Eight years after 9/11, why remain in Afghanistan?

The UN ambassador gives Salon the administration's explanation

Published September 11, 2009 7:30PM (EDT)

On the anniversary of 9-11, a top Obama administration official provided little more than the attacks themselves eight years ago as a reason for continuing the war in Afghanistan. UN Ambassador Susan Rice referenced the anniversary of the attacks as a reminder of why the administration remains committed to U.S. efforts there.

“We have a very crucial stake in Afghanistan,” Rice told reporters at a breakfast Friday. She noted the anniversary of the attacks, “If we need any reminder,” of the rational for the war there. And she insisted the United States must “deny a safe haven” to al-Qaida there and in Pakistan, describing the administration’s strategies for the two countries as intertwined.

The Obama administration is considering increasing U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan beyond the additional 21,000 troops Obama has already ordered to Afghanistan. The New York Times reported Friday on cold feet among some Democrats, including Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Sen. Carl Levin, R-Mich.

Salon asked Rice during the breakfast why the deny-the-safe-haven argument still works in 2009, since al-Qaida has essentially left Afghanistan and there are many other countries where al-Qaida could operate. Rice responded, “The crucial difference is that Afghanistan and Pakistan … have been and remain a place” where the terror group has sought refuge. She noted the porous border between Afghanistan and Pakistan, where al-Qaida has holed up since the initial U.S. invasion in late 2001.

By Mark Benjamin

Mark Benjamin is a national correspondent for Salon based in Washington, D.C. Read his other articles here.

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