Is Obama winning war on Al Qaeda that Bush lost?
All of a sudden, it seems like we're getting smarter at combating the terrorists who have plagued U.S. policy and politics since the 9/11 attacks that killed more than 3,000 Americans.
The Pentagon's new budget, released Monday, calls for more elite Special Ops troops, more aerial drones and more financial aide to Yemen, home of the Al Qaeda branch that sponsored the failed Christmas Day bomber. Sending small teams of Army commandos, Navy Seals and CIA operatives to target specific insurgents is the mantra of Gen. David Petraeus: "You've got to kill or capture those bad guys that are not reconcilable."
As Special Ops hunt down the bad guys, thousands of U.S. troops newly arrived in Afghanistan are being trained to win public support by showcasing good government, economic growth and security. According to the Wall Street Journal, Gen. Stanley McChrystal told his staff in Kabul "It's not the number of people you kill -- it's the number of people you convince."
The White House even proposed a $5-billion increase in the State Department's 2011 budget -- which almost never happens -- most of which is intended for programs in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq. Those three countries also got the chunk of this year's $4.5 billion in new funds.
There are some signs that the West may even be winning the toughest battle of all -- the fight for public opinion on the Muslim street.
In December, a team of scholars at the the Center for Combating Terrorism at West Point Military released a study -- based on Arabic media reports --- documenting all the deaths from terrorists incidents where Al Qaeda took credit. The news: Muslims are much more likely to be killed in an Al Qaeda attack than Westerners. From 2004 to 2008, the study says, only 15% of victims were Westerners.
Now, the report is circulating on websites in Arab countries. A Kuwaiti newspaper published the findings. And President Obama, in an interview with YouTube, said yesterday that "Al Qaeda is probably the biggest killer of innocent Muslims of any entity out there."
Could the tide be turning?
-- Johanna Neuman
Photo: Wreckage at Ground Zero after 9/11 terror attack. Credit: Reuters