White House counterterrorism chief John Brennan announced a new effort on Wednesday to give the United States a surgeon’s precision in the fight against terrorism by focusing more directly on Al Qaeda. The new National Strategy for Counterterrorism, when coupled with President Barack Obama’s Afghanistan drawdown speech last week, represents the end of the era of resource-intensive counterinsurgency strategy as a means to fight terrorism. The new counterterrorism strategy aims to address the evolving threat of a decentralized Al Qaeda through smaller, discreet operations, and recognizes the need to provide nonmilitary assistance to civilians in the most vulnerable areas exploited by terrorists. We applaud this new approach as a step in the right direction but recognize it comes with new dangers.
Counterinsurgency has proven costly and ineffective in battling terrorists. A new study finds that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will ultimately cost between $3.2 trillion and $4 trillion at a time when Congress is looking to slash vital domestic programs. Worse, the human costs of the wars exceed 6,000 U.S. soldiers killed and 40,000 wounded both physically and mentally. The number of civilians killed in Iraq and Afghanistan as a result of the war is, by “very conservative estimates,” over 132,000.
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