The world cannot defeat al Qaeda until Osama bin Laden is captured or killed, Gen. Stanley McChrystal told the Senate Armed Services Committee Tuesday.
Bin Laden, the terrorist leader who has eluded capture since the U.S. and coalition forces invaded Afghanistan eight years ago, "is an iconic figure at this point whose survival emboldens al Qaeda," and helps them attract new recruits around the world, McChrystal told Sen. John McCain, the committee's top Republican.
U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry agreed with McChrystal. A few minutes later, Sen. George LeMieux of Florida pressed the issue, asking McChrystal what he would do if he knew where to find bin Laden. McChrystal explained that he commanded forces in Afghanistan so if bin Laden was inside those borders he would go after him. You could almost feel McChrystal's eagerness. The general and the ambassador's comments on bin Laden were the highlight of the full day of hearings between the House and Senate Armed Services Committees. They seemed to cut through all the discussion of troop levels, intent to win and the effects of withdrawing from Afghanistan after 18 months. Here was the nub. Catch or kill bin Laden and strike a mortal blow at al Qaeda.
Several senior defense officials have told me in the last few days that the underlying goal of the Afghan surge is what some call the anvil strategy. Pakistani forces struggling northwards, sweeping through South Waziristan and apparently readying for increased operations in the area where bin Laden is thought to be hiding. Then coalition forces in Afghanistan are the hammer, striking downward.
For a few moments during the otherwise repetitive hearing it seemed the truth shone out and all was clear.