, 2009]

Marjorie Cohn, "Obama's Af-Pak War Is Illegal,", December 21, 2009

[The lessons of history are never clear, and it is risky to predict the future. The British and the Russians won their wars but failed to impose their chosen leaders and systems of government on the Afghans. The western coalition already has as many troops in Afghanistan as the Russians did, and smarter military technology. But neither the British prime minister nor the generals have explained to us convincingly why we should succeed where the Russians and the British failed, or why fighting in Afghanistan will prevent home-grown fanatics from planting bombs in British cities. Tactics without strategy indeed.--Rodric Braithwaite, "The familiar road to failure in Afghanistan," Financial Times, December 21, 2009]

[The Taliban have created a shadow "government-in-waiting," complete with Cabinet ministers, that could assume power if the U.S.-backed government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai fails--Thomas L. Day and Jonathan S. Landay, "U.S. intelligence: 'Time is running out' in Afghanistan," McClatchy Newspapers, December 28, 2009]

[This week marks the 30th anniversary of the fateful decision, little noted at the time, that drew the US into its Afghanistan quagmire.--Stephen Kinzer, "The moment that changed Afghanistan: The problems ailing Afghanistan began with America's decision to intervene in the country following the Soviet invasion in 1979," Guardian, December 28, 2009]

[The more we recognize that today drugs are a major factor in both the economy and the power structure of Afghanistan, the more we must recognize that an even better template for the Afghan war is not the Vietnam war, where drugs were important but not central, but the CIA's drug-funded undeclared war in Laos, 1959-75.--Peter Dale Scott, "Obama and Afghanistan: America's Drug-Corrupted War,", January 1, 2010]

Joshua Frank, "The War on Afghanistan's Environment: Bombing the Land of the Snow Leopard,", January 7, 2010

Thomas L. Day, "U.S. oversight officials say corruption in Afghanistan goes both ways," McClatchy Newspapers, January 12, 2010

Ayaz Gul, "UN: Civilian Death Toll in Afghanistan Last Year Highest Since 2001,", January 13, 2010

VIDEO: Steve Coll's book Ghost Wars talks about the debate that went on in the National Security Council about linking up with the Northern Alliance, because they argue that Massoud was a drug trafficker. It became very obvious with the UN statistics out of Afghanistan for the year 2001 - that was the season when the Taliban banned the growth of poppy. . . . the only provinces that grew opium that year were up in the northeast because they were under the control of the Northern Alliance.--"New mindset for US foreign policy,", January 31, 2010

[Americans are furious that Karzai is steadily disengaging from the US's grip and seeking friendship with China and Iran.--M K Bhadrakumar, "Karzai's China-Iran dalliance riles Obama,", March 30, 2010]

Daniel Ellsberg, "'Our President Is Deceiving the American Public': Pentagon Papers Whistleblower on President Obama and the Wars in Afghanistan and Iraq,", March 30, 2010

Kathy Kelly and Dan Pearson, "Atrocities in Afghanistan: A Troubling Timeline,", April 30, 2010

[Having armed all sides of the conflict and kept them apart by the threat of arms, the United States now expects to depart leaving in place governments of national reconciliation that will persuade well-armed and well-organized militias to play by the rules. It is perhaps the silliest thing an imperial power ever has done. The British played at divide and conquer, whereas the Americans propose to divide and disappear.--Spengler, "General Petraeus' Thirty Years War," Asia Times, May 4, 2010]

[ . . . what they found most disturbing about what Prince said was that Prince told a story of July 2009 where his narcotics interdiction unit, a 200-person strike force in Afghanistan that I had never heard of this force before, they actually were operating near the Pakistan border, they came across with a said was a massive hashish and heroin operation and Blackwater forces actually called-in air strikes that then came in and destroyed this facility. The idea that a private company is individually calling-in air strikes raises serious questions about the chain of command issue in Afghanistan.--"EXCLUSIVE: Secret Recording of Erik Prince Reveals Previously Undisclosed Blackwater Ops,", May 4, 2010]

[The longer-than-expected effort to secure Marja is prompting alarm among top American commanders that they will not be able to change the course of the war in the time President Obama has given them.--Rajiv Chandrasekaran, "'Still a long way to go' for U.S. operation in Marja, Afghanistan," Washington Post, June 10, 2010]

[What about the 9/11 Commission? Its entire report is based on the assumption that bin Laden was behind the attacks. However, the report's evidence to support this premise has been disowned by the Commission's own co-chairs, Thomas Kean and Lee Hamilton.

. . . the official rationale for our presence in Afghanistan is a lie. We are there for other reasons.--David Ray Griffin, "Did 9/11 Justify the War in Afghanistan?,", June 24, 2010]

[Fareed Zakaria says the U.S. will spend $1 billion to fight each remaining Al-Qaeda member in Afghanistan this year.--"How much does Afghan War cost the U.S.?,", July 4, 2010]

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