- The Washington Times - Monday, May 19, 2003

In the wake of September 11, and more recently, the attacks in Riyadh, as soon as it was considered politically survivable, a flurry of accusations of blame emerged in the classic style of the party politics of Capitol Hill. It has served only to remind me of how far our political system has degenerated. In a time where we need aggressive action and aggressive legislature, debating where the fault lies is a waste of taxpayer trust and time.

It is no wonder that an increasing number of citizens are becoming disenchanted with a political system that seems to expend more energy on lambasting the other party than figuring out where to take the country in an increasingly unstable global environment.

It infuriates me to read comments such as Sen. Bob Graham’s mere hours after eight Americans were killed in yet another terrorist attack. “It could have been avoided if you had actually crushed the basic infrastructure of al Qaeda,” said Mr. Graham, “they would not have had the capability to launch such a sophisticated attack.”

A sophisticated attack?

I fail to see the sophistication in driving a vehicle packed with explosives into the relatively “soft” target of a housing compound.

It is unconscionable to make such an outlandish public accusation that can be seen only as political grandstanding for personal gain.

The attack in Riyadh is indicative of the dilemma faced by the present administration, intelligence community and military leaders in charge of the global war on terrorism. How do you identify and defeat an enemy that hides within the local populace and has a support network that has been in place for a thousand years?

Mr. Graham goes on to say, “I think from the beginning of the war in Afghanistan … we were making good progress in dismantling the basic structure of al Qaeda. Then we started to redirect our attention to Iraq, and al Qaeda has regenerated.”

I hope I am not the first to tell Mr. Graham that al Qaeda has not regenerated, it has simply adapted to the current battlefield conditions. We have successfully managed to disrupt al Qaeda’s operations in Afghanistan and they no longer have the ability to operate with the impunity that they once could. However, in doing so, we have managed to almost make our job more difficult in that the enemy has now truly gone to ground and immersed itself within their tribal communities.

This has absolutely nothing to do with the war in Iraq … it is the natural evolvement of a fight against a terrorist network, and furthermore, it is representative of the character of our nation that our soldiers work tirelessly in order to reduce the amount of collateral damage in finding such an enemy, and this takes time.

I invite Mr. Graham to come to Afghanistan and visit the soldiers who sift through mountains of intelligence and to listen to the Special Forces teams who spend months building rapport with the local communities in the hope of garnering information that may lead to identifying terrorists and reducing their ability to find a safe haven. At the very least, he would leave with a greater understanding of the time and commitment it will take in truly defeating organizations such as al Qaeda.

Benjamin Collins is an Army officer and graduate of the George Washington University. He is currently deployed in Afghanistan.

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