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The End of Al'Qaeda and the United States in Afghanistan?

Al’Qaeda has recently had another blow to a high-ranking member.  A Central Intelligence Agency drone struck and killed Atiyah Abad al-Raham, the said second in charge of Al’Qaeda and the organization’s operational leader in the mountains of Pakistan.   Mr. Raham was supposed to be one of Al’Qaeda’s next generational leaders and had taken over much of the operations since the death of Osama bin Laden.  Defense Secretary, Leon E. Panetta, claimed last month that defeating Al’Qaeda was “within reach.”

“Now is the moment, following what happened with bin Laden, to put maximum pressure on them,” he said, “because I do believe that if we continue this effort we can really cripple Al’Qaeda as a major threat.”

Since 2009, the focus of the War in Afghanistan has been to eradicate Al’Qaeda.  Now that Al’Qaeda is being severely deprived of leadership and may be on the brink of collapse.  If and when Al’Qaeda is defeated there may be little strategic valuein remaining in Afghanistan.Additionally, much of the initial legal justification for going into Afghanistan was to respond to those responsible for 9/11.  The 2001 Authorization to Use Military Force (AUMF) granted the President the ability to use, “all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks

that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organization or persons . . . .”   Once the perpetrator of the 9/11 attacks is largely removed from Afghanistan and the surrounding region, the AUMF may no longer support a continued US presence in the region.While one could argue the Executive Branch has the unilateral authority as Commander and Chief to commit troops as he or she sees fit, this position has been rejected by the Obama administration.  Congress needs to act to allow for American troops to be continue a presence in Afghanistan.  However, the Obama administration has viewed the War Powers Act as not applicable when ground troops are not committed to a hostility.  Even accepting this premise, there would need to be some authorization by Congress to continue to commit ground troops in Afghanistan if Al’Qaeda is no longer in existence.The best way to allow for a continued US ground troop presence in Afghanistan is to enact a new AUMF.  A new AUMF has long been debated and would give clear legal justification for US troop presence.  If those in Congress think such legislation is unnecessary then a significant US troop presence in Afghanistan is also unnecessary.  While the end of Al’Qaeda may seem hard to believe, the Defense Secretary believes it is possible.  Congress and the President need to plan for the removal of troops from Afghanistan or enact appropriate legislation to allow for a continued US troop presence.


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